The Ottawa Senators are in the playoffs for the 16th time in the past 20 seasons, but, rather amazingly, they have never faced the Boston Bruins in the postseason in their modern history. That changes Wednesday night when the puck is dropped for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. The Bruins are series favourites on Sports Interaction NHL odds.
Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators, Game 1
The Bruins (44-31-7) finished third in the Atlantic Division with 95 points. The Toronto Maple Leafs did Boston what appears to be a huge favour by losing their regular-season finale vs. Columbus 3-2 at home. Had the Leafs gotten just a point there, they would have been the third-place and faced Ottawa, forcing the Bruins to take on the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals. Now that’s Toronto’s task.
Boston is one of five Eastern Conference teams that the Senators have never faced in their modern postseason history along with Florida, Columbus, Carolina and Detroit. It’s the first time in three seasons in the playoffs for the Bruins. They got here under first-year coach Bruce Cassidy, who replaced the fired Claude Julien on Feb. 7. The B’s were 23-26-6 under Julien, who was snapped up by Montreal, and 18-8-1 under Cassidy.
The Bruins were 13th in the league in scoring at 2.8 goals per game and seventh on the power play (21.7 percent). Brad Marchand led the team with 85 points and 39 goals (he was suspended the final two regular-season games). He became the first Bruins player to top 80 points since Marc Savard had 88 in 2008-09. David Pastrnak added 34 goals and 36 assists in a breakout campaign. The team will be missing one key player for this series in defenseman Torey Krug, who had eight goals and 43 assists in more than 21 minutes per night. He’s dealing with a lower-body injury and likely to miss the entire first round. Krug will especially be missed from the point on the power play. He led Boston with four points vs. Ottawa this season. Fellow defenseman Brandon Carlo (upper body) will miss Game 1. He had 16 points this season.
What this team does best is kill off penalties, ranking first in the NHL at 85.7 percent. Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and defenseman Zdeno Chara (a former Senator) are the pillars of the unit. Bergeron is one of the best faceoff men in the NHL as well. The Bruins allowed 2.8 goals per game. Tuukka Rask was 37-20-5 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He was 0-3-1 vs. the Senators with a 2.49 GAA and .902 save percentage.
Boston is +1400 to win the Eastern Conference.
Under first-year coach Guy Boucher, the Senators (44-28-10) were second in the Atlantic with 98 points. They are the only team in the NHL to make the playoffs with a negative goal differential (minus-2). Ottawa did have Boston’s number in going 4-0-0 against the Bruins, the first time the Sens have ever done that.
The Senators are the rare team to be led in scoring by a defenceman and that’s former Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, who could win that award for a third time. He had 17 goals and 54 assists in nearly 27 minutes per night. Karlsson missed the final three games of the regular season to rest a foot injury. He had three points, all assists, in three games vs. Boston. Dion Phaneuf and Mike Hoffman led Ottawa with four points each vs. the Bruins. The Senators were only 22nd in scoring (2.5 gpg) and 23rd on the power play (17.0 percent).
Left wing Clarke McArthur played in one game this year vs. Boston as he made a surprising return to the lineup on April 4. He was expected to miss the year while dealing with post-concussion syndrome after suffering yet another concussion at training camp last September. MacArthur is a three-time 20-goal scorer in his 11-year NHL career and scored a career-high 24 goals in 2013-14, his first season with the Senators. He didn’t find the net in his four games.
Craig Anderson won all four games vs. the B’s, allowing six total goals and with a save percentage of .946. He was 25-11-4 overall with a 2.28 GAA and .926 save percentage. Anderson missed some time to be with his wife, who was dealing with throat cancer. He is 12-14 with a 2.35 GAA and .933 save percentage in 27 NHL playoff games.
Injury-wise, defenceman Marc Methot, still recovering from a Sidney Crosby slash to the finger on March 23, is expected to practice Tuesday and could play in Game 1. Center Zack Smith will be good to go after missing the final six games with an upper-body injury. He had 16 goals and 16 assists.
The Senators are +1200 to win the East.
Bruins vs. Senators Predictions
Since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007, the Senators have just one playoff series win, in 2013. You can pretty much throw out regular-season records once you get to the playoffs, and I do like Boston in seven games here to advance and face Montreal.