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|
|3rd Atlantic||Seeding||2nd Atlantic|
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|
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.
|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 Possession Leaders (ES, min 200 minutes)|
|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.
|Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|PPG For||SHG Against||PPG Against||SHG For|
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.
|Tuukka Rask||Anton Khudobin||Craig Anderson||Mike Condon|
|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.
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.