The Boston Bruins will soon enter Phase 2 of the NHL’s plan for returning to play. The Bruins will be able to resume practices at the slightest ratio. However, what’s interesting for the Bruins is that despite knowing who they will face first, they don’t know what to expect next.
First, there will be round-robin matchups between the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. Losing all three games would mean ending as the fourth-seeded team for the Stanley Cup playoffs. However, that’s the worst-case scenario.
The Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals will be the Bruins’ first three opponents when the season resumes. If any teams end up tied on a round-robin record, the regular-season standings will help to determine the final seeding (the Bruins win all the tiebreakers).
If the Bruins wind up as the No. 1 seed, they will always face the lowest-seeded team available. In the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins would have the “home-ice” advantage no matter what.
In the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Bruins might face a large variety of dangerous teams. The Bruins’ first-round opponent will be coming off a qualifying round victory.
The Bruins might face the well-known Toronto Maple Leafs, their first-round opponent of the past two Stanley Cup playoffs. In both cases, silently, the Leafs pushed the Bruins against the wall. Boston always prevailed, but it was certainly not an easy task to accomplish.
The Columbus Blue Jackets might also be a tricky opposition. This year, despite all the injuries, the Blue Jackets were still destined for the playoffs. Just think of them fully healthy. This season, the Blue Jackets beat the Bruins twice, allowing only one goal against. The Bruins don’t like to face a defense-first team. Meeting Elvis Merzlikins, a rookie goaltender in the playoffs? Well, that happened last year in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Bruins shouldn’t really worry about the Montreal Canadiensm though. They are 3-1 vs. the Habs this season. Without the vibing Montreal crowd, the Bruins should handle this. The same can be applied to the Carolina Hurricanes. Much better than Montreal, but the Bruins blasted them last year in the playoffs.
Here come the most intriguing potential matchups. The Pittsburgh Penguins, the No. 5 seed of the regular season, are the toughest opponent for the first round. Their last two Stanley Cup playoffs appearances were dreadful. However, based on the head-to-head meetings, their speed is causing the Bruins all kinds of problems.
The New York Rangers might come up next. The Bruins should have the upper-hand, but the Rangers cannot be taken lightly. After ever-going issues facing them in the regular season, the Bruins won four straight against the Rangers. The second team from New York, the Islanders, is a defense-first squad. However, the Bruins are 5-0-1 vs. the Islanders of Barry Trotz.
Arguably the biggest X-factor is the Florida Panthers. That’s not because they are used to playing in a fans-empty arena, though. The Bruins are 5-5-1 vs. the Panthers in their last 11 head-to-head meetings. Florida always seemed to pose the Bruins the biggest problems. Moreover, they have plenty of talent upfront. Sergei Bobrovsky has been a disaster in goal this season. However, last year in the playoffs he brought the Bruins so much frustration with big-time saves.
Overall, here’s a ranking of the Bruins’ possible first-round opponents:
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Florida Panthers
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- New York Rangers
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Carolina Hurricanes
- New York Islanders
- Montreal Canadiens