Boston Bruins’ Most Favorable First-Round Matchup
While groups proceed to battle for playoff positioning as we shut in on the tip of the common season, the Boston Bruins are on cruise management and have an opportunity to clinch the Presidents’ Trophy this week. The Bruins’ common season has been one for the ages, and it’s time now to start specializing in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the season winding down, the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins all remained within the midst of the wild-card race. However, when trying on the Bruins’ season collection in opposition to every of those golf equipment, one staff supplies essentially the most beneficial matchup for Boston.
New York Islanders
Since making an enormous splash forward of the commerce deadline and acquiring former Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat, the Islanders have gained traction within the standings and could also be a darkish horse within the Eastern Conference. Since buying Horvat, they’ve put collectively a report of 13-6-4 and have jumped into the primary wild card spot with 85 factors. The Islanders boast top-of-the-line goalies within the NHL and a potential Hart Memorial Trophy candidate in Ilya Sorokin. The 27-year-old has a 27-19-7 report, together with a league-leading 5 shutouts. He additionally has a 2.39 goals-against common (GAA) and a .923 save share (SV%) and could possibly be a game-breaker come playoff time.
Not solely do the Islanders have the goaltending wanted for playoff success, however common supervisor Lou Lamoriello has additionally put collectively a gritty staff that’s constructed for playoff hockey. The membership is stable defensively as effectively, as they rank fourth within the NHL with a mean of two.68 targets in opposition to per sport. Key accidents have additionally plagued the Islanders all through the season; offensive chief Mathew Barzal has but to renew skating as he has been out since Feb. 20 with a lower-body harm. Aside from Barzal, the staff is trying as wholesome as they’ve been all season; defenseman Adam Pelech has been a steadying drive on the blue line since returning from a concussion scare in December.
The Bruins swept their season collection with the Islanders and outscored them by a margin of 14-6. The first assembly again on Dec. 13 required a shootout to resolve the winner; David Pastrnak scored within the shootout on Semyon Varlamov to cap off the win. On Jan. 18, the Bruins scored 4 unanswered targets to rally again from a 1-0 deficit after the primary interval, selecting up a 4-1 win at UBS Arena. Varlamov additionally began in aim for the second assembly and allowed 4 targets on simply 24 pictures. In their most up-to-date assembly on Feb. 18, Boston dominated with a 6-2 win, though as soon as once more, Varlamov manned the Islanders’ web. The Bruins have been 3 for 8, whereas the Islanders have been 0 for 12 on the ability play by means of the season collection. The Bruins additionally outshot the Islanders 84-80 over the three video games.
Despite the dominating season collection in opposition to the Islanders, the 2 golf equipment usually are not far faraway from their 2021 second-round playoff collection. Boston misplaced that collection in six video games, with Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock enjoying a major position in shutting down the Bruins’ offense. Another key issue to take a look at is that Boston has but to face the Islanders’ bonafide number-one goaltender, Sorokin, this season.
Another attainable first-round matchup could possibly be the Pittsburgh Penguins, who, if the playoffs began at the moment, could be the Bruins’ opponent. The Penguins have had a reasonably inconsistent season. At occasions, they’ve performed like true contenders within the East, however quite the opposite, they’ve left lots to be desired too many occasions this season. They put collectively a seven-game win streak in December, however apart from that, they’ve gotten inconsistent outcomes for a lot of the marketing campaign. The ageing core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang nonetheless present an enormous risk for opposing groups. But the Penguins have depleted scoring depth and a mediocre defence corps to associate with the shaky goaltending from Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith.
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The Bruins have gained the primary two conferences this season in opposition to the Penguins and are set to play for the ultimate time on April 1. In the primary assembly, Boston picked up a 6-5 time beyond regulation win in dramatic style. After trailing the sport 5-2, the Bruins scored three unanswered targets and tied the sport late within the third interval. Hampus Lindholm scored the time beyond regulation marker 3:37 into the additional body to present the Bruins the victory. The two groups additionally took half on this yr’s Winter Classic at Fenway Park in a good contest the place ahead Jake Debrusk played the hero on NHL’s center stage. With the sport seemingly destined for time beyond regulation, he discovered the again of the web with 2:24 remaining to seal the victory.
The Penguins rank sixteenth in targets for and 18th in targets in opposition to this season and still have the Fifteenth-ranked energy play, clicking at a 21.5 p.c success fee. Of the highest three groups remaining within the wild card race, Pittsburgh is the least bodily imposing, and that would go a great distance over the course of a seven-game collection. In addition, the Penguins’ offense drops off dramatically after Crosby, Malkin and Jake Guentzel, who’ve 85, 75 and 66 factors, respectively. Jarry additionally has struggled mightily in his restricted playoff expertise, posting a 2-6 report to associate with a 3.00 GAA and a .891 SV%.
The Panthers at present sit simply three factors behind the Penguins for the ultimate wild-card spot. But regardless of sitting on the skin trying in, they will be the greatest thorn within the Bruins’ aspect when evaluating the three attainable first-round matchups. Led by super-pest, Matthew Tkachuk, who’s destined to cross the 100-point mark for the second consecutive season, the Panthers boast a stable 4 traces and rank fifth in targets for whereas averaging 3.45 targets per sport. They have a formidable energy play, rating eleventh whereas changing on 22.1 p.c of their probabilities.
On the alternative finish of the ice, the Panthers have had some issue this season, as they rank twenty fourth in targets in opposition to, permitting 3.45 targets per sport. Their penalty kill is lower than fascinating, because it sits close to the underside of the NHL, rating twenty eighth at 74 p.c. They are additionally extremely penalized, averaging 11.6 penalty minutes per sport, not a very good look when your penalty kill struggles to maintain the puck out of the again of the web.
The Bruins and Panthers break up their season collection with two wins apiece this yr. Boston gained the primary assembly on Oct. 17 by a rating of 5-3 regardless of being outshot 41-34. The Panthers answered again by defeating the Bruins 5-2 on Nov. 23, placing an finish to the Bruins’ seven-game successful streak. Special groups performed a major position in that sport, with Florida going 3 for 7 with the person benefit. In the third assembly between the 2 Atlantic Division foes, Patrice Bergeron had a four-point evening en path to a 7-3 win for the Bruins. The ultimate assembly of the season collection required time beyond regulation, and Sam Reinhart lifted the Panthers to a 4-3 win simply 17 seconds into the additional body.
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Should the Panthers declare the ultimate wild card spot, they may give the Bruins a run for his or her cash within the first spherical. Tkachuk might be a key think about any playoff collection for Florida and can most undoubtedly get below the pores and skin of any opponent over the course of a seven-game collection. Goaltending stays a difficulty for the Panthers, as Sergei Bobrovsky hasn’t delivered on his massive $70 million contract signed in 2019.
Bruins’ First-Round Matchup Won’t Be A Walk In The Park
Regardless of who the Bruins find yourself enjoying in opposition to, their first-round matchup gained’t be a stroll within the park. They will undoubtedly enter as heavy favorites however might want to flip the web page shortly from their historic common season in the event that they need to shake the infamous Presidents’ Trophy “curse” for a prolonged playoff run this spring. The final staff to win the Stanley Cup and the Presidents’ Trophy in the identical season was the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks, who clinched their championship in opposition to the Bruins in Game 6 at TD Garden.
While a divisional matchup between the 2 would arguably be one of the best for leisure functions, the Panthers are the least favorable matchup for the Bruins within the first spherical. After adding Tkachuk for the only real objective of his grittier, in-your-face type of hockey, Florida could be a tricky opponent for any staff. As the season collection demonstrates, they’ve the skillset and roster that gives the most important problem for Boston. A best-of-seven collection in opposition to the Panthers would take its toll on the Bruins, who could be a lot better suited to play in opposition to the much less bodily imposing Penguins.
Although the Bruins dominated the season collection, they’ve but to play in opposition to Sorokin this season, and his elite goaltending may change the matchup enormously. The Islanders’ gritty ahead group additionally presents the identical put on and tear issue because the Panthers. The additions of Horvat and Pierre Engvall, together with a possible return of Barzal, give the Islanders sufficient offense for his or her defence to hold them in tightly contested playoff hockey. The seven-game collection would have a a lot completely different outlook compared to the three video games performed within the common season.
In conclusion, that leaves the Penguins as essentially the most favorable first-round matchup for the Bruins. Despite Crosby and Malkin nonetheless being high-level threats offensively, the Bruins’ depth could be an excessive amount of for the Penguins to deal with. With 4 sturdy traces, the Bruins would expose the Penguins’ defence and questionable goaltending and though all playoff hockey is a bodily battle, the Bruins could be finest ready for his or her subsequent opponent following a collection with the Penguins.
Bruins’ Depth Will Prevail
Overall, the Bruins’ three key additions on the commerce deadline, Garnet Hathaway, Dmitry Orlov and Tyler Bertuzzi, will play an enormous position this spring. Regardless of the opponent, they’re constructed for the postseason, and it will be an immense problem for any staff to compete with the extent of grit and ability they now have. Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno have each returned to follow with the membership, and Boston has the posh of resting up their gamers to shut the season as they get dialed in on what hopefully might be an extended playoff run.