Bruins_Senators
The Bruins will square off with the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Getty Images

You could make a compelling argument that the biggest win of the season in 2016-17 for the Bruins (44-31-7) technically didn’t even involve them. That very late Christmas gift came courtesy of the Blue Jackets (50-24-8) who won 3-2 at the Maple Leafs (40-27-15) on Sunday on the final night of the regular season. Toronto’s loss in regulation was Boston’s major gain as it meant that the Leafs draw the Capitals (55-19-8) in Round 1 while the Bruins get a much more winnable series vs. Ottawa (44-28-10). Suddenly, a postseason that looked like it would be very brief yet painful against Washington has some legitimate hope for the Black and Gold, granted the Senators swept all four games with them earlier in this campaign.

 

Ottawa finished in second-place in the Atlantic Division, three points ahead of third-place Boston and the teams have never met before in the playoffs. There is a sense that this solid season by the Senators is a bit of a mirage since they are the only team in the playoffs (from either conference) with a negative goal-differential (minus-2). They scored the fewest goals by far of the 16 teams that are still alive which is why it’s paramount that the B’s score first and make the Sens play from behind. Ottawa’s neutral zone trap is sure to make for some boring hockey even now and no doubt low-scoring, close games.

 

The injury bug hit Boston hard at the end of the season as defenseman Torey Krug (8 goals, 43 assists) left Thursday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Senators at TD Garden with a lower-body injury. To make matters worse, rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo (6 goals, 10 assists) left Saturday’s season-finale vs. Washington with an upper-body injury. On Monday, GM Don Sweeney said that Krug is unlikely to play in Game 1 on Wednesday (7, NHL Network) at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre while Carlo has already been ruled out. The Bruins made a huge move on Monday by signing former BU star defenseman Charlie McAvoy to a three-year entry level deal and he was at practice later that day. A first-round pick of the Bruins in 2016 (he was 14th overall), he had two assists and was plus-3 in four games with the Providence Bruins.

 

About McAvoy who just completed his sophomore season on Commonwealth Avenue with the Terriers, Sweeney noted that “we feel comfortable-having seen him play recently-with his skill set that he’d be able to handle it. We’ll have to see, that’s a decision that Bruce (Cassidy) decides to make.” There is recent history for the Bruins in a similar situation: as an undrafted rookie, Krug was an integral part of the 2013 team that went to the Stanley Cup Final vs. Chicago.

 

Boston’s fourth-line center Noel Acciari (2 goals, 3 assists) has also been declared out for Game 1 with an upper-body injury. Ottawa appears to have good news on the injury front as their best player-defenseman Erik Karlsson (17 goals, 54 assists)-along with defenseman Marc Methot (12 assists) and center Zack Smith (16 goals, 16 assists) are projected to be ready for Game 1 after missing time recently with various injuries. Game 2 is Saturday afternoon (3, NBC) then the series shifts to Boston on Patriots’ Day (7, CNBC) for Game 3 and next Wednesday (7:30, USA Network) for Game 4. If necessary, Game 5 would be in Ottawa on April 21, Game 6 would be in Boston on April 23 and Game 7 would be April 26 in Canada’s capital city.