With the conclusion of the bye team round robins and Washington’s win over Boston, the Hurricanes are officially slated to play the Boston Bruins in what I guess we are calling the first round of the 2020 NHL Playoffs.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe looks at the Boston Bruins at a 50,000-foot level trying assess which version of the team the Carolina Hurricanes are actually facing. Either later in the day Monday or otherwise for Tuesday, I will break down the Bruins in a bit more detail.
The 2019 NHL Playoffs
It is no secret to Canes fans that the Boston Bruins were the end of the road for the upstart Hurricanes in the 2019 NHL Playoffs. After a thrilling seven-game series win over the Washington Capitals and a quick 4-0 sweep of the New York Islanders, the Bruins put an abrupt halt to the Canes’ playoff train with a 4-0 sweep. The Hurricanes seemed to lose momentum after a long layoff following the previous round sweep, but I still think there is information to be gleaned from how that series played out. Much went wrong for the Hurricanes in Bruins series, but three general themes stood out to me. First, the Hurricanes struggled on special teams such that the Bruins seemed to have an every game advantage on the score board from special teams. Second, the veterans blue line with help from help from the forwards rendered the Hurricanes forecheck mostly a non-issue after it played a significant role in winning the first two series. Third, the Bruins best players (namely Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak) were better than the Canes best players. A significant part of that was on the power play (per my first point), but that counts too. Last spring, the Bruins were clearly the better team. Time will tell if that has changed.
The 2020 regular season
Before the pandemic put an abrupt halt to the 2019-20 regular season, the Bruins were atop the NHL, tracking toward winning the President’s Trophy and had as good of a claim as anyone to being the best team in the NHL. The Bruins had 100 points with 12 games remaining despite an unlucky 0-7 record in shootouts. Pastrnak was already at 48 goals and on pace to finish with 56. Marchand was on target for 100 points. And Bergeron had 31 goals in only 61 (missed 9 with injury). The Bruins were a respectable ninth in goals scored per game and even more impressively were the stingiest team in the NHL allowing only 2.39 goals against per game.
Given last year’s playoffs and the Bruins’ regular season success, the team would have been my last choice for an opponent entering the restart.
The 2020 playoff restart
But did that change? The Bruins were 0-3 in the bye team round robin losing 4-1 to the Flyers, 3-2 to the Lightning and 2-1 to the Capitals. With no history to compare to, it is difficult to say how meaningful the 0-3 record is. On the one hand, these games did have meaning and because of that teams iced regular rosters and mostly managed games as if a win mattered. On the other hand, from watching a decent number of the round robin games, there was very clearly a lesser intensity level as compared to the qualification round games.
Is it the case that the Bruins just will not be able to re-find the higher gear from earlier in the season?
Or is it the case that the round robin was more like preseason and that the Bruins will suddenly dial things up when the games really matter?
What say you Canes fans?
1) What, if any, carry over do you think there is from the two teams’ 2019 NHL Playoffs match up?
2) What do you make of the Bruins 0-3 mark in the round robin? Is it possible that the Bruins will just continue to have trouble trying to dial it back up after the long layoff?
3) More generally, what do you expect from the Bruins in the upcoming series?