Now What? Answering Pressing Bruins Questions After First-Round Win

You've got questions, we've got answers


May 24, 2021

The Boston Bruins didn’t waste much time sending home the Washington Capitals in their Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series.

The B’s dropped the series opener in Washington, D.C., and then stormed back to win four straight, eliminating Zdeno Chara and his new team.

Boston once again is on its way to the second round, where it will do battle with an unnamed opponent at an unannounced date. We don’t yet know when or against whom the Bruins will open the next series, but we did our best to answer some other burning questions anyway.

Will the Bruins get some time off?
You bet. Monday was an off-day, and the club also announced it will take the day off Tuesday before returning to the practice ice Wednesday.

Where do things stand on the vaccination efforts?
The Bruins are approaching the all-important 85 percent vaccination rate, though it seems they have slowed some in recent weeks. That’s somewhat understandable. Given the possible side effects, fitting in those vaccinations around a stretch run and playoff series was difficult. General manager Don Sweeney said it’s on the to-do list during this window of time off.

“Yeah, we’re going to try and fill in a little bit of the gaps there with some of the players,” he said Monday. “We’re tracking the numbers with the guys.”

What does that mean for injured players?
The biggest question mark moving forward is defenseman Kevan Miller, who suffered an injury after a scary hit from Dmitry Orlov in Game 4. Sweeney said Miller was feeling “OK,” but it’s still “early in the process,” and Miller hasn’t been to the team facility since the injury.

Keep an eye on fellow D-men Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril. The Bruins hope both will be ready for the second round, and the extra rest certainly helps in that regard.

What are the options for a second-round opponent?
The Bruins will play the winner of the series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders in the East Division. The two clubs play a pivotal Game 5 on Monday night, and a Game 7 — if it got that far — would be Friday night in Pittsburgh.

When might that series begin?
It’s a great question and it’s one that depends on what happens in the Pens-Isles series, of course. If they go the full seven games, it obviously won’t start until Sunday at the earliest. The earliest the Pittsburgh-New York series can end is Wednesday. So maybe Bruins-TBD could begin Friday night. The more likely scenario — and this is a total and complete guess — would be a Saturday start. One thing worth noting: Monday is Memorial Day. The 2019 Stanley Cup Final began on Memorial Day, so the NHL isn’t opposed to playing on the holiday. Whether that is Game 1 or Game 2 of the series obviously depends on how things play out. That’s a long way of saying we really don’t know when the series will begin.

How did the Bruins do against the Penguins and Islanders this year?
Unsurprisingly, given how good both Pittsburgh and New York are, it was a mixed bag. Boston went 5-3-0 against the top-seeded Penguins but outscored them by just two goals. The B’s went 3-3-2 against the Isles but were outscored 21-18. The Bruins did, however, win the final three meetings against the Isles.

OK, so who should the Bruins want to face?
The correct answer should be, “It doesn’t matter,” because both are very good. Both teams present unique challenges, too. The Penguins obviously have top-flight talent headlined by a generational superstar in Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin, despite a woeful Game 4 performance, is also back in the mix and will probably only get better as he finds his footing. The Islanders are just annoying. They smothered the Bruins early in the season and then added B’s killer Kyle Palmieri at the deadline. Barry Trotz might be the best head coach in the division. A seven-game series with the Isles would be a grind. The only real answer to what Bruins fans should root for is three more brutal battles between their potential opponents.

We’ll almost certainly dig into this more as the week goes on.

How does recent COVID news affect the second round?
The relatively great news about vaccination efforts in Massachusetts led to Governor Charlie Baker announcing last week the state will ease all of its restrictions May 29. Coincidentally, that could be Game 1 of the second round, and if the Islanders knock out Pittsburgh, that game will be at TD Garden. The Bruins on Sunday night announced they “will be permitted to return to near full capacity” beginning on the 29th. Regardless of whether it’s Game 1 or Game 3, the Garden will be buzzing the next time the B’s take the ice.

“We’re fortunate that we’re moving on to the next round and be able to take advantage of what looks like as much full capacity as we can within the protocols and what the league will mandate,” Sweeney said Monday. “And we need it.”

Give me a reason to feel optimistic about the Bruins moving forward.
Not really a question, but OK. The reasons for optimism remain pretty clear. The Bruins are very good. Sure, there might be some hesitation about a lengthy layoff and how it might affect Boston’s momentum. But Sweeney made a good point Monday regarding the weird schedule his team and the rest of the league faced this year.

“It’s such a challenging year from the compression overall of the schedule,” he said. “I honestly believe the time we have right now will be advantageous to us, to have a little bit of a reset. I think if we can get in and stay healthy, we’ll be ready to go for the next round because it’s going to be a hell of a challenge.”

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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