After a win-less Round Robin, and falling to the East's fourth seed for the playoffs, the Bruins should be poised for yet another Stanley Cup run. However, we have yet to see the President's Trophy winning Bruins team that we saw the entire season prior to the pause to the season. Through 12 periods of play in Toronto (exhibition and round robin combined), the Bruins have not been able to score the first goal of a game or even taken a lead. The four month layoff has developed some rust, but it needs to be shaken off now or else it might be a quick exit for the Bruins.
After missing out on the top seed in the East, the Bruins are now slated to play the Carolina Hurricanes in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Hurricanes swept the New York Rangers out of the qualifying round and haven't played a game since Tuesday August 4th. This might bode well for the Bruins given the week-long layoff the Canes had heading into their first round match-up.
This is a similar story line as to last year's Eastern Conference Final. The Hurricanes swept the New York Islanders in the second round while the Bruins nearly went the distance in their series against the Blue Jackets. Again, Carolina had a week-long layoff between Game 4 against the Islanders and Game 1 versus the Bruins in the Conference Final.
Now let's get into previewing the series versus the Hurricanes and see what the Bruins need to do in order to advance to the Second Round.
The Bruins and Hurricanes meet in the playoffs for second consecutive year it's and their first meeting since the Bruins shutout the Hurricanes 2-0 back on December 3rd at the TD Garden. The Bruins were originally scheduled to play the Hurricanes two more times on March 31st in Carolina and again on April 4th in Boston. Both however both games got cancelled due to the pandemic. The Bruins completed the four-game sweep against the Hurricanes last season to advance to the Cup Final.
The Hurricanes got a bunch of talented players in Sebastian Aho who can score at will when left wide open and when he crashes the crease. Captain Jordan Staal, who has struggled throughout the entire season, can still make in impact offensively and defensively. Long time veteran Justin Williams is a gritty player and can give his team a spark when he feels they need one. Williams also isn't afraid to drop the gloves, as we saw in Game 1 of in their series against the Rangers. The Hurricanes are a young team all around that can give any teams top line fits every shift. They did so last year against the Bruins as they shutdown Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak in the four game series.
For the Bruins it is important to get off to a fast start in this series against a very fast team that will not hold back. The Bruins top line must find a way to lead the Bruins to leads and eventual wins. Late in the playoffs, the Bruins benefited from the bottom two lines scoring goals to help them get as far as they did last season. However, it will be up to the Bergeron-Marchand-Pastrnak line to create that spark this time around as these three have been shutdown since the beginning of the restart. The Bruins need to get more consistent defensive play form Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, and Zdeno Chara. The Bruins still have a great goal tending duo in both Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Expect consistency from them to make timely saves to give the Bruins a chance to either win the game or make a comeback. Regardless of who is in net for the Bruins, the Bruins chances to win every game are good.
Both Rask and Halak struggled in the exhibition, and Halak struggled against the Flyers in the Round Robin. Rask was shaky versus the Lightning but found a groove as the game went on. Rask looked better against the Capitals, keeping the Bruins in the game. Problem, the Bruins have had a hard time scoring since the restart. Between the exhibition and the Round-Robin games, the Bruins have scored a measly five goals while they have surrendered 13 of them. That's a -8 goal differential.
Expect the Bruins top lines to start to show some signs of life and get on the board early and often. The B's have yet to capture a lead since the league restarted 11 days ago. Look for the Bruins bottom two line to generate some momentum, especially the energy line that consists of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly, and Chris Wagner give the Bruins a spark, and maybe drop the gloves.
What needs to happen: play with energy right from the start and keep that energy high from the first face-off to the final horn. If the Bruins can play with energy and shutdown Aho and pick apart that young yet tough Carolina defense, the Bruins will look like the team that won the President's Trophy.
This is will be a tough series for the Bruins, as Carolina will be looking for revenge after getting swept out of the playoffs last season and from their lone meeting back in December. Expect this series to go the distance. It will take seven but the Bruins will prevail and will move on to the second round.