The Boston Bruins clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon, but their first-round opponent has not been determined yet.
There are four teams that Boston could realistically face: the Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Flyers.
The Red Wings have given the Bruins a lot of trouble this season with their speed and compete level. Detroit beat Boston 6-1 at Joe Louis Arena back in November, and ended the B’s nine-game road win streak on Wednesday with a 3-2 comeback victory on home ice. Detroit is a veteran-laden team with Stanley Cup-winning experience that will be difficult to beat in a seven-game series when injured superstars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg return to the lineup. Fortunately for Boston, the Red Wings have a three-point lead over the second wild card playoff team and likely will oppose the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1.
The Flyers are a good matchup for the Bruins because they like to play a physical style of hockey. The Bruins swept the season series with Saturday’s win, and given the Flyers’ lack of quality goaltending, the B’s would have little trouble scoring goals consistently against the Broad Street club in the postseason.
The Leafs could be a difficult matchup for the Bruins because they bring so much speed and skill to the ice. They also have quality goaltending with Jonathan Bernier, but an MCL injury he suffered in Thursday’s overtime win over Boston has put his playoff availability in question. Toronto doesn’t have the same level of size and defensive depth that it did last season, when it took Boston to seven games in Round 1, but the rivalry and familiarity between the two rivals would make for another exciting series.
The Blue Jackets are probably the best matchup for the Bruins in Round 1. Columbus does have a top-tier goalie in reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, but the Atlantic Division team lacks scoring depth and its blue line has little playoff experience. The Blue Jackets have made only one playoff appearance (2008-09) in their brief history. Boston swept the season series with Columbus 3-0.