The grueling 82-game campaign known as the NHL regular season came to a conclusion on Saturday afternoon for the Boston Bruins.
The B’s finished second in the Eastern Conference as the Northeast Division winners. They accumulated 102 points by posting a 49-29-4 record. In a season where the Bruins were expected to just coast into the playoffs, they still remain one of the elite teams in the league. Now they must defend the prize that they won 10 months ago: the Stanley Cup.
Let’s take a look back at the regular season.
Tyler Seguin led the team with 29 goals and 67 points. With these numbers, he became the youngest player in Bruins’ history to lead the team in scoring. His defensive game has elevated since last season and that is evident in his plus-34 rating this year. The fans of Boston appreciated his play on the ice so much that they elected Seguin as the winner of the annual “7th Player Award” which is awarded to the individual who exceeded all expectations.
Chris Kelly also had a career year for the Black and Gold. He posted 20 goals and played in all 82 games this season. He could have very well been crowned as the “7th Player Award” winner as well since many felt that Seguin was expected to put up high numbers. It was an interesting decision by the fans, but it will not affect the team’s play on the ice.
Patrice Bergeron led the entire NHL with a plus-36 rating. It might be enough to sway the voters in favor of Bergeron receiving his first Selke Award for being the league’s best defensive forward.
Solid defensemen, shutdown goaltending, and trade deadline acquisitions have propelled the Bruins into a position to make another deep playoff run. Let’s look ahead to their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal opponent.
In the two vs. seven match-up, the Bruins will take on the Washington Capitals. The Caps finished the season with a 42-32-8 record, going 10-6-3 in the final two months.
This pairing was a result of the Capitals beating the New York Rangers on Saturday. In addition, the Florida Panthers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Ottawa Senators lost to the New Jersey Devils. Two weeks ago, it was a given that the Bruins would match up against the Senators in the first round. That is why they play the games.
The Bruins went 1-2-1 against Washington this season. Most recently, the Capitals scored a 3-2 shootout win at the TD Garden on March 29.
The Capitals are a top-heavy squad led by their captain Alex Ovechkin. They recently got back their top playmaker Nicklas Backstrom and with Alexander Semin in the mix, it could be a tough task to contain that trio.
However, the Bruins have their top six forwards playing consistent hockey right now. David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Rich Peverley have combined for eight points in their last five games while the line of Bergeron, Seguin, and Brad Marchand has been playing solid in all three zones. Also, they have the depth to roll their third and fourth lines and log valuable minutes. The edge would have to go to Boston up front.
On defense, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg will be the shutdown pair for the Bruins. Across the sheet, Dennis Wideman and John Carlson lead the team in time on ice. Wideman is having a career year, recording 11 goals and 35 assists. Both teams have the depth on the blue line to contain the fire power of their respective opponents.
As far as the goaltending situation, the Bruins have the clear advantage. Despite Tuukka Rask’s uncertainty to return, Anton Khudobin will be the backup for two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas. Khudobin made 44 saves on 45 shots in his Bruins’ debut against the Senators. Washington is down to their number three goalie Braden Holtby. Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth are out with lower-body injuries.
Game One for this playoff series is likely to be on Thursday at the TD Garden.