While Bruins fans can probably agree this year’s team isn’t likely to win the Stanley Cup, agreeing on a realistic expectation for the team is cause for serious debate.
On one side, you have those who say that the team has been underachieving and their underlying stats show they will likely improve. On the other side, a mediocre finish to the season and a history of wilting under pressure leaves many worried. After adding in injuries to key player on both teams (Carlo, Krug, Acciari, Methot, Ceci), it becomes even harder to predict.
It's important to note the distinction between what we think will happen versus what the expectations for the team should be. For example, I personally don’t think the Bruins will advance past the first round; however, I think they SHOULD be expected to do just that, given their roster. My reasoning is included below:
Talent: Outside of Erik Karlsson, at what position do the Senators have more talent than the Bruins? The answer is none, frankly. The Bruins have four borderline-elite forwards in Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak and Playoff Krecji ™, whereas the Senators' leading scorer was their much-improved star defenseman. In goal, while Anderson has notably had a bounce back year, he isn’t better than Tuukka Rask. You could argue that the Sens have a more consistent defensive corps, and up until injuries struck you may have been right. However, with injuries to two of the top four defensemen for each team, things are fairly even in that regard as well.
The area in which Ottawa likely has the biggest advantage is coaching. While both head coaches are first year coaches with their respective franchises and each have previously coached in the NHL, the nod has to be given to Boucher.
His resume (18 PGP, 11-7 W/L) is ahead of Bruce’s (6 PGP, 2-4 W/L) at this stage, and his 1-3-1 system has given the Bruins trouble under both of their head coaches. And while his Tampa Bay team ultimately lost to the 2011 Champion Bruins, it's still an accomplishment to have taken that group deep into the playoffs.
Playoff Experience: If there is a category in which the Bruins are the clear favorite, it's playoff experience, with a majority of their core having played meaningful playoff games (Krejci, Marchand, Chara, Bergeron, McQuaid and Rask). While the Bruins have largely failed to win the “must-win games” this season, the playoff expectations for a player like Krecji, who has twice led the league in postseason scoring, or Rask who helped his team to a SC Final, are much greater than those of an Ottawa roster that has largely played little to no playoff hockey.
Even just comparing the playoff games played since the 2010-2011 season shows a large disparity, with Boston having played 66 postseason games to Ottawa’s 23.
Veteran Leadership: Perhaps the most overlooked aspect in this matchup is leadership. While it's easy to forget, especially considering the last few years without playoff hockey, the Bruins' captain has already led this team to two Stanley Cup Finals, winning it all in 2011.
Analysts can and will eternally debate the value leadership can have on a team in terms of hard numbers, but it would be hard to discount the value of having a team leader who has already been there and done that.
Pressure to Win: With all due respect to Ottawa and their fan base, the expectations for this Bruins roster to start the year were higher than Ottawa’s. In fact, the Bruins' controversial owner came right out and claimed he expected nothing short of a deep playoff run with this roster. Losing in the first round would have far more negative impact on the Bruins roster and management than its opponents. In fact, it's possible that both Bruce Cassidy’s and the front office’s positions are riding on it. Given the stakes, the Bruins have more to play for than the Senator’s do.
Conclusion: Given everything covered above, as well as the ability for a hot goalie to steal a few games, the Bruins should win in the first round against Ottawa and at least make things competitive in the second round.
Anything after that is really a bonus, given the Bruins' roster holes, particularly on defense and secondary scoring.
What do you think: what should the Bruins be expected to accomplish this postseason?
How far should the Bruins be expected to go in 2017 Playoffs?
This poll is closed
First Round Exit
Second Round Exit
Win A Few Games
Conference Finals Appearance