The Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins First Round series ended in six games. These two teams have never met in a Stanley Cup Playoff match-up before this. There were a few reasons why the Senators were the last team standing in their first ever playoff meeting.
Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins First Round Series Recap
Ottawa’s helpful health
This series was tightly contested. Every single game was decided by one goal. Four of these games couldn’t even be decided in three periods. Game Five even went into double overtime. Fitting that the series would be decided in an extra frame. The Bruins lost game six at home, 3-2 in overtime. That’s a tough way to end your season in front of your home fans.
However, the Bruins have nothing to be ashamed of. Winning in the playoffs can sometimes take a little luck. The Ottawa Senators were a much healthier team. Having a full lineup in the playoffs is always a huge upper hand, regardless of opposition. They have no sympathy for their opponents though. This was a team that had major injury troubles throughout the season as well.
But for the Senators, their players were able to play when it mattered most. Clarke MacArthur started the year injured and was declared shut down for the season in January due to concussion issues. He wasn’t cleared to play until April 4th. He scored twice in this round, including the series-winning goal in overtime. Talk about good timing. Bobby Ryan broke his finger mid-February and didn’t return until March 14th. He was hot this series with four goals and three assists. Two of his goals were game winners. Both of these players weren’t huge factors as to why this team made the playoffs, but they certainly are factors now.
Bruins injury struggles
The Bruins on the other hand, not so lucky health wise. First off, Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo were never made available for this series. Those are two of Boston’s top three defensemen. The missing presence of those two was obvious. In the regular season, Krug led the team in time on ice on the powerplay. Also, Carlo was only behind Zdeno Chara in penalty killing ice time. Losing defensemen like that forced others to step up. Joe Morrow only had 65 games of NHL experience before this First Round series. He averaged about 16 minutes of ice time per game in his career. His average ice time went up to 22:45 per game, but it didn’t stop there. Defensemen Colin Miller injured his knee in Game One and didn’t return until Game Four. Adam McQuaid left Game Two with an upper body injury and never returned.
It wasn’t just the defence that suffered injuries either. The Bruins offence also had a major loss during the series. David Krejci had a full 82-game season for the first time since 2008-2009. The second line centre had a solid year, posting 23 goals and 31 assists, along with 51.4% in the face-off dot. Another unfortunately timed injury for the Bruins. He missed Game One and Game Two with an upper body injury. Krejci returned in Game Three, but then left in Game Five after a knee-on-knee collision. He wasn’t available for the final game.
A Rookie on the Blue Line
So with four defensemen out of the Boston Bruins lineup, someone needed to step up if they hoped to have a chance in this First Round series. That someone was Charlie McAvoy. The only professional hockey experience he had before this was four games played with Boston’s AHL team. In the playoffs he was second on the team in average ice time behind Chara, at 26:11 per game. For a guy with no NHL experience to slot into a top defensemen role with the success McAvoy had is incredible. He rarely made mistakes. He was calm and smart with the puck. McAvoy was the quarterback of the Bruins powerplay leading all players with over 17 minutes total on the man advantage in the series. He finished the series with three assists. Bruins fans should feel more comfortable with letting Dougie Hamilton go after seeing this kid.
Norris Candidate Defensemen
McAvoy was impressive no doubt. But his top defensemen opponent was sensational. Erik Karlsson sometimes gets overlooked because he is on a smaller market team. But he is showing why he should be considered the top candidate for the Norris Trophy and even be discussed among Hart Trophy voters. Aside from the lack of health of Boston, Karlsson was the Senators biggest advantage this series. He has always been known for his knack for racking up assists, and that’s exactly what he did in this series. Six assists in six games.
None of them were more impressive than the one on the first goal of Game Three. This may be the best pass we’ll see all playoffs, and it’s only the First Round. A 116-foot long saucer pass put Mike Hoffman on a breakaway, and he capped it off with a beautiful one-handed deke that slowly slid into the net. This puck went ten feet high and landed right on the blue line for Hoffman. The timing was impeccable. Keep in mind this was a saucer pass, so it didn’t flip in the air.
Karlsson was also a workhorse. No one on the Sens team was even close to his average ice time per game. He played over half an hour on average each game. The next closest was 25 minutes. Even more impressive, Karlsson performed at such a high level while playing injured. After the series, the Ottawa Sun stated “he revealed after Sunday’s 3-2 OT victory over the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden he had suffered two hairline fractures in his foot blocking a shot against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 28”. It was hard to tell that he was even injured at all because he was still able to skate with grace and speed.
On to the Next Opponent
The Ottawa Senators had to battle hard against the Boston Bruins to advance. Boston deserves a lot of credit for what they accomplished with major injuries in their lineup. If they were able to dress their preferred roster, this would have been a much different series. However, the Ottawa Senators can count their blessings that they had a much healthier lineup. Having a two-time Norris Trophy winner as a captain helps too. Karlsson’s ability to play through his fractures in his heel and still lead his team in ice time gave them a big boost too.
The Senators have their work cut out for them though. The Second Round will be up against a familiar foe, the New York Rangers.