Boston, MA– After a 49-24-9 record for 107 points in the standings, the Boston Bruins have officially secured a date in the first round of the NHL playoffs with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The series begins this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. and the game will take place in the TD Garden, as the Bruins secured home ice advantage for the first round.
Unfortunately, with the way that the NHL post-season format operates in terms of divisions and wild card seedings, the Bruins and Maple Leafs are forced to square off, despite the fact that they were two of the best teams in the conference. The winner will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round, which is equally disheartening. The Bruins are going to have their work cut out for them throughout the entire post-season and no series will be easy. But this is a team that has weathered adversity all year and has only gotten better as the season progressed.
In the first round, I have a lot of faith in the Bruins. They won the season series against Toronto, three games to one, and they match up extremely well with the Leafs. Yes, Toronto is one of the league's eight best and neither of these teams deserves to be kicked out too early, but I think Boston has the advantage. They came back down to earth just in time for the playoffs to take on a rematch of last season's first round.
With a healthy roster and a full strength top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, there is simply no one on the Toronto roster who can match up with that. The Bruins have the offensive power and the best goalie platoon in the league and I think that's enough to get them into the second round.
That's where it gets a bit tricky. If all things go according to plan, Boston will end up with a date with the Lightning, who just finished one of the all-time great hockey seasons. There's a path for Boston's success in the series, as they've been able to hang with this Lightning team during the season at times, but it's hard to pick against Tampa Bay. I predict that Boston will give it a good series, but will ultimately fall short against the league's most dominant squad. To the Bruins, though, please feel free to prove me wrong!