The Stanley Cup Playoffs are finally here. The First Round of playoffs is always intriguing, and any team that makes it to the postseason has a chance to contend for the Stanley Cup. The Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins finished second and third in the Atlantic Division respectively. and will face each other in the First Round. This is especially an interesting matchup because these two teams have never battled each other in a playoff series. The Bruins won the Cup in 2011, and the farthest the Senators ever got was the Stanley Cup Final in 2007.
Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins First Round Series Preview
It’s true that when the playoffs begin whatever happened in the regular season is in the past. Looking at the past matchups can give insight on how two teams stack up against each other. In four regular season games, the Senators were victorious in all of them. The Bruins were outscored 12-6 in total, despite narrowly out-shooting the Sens 112-103. The glaring difference when these two met was the special teams.
Ottawa was only able to muster two power-play goals in 11 opportunities in their regular-season meetings. The Bruins capitalized on the man advantage with five goals in eight opportunities. This stat shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as the Bruins excelled in special teams. Boasting the top penalty kill in the league at 85.6%, they do not seem so vulnerable when down a man. It’s not just the PK that’s effective, their power play is seventh in the league with a 21.7% success rate.
Ottawa on the other hand has been struggling on the special teams all season long. Their power play ranks 23rd with only a 17% success rate. And the penalty kill is just as bad, ranking 22nd at 79.7%. Considering these two teams play a physical game, penalty trouble could happen to either team or both teams. The Boston Bruins have a huge edge when special teams come into play.
Brad Marchand took the league by storm this season. His 39 goals this season put him in fourth place in the league. He had the best year of his career with 81 points, a 24-point bump from his previous best. No longer just the pest of the league, he has proven he is a legitimate scoring threat. The Senators will do everything they can to throw him off his game. But he isn’t the only threat. Also in the 30-goal club is David Pastrnak with 34. The 20-year-old exploded this season with 70 points.
Patrice Bergeron may be the key to this offense though. Behind those two players for third in points, Bergeron helps the offense in multiple ways. He gets more pucks on net than anyone on the team, registering an incredible 302 shots. That’s good for third in the entire league. He also leads the league in one crucial category: faceoffs. Bergeron dominates at the circles with 1068 faceoffs won, and a 60.1% success rate. Winning draws can have a massive effect in the playoffs.
The Senators offense is much more spread out than the Bruins. Not a single player cracked the 30-goal mark this season. Kyle Turris led the team with 27 goals. In fact only three players even cracked the 20-goal mark. This is a team much more focused on defense than offense. Guy Boucher rarely loads his offensive threats on one line, and generally has a top scorer on each of the top-three lines. While this offense won’t amaze anyone with scoring flurries, there are other ways they are successful.
Mark Stone is a thief on the ice. He leads the league in takeaways with 93. The next closest player has 13 less with 11 more games played. Stone is very aggressive on the puck, and those takeaways tend to open up the ice, and lead to prime scoring chances. A player very likely to capitalize on those scoring chances is Mike Hoffman. With a lethal release and a shoot first mentality, Hoffman has the most dangerous shot on the team. The Senators system relies on getting pucks to the net and battling for rebounds. Hoffman led his team in shots with 224 this season.
When there’s a two-time Norris Trophy winner captaining one team, they have confidence in their team’s blue line. The Senators have been blessed ever since they drafted Erik Karlsson 15th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. He led their team in points for the fourth year in a row with 71. After a minor foot injury, Karlsson is expected to be in the lineup for Game One. His partner, Marc Methot, will also return to the lineup after missing time with a finger injury. The chemistry between those two has been very successful over the years.
A secret weapon on the blue line for this team may be Mark Borowiecki. He led the entire league in hits with 364. That is quite the asset come playoff time when the hits come harder and more often. But the toothless-grinning defenseman is also the leader in penalty minutes as well. If he can improve on staying out of the box, he could be a big factor in making the Bruins feel under pressure with the puck.
The Boston Bruins have two crucial players missing from their lineup at an unfortunate time. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo are both expected to miss at least Game One and possibly much more. These two are second and third on the team in ice time respectively, behind only captain Zdeno Chara. A lot will be asked of veteran 40-year-old, who is no stranger to the playoffs with 141 postseason games.
Losing Carlo and Krug is a big problem. Krug had a career-best season with 51 points in 81 games. He logged the most power-play minutes, and led the team with 25 power play points. Carlo was a key factor in the leagues best penalty kill. He was second on the team in PK ice time.These injuries will affect the Bruins edge in special teams in a big way.
They have also opened the door for new comers. Last year’s 14th pick in the draft, Charlie McAvoy, was signed to an entry-level contract and will start his NHL career in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. McAvoy played two seasons with Boston University, recording 51 points in 75 games.
A goalie can carry a team through the playoffs, and be the most important factor in winning a series. Both of these teams are blessed with solid netminding.
Tuukka Rask has been the Bruins number-one goalie for a while now. He has seen 43 games in the playoffs with this team. Rask is able to elevate his game when it matters most. He posts a sparkling 2.11 goals-against average, .930 save percentage, and five shutouts in the postseason. And he will have to step up again this year, especially with two of the top defensemen missing from the lineup. The Senators may not be the most threatening team offensively, but their strength is finding ways to scoring dirty goals. Rask will have to focus on rebound control to avoid letting the Sens have second and third chances on shots.
Craig Anderson has had quite a year. After his wife was diagnosed with cancer, he missed a considerable amount of time between December and February to spend time with her. Anderson still won 25 of his 40 games this season, and has instilled the fact that he is this team’s number-one goalie. Just like Rask, he has impressive playoff numbers. He holds a 2.35 GAA and .933 save percentage in 27 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
However, the most playoff games he has seen in one postseason is 10 in 2013, and he struggled that year with a goals-against average of above three and no shutouts. Anderson’s biggest weaknesses is his puck handling, and his ability to stop wraparounds.
In the playoffs a teams biggest advantage is health. Depth is crucial to avoiding injuries, and being able to roll all of the lines with purpose and confidence. This series may hinge on the status of Krug and Carlo.
The Ottawa Senators are expected to have a healthy lineup. That depth will allow them to have many options. This will be magnified even more if this series ends up going past six games. The Senators team gain an advantage going up against defensemen not used to playing big roles.
Senators in seven.
Here are some of the other predictions from Last Word on Hockey:
- Ben Kerr: Bruins in 6.
- Markus Meyer: Bruins in 6.
- Patrick Alan Dejbjerg: Bruins in 6.
- Sean Merz: Senators in 7.
- David Elisio: Bruins in 6.
- Griffin Schroeder: Senators in 6.
- Charlie O’Connor Clarke: Senators in 6.
- Hunter Hodies: Senators in 6.
- Graham Anderson: Senators in 7.
- Rachel Halliwell: Bruins 6.
- Nic Hendrickson: Senators in 7.
- Spencer Lussier: Bruins in 6.
- Jake Howorth: Senators in 6.
- Nicholas Di Giovanni: Bruins in 7.
- Kenneth Stapon: Bruins in 6.