NHL Stanley Cup Round 1 Eastern Conference Preview: Boston Bruins vs Ottawa Senators

Our last first-round preview sees two teams face off who seemed to stumble their way into the post-season.

Boston sacked Claude Julien on February 7th, after a 26-23-6 record looked like leaving the Bruins outside the playoffs. Then Bruce Cassidy came in, and they won. Quite a lot. And they got there. But boy have they stumbled their way in in recent weeks.

Ottawa, on the other hand, have been streaky all year. They limped in, despite only winning five of their last fifteen games, mostly buoyed by a run of 11 wins in the 16 games before that.

Two teams struggling for form? This probably isn’t going to be a classic.

Eastern Conference Round One
Boston Bruins Vs Ottawa Senators
Standings
13th League 12th
7th Conference 6th
3rd Division 2nd
3rd Atlantic Seeding 2nd Atlantic
Season Record
44-31-7 95pts Overall 98pts 44-28-10
234 Goals For 212
212 Goals Against 214

Yep, that’s not a typo. Ottawa are the only team in the post-season with a negative goal difference. When I said they limped in, I wasn’t kidding.

The only difference between these two teams is 15 minutes of hockey, as the Sens lost more after the third than the Bruins did. The Bruins do score more goals, but we’ll get into that shortly.

Record versus opponent
74 52 8 All-time 52 74 8
0 0 0 Playoffs 0 0 0
0 3 1 2016/17 4 0 0

Historically the Bruins are leading this, but the Sens swept the Bruins comfortably this year, and will perhaps use that as inspiration to find some kind of form to win a few games and take the first round.

Scoring Leaders
Brad Marchand 39 Goals 26 Mike Hoffman
Brad Marchand 46 Assists 54 Erik Karlsson
Brad Marchand 85 Points 71 Erik Karlsson
Patrice Bergeron 302 Shots 224 Mike Hoffman
Brad Marchand 17.3 Shot % 20.7 Alex Burrows

 

The Bruins have got some scoring in them. Although only four players broke the 20 goal mark, two of them were into their 30s – Marchand and David Pastrnak. Five players reached 50 points on the year too.

The Sens? Not so much. Only three players made it to 20 goals, and only four made it to 40 points. They rely massively on Erik Karlsson to set things up, and with his status a little unknown after injuring his foot late in the season, they may very well struggle here.

Even Strength Team Possession (via corsica.hockey)
Unadjusted SZV Adjusted
CF% FF% CF% FF%
Boston 54.70 55.31 54.78 55.42
Ottawa 48.55 48.80 48.23 48.64
Unadjusted Possession Leaders (ES, min 200 minutes)
CF% FF%
D F D F
Boston Colin Miller (60.15) Patrice Bergeron 61.14) Colin Miller (61.64) Patrice Bergeron (61.64)
Ottawa Fredrik Claesson (53.59) Mark Stone (54.17) Fredrik Claesson (52.76) Derick Brassard (54.59)

 

We’ve got another possession mis-match here. Boston are a very good possession team, Ottawa are not. Only the Rangers are a worse possession team than the Sens (out of the teams who made the playoffs). The best? Why, that’d be the Boston Bruins.

Special Teams
Power Play Penalty Kill
% Rank % Rank
Boston 21.7 7th 85.7 1st
Ottawa 17.0 23rd 79.7 22nd
PPG For SHG Against PPG Against SHG For
Boston 53 6 38 10
Ottawa 43 3 50 7

The best penalty kill against a well below-average powerplay, and a top ten powerplay against a well below average penalty kill. I don’t know who’s coaching special teams in Ottawa but it sure ain’t working.

Essentially, if the Bruins get powerplay time, forget about it.

Goaltending
Boston Ottawa
Tuukka Rask Anton Khudobin Craig Anderson Mike Condon
5v5 Sv% 92.04 90.68 94.04 91.98
5v5 HDSv% 78.78 76.92 82.91 82.14
All Sits Sv% 91.50 90.39 92.62 91.44
All Sits HDSv% 81.19 75.49 82.25 82.53

It could be a decent goalie battle. Whichever of the Sens’ goalies gets the start is more than capable (there’s a 40/38 split this year) and have very good numbers. As for the Bruins, they have to hope they get the good version of Tuukka Rask.

Prediction

 

You look at the Bruins and wonder how they struggled. They’re the best possession team in the league, they have elite scoring, yet there’s something not quite there. As for the Sens, if Erik Karlsson is out or off form, no chance. I’m going Bruins, but I think it might take seven games to decide it.

The winner faces the Rangers or the Canadiens.

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