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Bruins: Playoff picture quickly coming into focus

Bruins: Playoff picture quickly coming into focus

The B's could very well see the Maple Leafs in the first round. The B's could very well see the Maple Leafs in the first round.

With only 10 left in the regular season (six home, four away), it’s time to project what seed the Bruins (25-9-4) will get and who they are most likely to see in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Heading into tonight’s game at New Jersey (15-14-10), the B’s have 54 points and they are the fourth seed so they would meet the fifth-seeded Maple Leafs (22-15-4, 48 points). The 2013 NHL postseason begins on Tuesday, April 30.

Boston has a legitimate chance at three seeds: No. 2, No. 4 or No. 5. It would benefit the B’s to land in the top four since that means they would receive home ice in the first round (although keep in mind that, historically, a home advantage doesn’t mean nearly as much in the NHL as it does in other North American pro sports leagues). The top two teams in the Northeast Division are virtually guaranteed to receive the two and four seeds. Montreal (25-9-5) has 55 points and the Canadiens won the season series, 3-1, which could come back to bite the B’s in terms of tiebreakers.

The Bruins could fall to the fifth seed but it’s unlikely with Toronto having played one more game and owning six less points. Barring an extended losing streak in the last few weeks of the regular season, Boston will be safe in the top four.

Boston vs. Toronto seems like the most likely scenario and the Bruins would be happy with that matchup since they went 3-1-0 against the Leafs this season and Toronto hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2003-04. Toronto doesn’t have the wealth of experience that the Bruins possess.

If Boston makes a run and wins the Northeast Division, there are three possible opponents that would be the seventh seed: the Senators (19-14-6), Islanders (20-16-4) or Rangers (19-16-4).

Not that they’d have a choice, but if Ottawa (which has lost five games in a row) hangs on to a playoff spot, the Bruins would love to face the Senators having gone 4-0-0 against them in this shortened year.

The Islanders are a wild card. They have more talent than the Rangers but they haven’t been in the playoffs since 2006-07. The B’s will get a closer look at the Isles Thursday night (7 p.m., NESN) at TD Garden. Out of those three teams, the B’s want no part of the Rangers, who play a similar grinding style that is a real pain to play against.

Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer on Twitter @RichSlate

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