Bruins Vs. Hurricanes Playoff Preview: Analysis, Predictions, X Factors

The qualifiers have been completed, and the matchups are set for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After losing all three round-robin games, the Boston Bruins will be the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed and will take on the sixth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes, who swept the New York Rangers in the qualifying round.

Here’s everything you need to know about Bruins-Hurricanes.

STATS HEAD-TO-HEAD (REGULAR SEASON)
Goals/Game: Boston 3.24 (9th) | Carolina 3.19 (11th)
Goals Allowed/Game: Boston 2.39 (1st) | Carolina 2.84 (11th)
Power Play: Boston 25.2 percent (2nd) | Carolina 22.3% (8th)
Penalty Kill: Boston 84.3 (3rd) | Carolina 84% (4th)

SEASON SERIES
— Boston won the season series 1-0
Dec. 3: Boston 2-0

SCHEDULE
Tuesday, Aug. 11: 8 p.m. (NESN)
Thursday, Aug. 13: 8 p.m. (NESN)
Saturday, Aug. 15: 8 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 17: 8 p.m. (NESN)
Wednesday, Aug. 19: TBD (if necessary)
Thursday, Aug. 20: TBD (if necessary)
Sunday, Aug. 23: TBD. (if necessary)

More: Round-Robin Debrief; Hurricanes Series Preview | NESN Bruins Podcast Ep. 77

FORWARDS
Bruins Projected Lines
Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk–David Krejci–Ondrej Kase
Nick Ritchie–Charlie Coyle–Anders Bjork
Joakim Nordstrom–Sean Kuraly–Chris Wagner

Hurricanes Projected Lines
Andrei Svechnikov–Sebastian Aho–Teuvo Teravainen
Nino Niederreiter–Vincent Trocheck–Martin Necas
Warren Foegele–Jordan Staal–Justin Williams
Brock McGinn–Morgan Geekie–Jordan Martinook

Logan Mullen: When the Bruins forwards are playing to their full potential, they hold the advantage in a big way. But the middle six is still something of a mess, while the only point from Boston’s top line forwards in the round-robin was a secondary assist by Patrice Bergeron. So, the Svechnikov-Aho-Teravainen line enters this series as, presently, the best trio. All this can change, but the Hurricanes are better up front right now.

Advantage: Hurricanes

Lauren Campbell: The Hurricanes’ forwards are young, fast and, according to Bruce Cassidy, have a “sixth sense” about to where to go on the ice and can turn away from pressure. Carolina’s top line of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen also have gotten better this year and have shown just how dangerous they can be. But when the B’s top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand are on, they’re just as dangerous. So we shall see.

Advantage: Hurricanes

Mike Cole: Let’s not get carried away. Maybe I’m being naive, but I think water finds its level with the Bruins, and they start to look like, well, the Bruins. If that’s the case, expect the forwards to look much better than they did in the round-robins. At its best, the Patrice Bergeron line is one of the best in hockey. The fourth line is one of the best checking lines in the game, and as Chris Wagner showed in the round-robin, can score goals from time to time. The big question mark, of course, is the middle two lines, but Ondrej Kase looked pretty good in his one game, which should help that second line get going, and the third line showed some good chemistry.

Advantage: Bruins

DEFENSE
Bruins Projected Pairings
Zdeno Chara–Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug–Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk–Jeremy Lauzon

Hurricanes Projected Pairings
Jaccob Slavin–Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei–Joel Edmundson
Jake Gardiner–Sami Vatanen

Logan: Boston’s defense stumbled early in the round-robin, but it got significantly better as time went on. The Hurricanes might have the better overall pairing with Slavin and Hamilton, provided the latter is ready for game action, but I’ll take Boston’s depth across all three pairings and into the scratches.

Advantage: Bruins

Lauren: The Bruins defense is stacked. You have size in Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo (as well as physicality), speed in Matt Grzelcyk (who moves the puck well, too) and Torey Krug. Jeremy Lauzon also adds some size to the blue line. It’s also no guarantee Dougie Hamilton will be ready for Carolina after missing the series against the New York Rangers. And while his team fared well without him, he’d certainly add a boost to the Canes.

Advantage: Bruins

MikeIt sounds like Hamilton is gonna be good to go. If he’s not ready for Game 1, he should be back at some point in the series. Slavin obviously is fantastic, but there’s some depth there, too. Skjei had a great series vs. the Rangers, and Gardiner’s Bruins playoff bugaboos aside, you can do worse than that third pairing; Vatanen was a nice pick-up. This also is a reflection of the Bruins, as Chara, the defensive lynchpin, didn’t look great in the round-robin games.

Advantage: Hurricanes

GOALIES
Bruins Goaltenders
Tuukka Rask
Jaroslav Halak

Hurricanes Goaltenders
Petr Mrazek
James Reimer

Logan: Tuukka Rask looked mostly fine during the round-robin. Unless he’s just an abject disaster, which would be problematic for the Bruins, he should be the best netminder in this series.

Advantage: Bruins

Lauren: The Bruins have one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL and a Vezina finalist in Tuukka Rask. He’ll need to be on his A-game, especially against a young, skilled Hurricanes team. I know regular season stats mean nothing when it comes to the playoffs, but it’s hard to look past what Rask and Jaroslav Halak did this season.

Advantage: Bruins

MikeThe Hurricanes don’t have a starting goalie. If you’ve got two goalies, you don’t have one, right?

Advantage: Bruins

X FACTOR

Logan: David Krejci

It’s too easy to pick Ondrej Kase, right? So how about the guy that is going to have to make the second line tick. Jake DeBrusk hasn’t been great this year in the regular season or round-robin. Kase played in only one round-robin game and is largely unfamiliar with his linemates. Because of that, the Bruins probably will have to lean even more heavily on Krejci both as a goal-scorer and facilitator. The good thing about him though is he’s a guy who has a demonstrated history of postseason success.

Lauren: Anders Bjork

Bjork earned some high praise from Bruce Cassidy when practices resumed after losing his trust shortly before the season was paused. The B’s just signed Bjork to a three-year deal, and we’ve seen flashes of what he’s capable of doing. If he can utilize his speed and get to the net and provide some secondary scoring for the bottom-six, he could be a threat. Plus, what better time to prove you earned your contract than the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

MikeCharlie Coyle

Was gonna pick Ondrej Kase until I read what Logan wrote. Then I went to Anders Bjork, but I didn’t want to look like I was copying Lauren. So, we roll with Coyle. The Bruins were at their best last year when Coyle and his line were rolling. This year, he and his line really have the chance (the responsibility?) to become the de facto second line. If you don’t believe me, look at the numbers: Coyle got nearly 20 minutes of ice time in the round-robin games, more than 4 minutes per game more than he did last postseason.

PREDICTION

Logan: Bruins in seven

I really want to pick the Hurricanes. I do. They’re going to be such a tough opponent for the Bruins, especially with the way both teams have played since arriving in the bubble. But I’m having such a hard time believing the Bruins won’t be able to figure it out enough to win this series, even if it takes them seven games — so be sure to revisit this take when Carolina wins in four.

Lauren: Bruins in six

The Hurricanes are a good, well-rounded, strong team. There’s no denying that. But as Logan said above, I can’t bring myself to think Boston won’t find its legs. The B’s looked better in each round-robin game and while scoring obviously was an issue, I’m confident that team we saw those last three games will not be the same team that will show up Tuesday. It won’t be easy, but I think six will get it done. This window also is closing on this core group to win a Cup, and that always provides a little extra motivation to move forward in the series.

Mike: Bruins in seven

There will be games the Hurricanes win that are going be ridiculously frustrating for Bruins fans to watch. The pesky lack of finish reared its ugly head in the round-robin games, and it very well could carry over into this round, especially given Carolina’s defensive corps. However, I’m on record saying the B’s figure it out(ish), and it ultimately comes down to the goaltending advantage. It won’t be easy, but Boston finds a way.

More: How Are Bruins Handling NHL Bubble Experience? Bruce Cassidy Explains

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images