As the NHL readies itself for a resumption of play, the Boston Bruins sit atop the league in points. With the new format, one that includes reseeding after every round, the Boston Bruins playoff run could take on any of the other 11 Eastern Conference teams that qualify. In order from best to worst, these are the Boston Bruins playoff opponents the Bruins would fare the best against.
Possible Boston Bruins Playoff Opponents
1) Montreal Canadiens
The best-case scenario for the Boston Bruins playoff opponents would be to match up against their longtime rival, the Montreal Canadiens.
Not only do the Canadiens have the least points among teams in this playoff format, but Boston has also handled them fairly well this season. Boston has faced off against Montreal four times this season, the most out of any team in the return-to-play format.
In those four games, Boston posted a 3-1-0 record with 19 goals for and eight goals against. The Bruins have won the previous three meetings against Montreal by a total of 15-3. Some added motivation for the Bruins core could help, as Boston was the President’s Trophy winner in 2013-14 before losing to Montreal in the second round of the playoffs.
At the end of the day, Montreal is lucky to even have a chance at the postseason. They were all but done before this return-to-play format arose. Even so, it’s not enough to galvanize a team that simply isn’t good enough to beat the Bruins.
2) Florida Panthers
Checking in as the second most favourable matchup for Boston is the Florida Panthers. On paper, the Panthers played the Bruins tough this year. Boston managed a 2-0-1 record against the Panthers with a combined score of 10-8.
However, goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky has not played to his normal standards this season. He’ll likely get the nod when play resumes but how long will Joel Quenneville’s leash be? Going into the postseason with a goalie who hasn’t instilled confidence in the entire season isn’t a good recipe.
A highly motivated and successful team like the Bruins won’t forget about their meeting in November. The Bruins blew a 4-0 lead in the third period, allowing Florida to climb back in it and force overtime. If these teams were to meet in the postseason, Boston is significantly better and will be certain to not let off the gas as they did early in the season.
3) New York Rangers
An interesting team to watch is the New York Rangers. The Rangers had plenty of struggles this season but may have surprised some. Legendary goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist lost his starting job and Mika Zibanejad was on a scoring tear before the season was paused.
There are some reasons to believe the Rangers could surprise a few in the qualifying round, but they’re probably not a threat in the Eastern Conference.
It would be nice to make a playoff run for Lundqvist, even if he’s not playing. The team could get hot behind Zibanejad. But they don’t have enough experience and depth to keep up.
Boston handled them easily in the regular season going 3-0-0. The Rangers simply couldn’t match what Boston brings to the table.
4) Toronto Maple Leafs
The familiar playoff opponent, Toronto Maple Leafs, comes in at number four. Toronto has lost Game 7 to Boston in the first round in back-to-back seasons. They also lost in seven games to Boston in 2013. It’s a story that keeps repeating itself. Groundhog Day flashbacks for certain.
The Maple Leafs have plenty of offensive talent between Auston Matthews (if he’s recovered from COVID-19), Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander. But they aren’t much different from the year before.
One would think eventually the tide has to turn, but this year doesn’t feel any different. The Maple Leafs struggled throughout the season and were in danger of losing their playoff spot if the season wasn’t suspended.
The result would likely be the same if Boston took on Toronto in the playoffs — with the Bruins moving on.
5) New York Islanders
The New York Islanders come in at number five. There are not many storylines between these two teams that would make this an extraordinarily interesting matchup. However, the Islanders are a solid team that could pose a threat.
The first two meetings between these teams this season both ended in a shootout. The Bruins and Islanders each winning one. Then, the third and final meeting was a different story with Boston dominating 4-0.
On paper, the Bruins are better in nearly every category. Mathew Barzal, the star on Long Island, is the biggest scoring threat for the Islanders. Without other reliable scoring options, the Bruins defence would likely smother most of the Islanders’ scoring opportunities.
However, led by head coach, Barry Trotz, the Islanders could put up a good fight. They slow the game down and limit their opponent’s scoring chances. There’s a chance that could cause problems for Boston, but a talented and experienced team like the Bruins should be able to overcome that.
Since the official playoff seeding and teams are yet to be determined, the Boston Bruins playoff opponents could be any of the 11 other Eastern Conference teams that qualified in the return-to-play format.
The Bruins were one of the hottest teams in the league before the suspension of play but any momentum for any team is now gone. As the league tries to enter the postseason from square one, it will be interesting to see how the Bruins fare.
Nonetheless, these five teams would be the easiest matchups for Boston in the postseason. The other six could be a different story.