Playoff hockey is a completely different animal from regular season hockey, but still if we want to dive a little deeper in analyzing the Bruins and Senators upcoming first-round matchup, I think that it’s still somewhat instructive to look back on their four earlier meetings from 2016-17 (all won by Ottawa). One was from the Claude Julien era (a 3-1 loss in Ottawa on Thanksgiving night) so that is probably less relevant while three were in quick succession in March and April under B’s interim head coach Bruce Cassidy: a 4-2 loss in Ottawa on March 6, a 3-2 loss in Boston on March 21 and a 2-1 shootout loss at the Garden on April 6. As you can tell, six goals in four games will never get it done therefore if the Bruins’ offense is that limited in this series, it won’t go much further than four or five miserable games.
In those four contests, Boston averaged 28.0 shots on goal per game while Ottawa posted 25.6. The Senators power play clicked at a reasonable clip (18.2%) while the Bruins power play was nowhere to be found (5.3%). It’s not going out on a limb to say that Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson (25-11-4, 2.28 goals against average, .926 save% and 5 shutouts) could very well be the most important player in this series. He has had a ton of recent success against the B’s; in fact in his last seven starts against them, he is 6-1-0 with a 2.10 goals against average and .932 save%. When you think of the top goaltenders in the NHL, unless you’re from Ottawa, you probably wouldn’t say Anderson for long time if ever. His career NHL playoff statistics are a little more of what you’d expect: 12-14-3, 2.35 goals against average, .933 save% and three shutouts.
Special teams are usually a huge factor in the postseason and the Bruins have to hope that is the case for this particular series as they (at least on paper) hold a clear edge there. Boston’s power play was ranked No. 7 (21.7%) in the NHL and their penalty kill was No. 1 (85.7%). Ottawa’s power play was a lowly No. 23 (17.0%) while their penalty kill was similarly weak at No. 22 (79.7%). It’s no surprise that your most skilled players are usually the ones racking up majority of the points on the power play: defenseman Torey Krug (8 goals, 43 assists)-who’s expected out for at least the early portion of the series-led Boston with 25 points on the power play while left wing Brad Marchand (39 goals, 46 assists) and right wing David Pastrnak (34 goals, 36 assists) each had 24 points. Ottawa was paced by defenseman Erik Karlsson (17 goals, 54 assists) who had 27 points and left wing Mike Hoffman (26 goals, 35 assists) who put up 26 points on the man-advantage.
Veteran centers David Krejci (23 goals, 31 assists) and Dominic Moore (11 goals, 14 assists) surprisingly missed Boston’s last practice at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton on Tuesday before the team left for Ottawa ahead of Game 1 on Wednesday night (7, NHL Network). However, Cassidy termed it “maintenance days” and that “we’ll have a better idea tomorrow morning but I do expect them to play.”