2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Prospectus: Boston Bruins vs. Ottawa Senators
Throw out the regular season records between these two. Along with the bath water (just save the baby). Ottawa faltered mightily down the stretch before finishing with wins that they needed, including one against Boston last week in a shootout. Boston was winless against the Sens all season. Bruce Cassidy has brought a more physical, fast paced and higher octane game in each zone since taking over for the departed Claude Julien. The results have been palpable. However, the Sens have had their number even since Cassidy came up from Providence.
Boston Bruins (3rd, Atlantic) vs. Ottawa Senators (2nd, Atlantic)
There isn’t much to say about Ottawa. They don’t score that much, which is a product of their philosophy (which befuddled Boston), involving clogging the neutral zone and forcing turnovers in that area; preventing teams from sustaining offensive zone time. One would think that with proper execution of this strategy, that it would generate more offensively for Ottawa, but the results have not been there, particularly coming down the stretch in March into April.
Ottawa has question marks coming into the series. How healthy is all world Erik Karlsson? He means everything to their defence and power play. They are still missing Mark Methot for the foreseeable future, after Sidney Crosby sawed off a portion of his finger with a vicious slash. To the Sens’ credit, however, guys like Cody Ceci and Dion Phaneuf have stepped up and played more impactful minutes. Can Phaneuf withstand the heavy attack of the Patrice Bergeron line, which includes the dastardly David Backes and equally devious Brad Marchand without taking crucial penalties? This is a match up worth watching.
Boston doesn’t seem to boast enough scoring depth on paper, but along with David Pastrnak on the David Krejci line with Drew Stafford, their top six has carried the team since Cassidy’s promotion. Boston’s blue line isn’t the best, either, although Zdeno Chara still gets by on sheer size, reach and grit alone. The Millers on the third pair have been very good, rather surprisingly. They will need to continue to be.
One would think Ottawa would score more than do with the lines they have. Kyle Turris is consistent and a big-moment goal scorer on a line with recently returned Clarke MacArthur and the mercurial Bobby Ryan. This line is critical to Ottawa’s success here, as they will more often than not be on ice against the weakest of the three Boston defence pairings (John Michael Liles/Adam McQuaid) and the smallish Boston second and third lines. J.G. Pageau has lethal sniper Mike Hoffman on his wing along with bruising Mark Stone. The Derick Brassard line will bear watching. Alex Burrows flanks him with speedy Viktor Stalberg. Watch them. Brassard is a big-game player. Zack Smith and Tommy Wingels know how to operate in their roles on the fourth line. Wingels was on the San Jose Sharks team which went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2016. He knows what it takes.
Tuukka Rask is regarded as elite by some, but he is not. He can be very good or horrific, sometimes in the same game. And that’s when he plays. Elite goalies don’t need numerous “rest” games that they wouldn’t erstwhile get during a 58-62 game workload during the regular season. And then there are the injuries. If the Bruins have to rely upon Anton Khudobin at all in this series, they are in trouble.
Craig Anderson is playing with tons of emotion in goal for Ottawa. His wife has battled cancer all season and he has been a steadying influence in the net for Ottawa, along with Mike Condon. Anderson will be up for the task. Will it be enough?
Call: OTTAWA IN 7.