Latest NHL Playoff Scenarios, Standings, First-Round Matchups for Bruins – NBC Boston
The latest Bruins NHL playoff scenarios, standings and first-round matchups originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Boston Bruins fans have been eagerly awaiting the start of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs for some time.
The B’s have held a huge lead in NHL standings for quite some time. In fact, this team is on track to break league records for most points and wins in regular-season history.
It’s either the Stanley Cup or Bust in Boston this year, and rightly so given the team’s performance.
Hurricanes are still the No. 1 threat to Bruins after an exciting NHL trade deadline
We know the Bruins will be playing playoff hockey, but which team will attack them first in Round 1 remains to be seen. It could actually be one of many teams because the wildcard race is so close.
Here’s a rundown of where the Bruins are in the Eastern Conference playoff race ahead of Friday’s games, and which teams they could play against in the first round.
Eastern Conference rankings
- Boston Bruins: 63 games, 49-9-5 (103 points)
- Toronto Maple Leafs: 64 games, 39-17-8 (86 points)
- Tampa Bay Blitz: 65 games, 38-21-6 (82 points)
We’ve known for several months which teams will qualify for the playoffs from the top three spots in the Atlantic Division.
The Bruins have held a double-digit lead over second place for some time. The Leafs and Lightning have tipped over a few times, but neither team has ever been in danger of falling to fourth place. The Florida Panthers’ move from last season’s Presidents’ Trophy winner to a team that may not even make the playoffs in 2023 has made this division less exciting. The Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings also failed to make the leap forward that many had expected. Although the senators made a late push (more on that below).
The only real battle left in this division is whether the Leafs or Lightning secure home field advantage for their first-round playoff series. Toronto have a nice 4-point cushion with another head-to-head meeting on April 11th in Tampa Bay. It is possible that the outcome of this game will determine which team hosts Game 1 of the Leafs Lightning Series. The Leafs had ice at home last season and still lost Game 7 to the Lightning. Still, the Leafs would much rather start the series at home, where they are 23-6-4 this season.
- New York Islanders: 67 GP, 34-25-9 (76 points)
- Pittsburgh penguins: 64 GP, 32-22-10 (74 points)
In the mix
- Ottawa Senators: 64 GP, 33-27-4 (70 points)
- Florida Panther: 65 GP, 32-27-6 (70 points)
- Washington Capitals: 66 GP, 31-28-7 (69 points)
- buffalo saber: 64 GP, 32-28-4 (68 points)
- Detroit Red Wings: 64 GP, 29-26-9 (67 points)
Wildcard racing is where things really get going in the east.
The Islanders and the Penguins are definitely favored to eventually reach those playoff placings, but they have a lot of competition.
The Senators, who took over star defenseman Jakob Chychrun before the trade deadline, are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and are now a real threat to secure one of those two spots. The Panthers have a lot of talent and a lot of experience. Even after they were sellers at the close, the capitals still need to be taken seriously. The Sabers are a few years away from being a true contender, but they could absolutely end their 11-year playoff drought this season.
With five teams seven points or less behind second wildcard spot, there will be tons of meaningful hockey games in the east through the end of the regular season, and that should make for plenty of exciting action for fans.
Most likely first round matchups for bruins
Athletic’s prediction model places the Islanders as the #2 wild card in the Eastern Conference. Barring anything dramatic happening in the next month, the Bruins will finish as the No. 1 seed and play the second wild card of Round 1.
The Bruins would definitely be favored to beat the Islanders, but it would be a very tough series. The Islanders play a disciplined style of hockey with rigorous forechecking. It’s boring to look at, but it’s undoubtedly effective. However, the real reason this series could be a grind for the Bruins is because of Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin.
“One team that worries me is the Islanders because they’re deep in the middle and they have a great goaltender in Ilya Sorokin,” 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Ty Anderson told NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss in a Zoom discussion after close of trading.
“The Bruins didn’t see him, they always go with Semyon Varlamov in situations like this. And then you have a playstyle that I think can sometimes put a team to sleep, and you don’t want that in the playoffs. You get caught up in a sleepy type of matchup and things can get out of hand very quickly. They’re a team that worries me just because they’re deep in the middle and they’re a strong goalkeeper. I think these are recipes for a (potential) surprise.
Sorokin is having an excellent season and will almost certainly be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. In fact, some analysis experts believe he should be the favorite over Bruins goalkeeper Linus Ullmark.
Sorokin’s .926 save percentage ranks third among goalies and his 2.34 GAA ranks fifth. The Bruins went 3-0-0 against the Islanders that season, but Sorokin didn’t play in any of those games. Sorokin has a .938 save percentage in three career games against the B’s.
The Bruins are a juggernaut. It’s going to be very difficult for any team to beat them four times in a seven-game streak when they’re fully/mostly healthy. One of the few things that could derail the Bruins’ season is a hot goalie, and Sorokin is quite capable of being that type of player in a postseason streak. So for that reason (and others), the Bruins should be hoping for an easier Round 1 matchup.
Which team would be the best first-round matchup for the B’s?
“I’d say the best first-round matchup would be the Sabers,” Anderson said. “I’m just saying that because once you get past Tage Thompson and Rasmus Dahlin you can exploit some of their holes and weaknesses, especially on the net. It just feels like they’re just a little bit away from being really competitive.”