The Boston Bruins are on fire after completing the sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final. The Bruins outscored the Hurricanes 17-5 in the four-game sweep. This was one of the most lopsided Conference Finals the NHL has seen.
2 U’s 2 K’s and two playoff shutouts, Tuukka Rask is playing the best playoff hockey of his career. Rask now has a 12-5 playoff record, an impressive 1.84 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.
Rask has also stopped 91 of 92 shots in elimination games this postseason, making the Bruins almost impossible to get rid of. The key for the Bruins and Rask is the days off they are about to have before the Stanley Cup Finals start. Typically, when your goalie gets in rhythm like this, the last thing you want is for him to sit around and get cold. All eyes will be on Rask to see if he is still in his groove at the start of the finals.
One of the advantages the Bruins have going into the final series of the season is that most of them have been there before. In fact, some veterans like Chara, Bergeron, and Marchand won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011. This gives any team an advantage when talking about playing for championships. Look for the Bruins to remain calm and play within their game plan, even in the biggest games.
Finishing the Conference Final in four games looks like it should benefit some of the banged-up veterans on the team as well. 42-year-old captain Zdeno Chara sat out with a groin injury from Game 4 in Carolina. These days off the Bruins are about to have should get them back to full force and ready to face whoever wins between the San Jose Sharks and St Louis Blues.
Everyone knew the Bruins’ top line of scorers was going to be dangerous in the playoffs, and they have been. However, what has surprised people is the ability of the Bruins’ lower lines to score points this postseason. David Krejci, Marcus Johansson, and Charlie Coyle have all made huge contributions all over the ice for Boston. Their combined 35 playoff points prove that if you want to stop the Bruins, you are going to have to stop every line on their team.
Boston has also had a lot of help from their lower level defenders this year in the playoffs, specifically in the last series. Young star and top-line defender Charlie McAvoy was suspended for the first game of the series. Captain Zdeno Chara, McAvoy’s linemate, was out with an injury in the last game of the series. In these games, the Bruins only gave up two goals thanks to the depth of their defense stepping up.
In Game 1 of the series, while McAvoy was out, one of the guys to step up and get more playing time was defenseman Steven Kampfer, Kampfer scored his first-ever playoff goal and helped the Bruins get the win, showing again how deep this team really is.
What to expect
The Bruins are playing so well as of late that their only real concern is getting cold while waiting for the next series to start. Other than that, everything seems to be firing on all cylinders heading into the Stanley Cup Finals.
If Tuukka Rask can keep playing at the level he has been, if the veterans can get rested and stay healthy, and if the depth can continue to contribute, they could be hoisting the Cup for the seventh time in their franchise history very soon. No one has played better playoff hockey this season than the Bruins are playing right now.