Regular season result: Ottawa (4-0-0)
Home ice: Ottawa
This series comes off as being one of the more under the radar series in the entire first round, and I’m not quite sure why. Boston is a team that has a history of post-season success, but this year has been rather down as they parted ways with long-time coach Claude Julien who went over to Montreal (again). On the other hand, Ottawa is a team that not very many people know about. Ottawa doesn’t necessarily have the recent playoff experience/success that Boston has, but they certainly have a squad that can make some noise in the playoffs. Let’s take a quick look at who has the edge in this series:
It’s hard to look over the kind of talent that Boston has, because they have a great mix of veterans and young guys that I think puts together a great product on the ice. Brad Marchand has always been seen as a pest and an agitator, but ever since the World Cup of Hockey he has been showing that he is as pure a goal scorer as they come. Another guy that dazzles is David Pastrnak. But on the other side, Ottawa has a load of talented, playmaking forwards that I think will do a better job of creating chances on Rask. Guys like Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Bobby Ryan are all lethal in the offensive zone and play a style that isn’t necessarily flashy, but it is efficient and it puts pucks in the net, something that I think will be advantageous in a playoff series
Neither of these teams really has the type of defensive depth that can go far in the playoffs, which is why I think this will be a very high-scoring series. Obviously a name that stands out in this category is Erik Karlsson. He is leading Ottawa in scoring but has also developed a better two-way game over recent years has started to kill the narrative of being a glorified forward. Add into the mix guys like Dion Phaneuf and Marc Methot if he gets healthy and you got yourself a respectable defense. As for Boston, one thing that concerns me is recently signed Charlie McAvoy being on the top line with Zdeno Chara. We saw what McAvoy can do in the World Juniors this past winter, but I think putting him on the top pairing can be concerning if I’m a Bruins fan. Ottawa seems to have better stability on their blue line which gives them the edge.
Tuuka Rask .915 2.23
Craig Anderson .926 2.28
The goaltending comparison is clearly very close. One of the main things I looked at to determine who gets the edge is playoff numbers. Both have plenty of playoff experience, but its hard to overlook the proven success Rask has had over his career. From the eye-test, both are elite goaltenders and have the ability to shut down a team on any given night. But in my opinion, “playoff goaltending” is real, and I think Rask has the ability to rise to the occasion in the post-season, unlike Anderson.
Prediction: Ottawa in 7
In every category mentioned, these two are very, very close; one team barely edging out the other. I think these two teams facing off shows why this playoff format can be good at times, and that we are in for a treat this series. I think Boston is going to rely too much on veteran guys like Bergeron and newfound sniper Brad Marchand, and neither of them can carry the team by themselves. Ottawa has a higher quantity of playmakers as well as a better quality, which I think will allow them to rely less on their top guys and move the puck around to create chances for everybody. The season series has shown that Ottawa matches up with Boston very favorably and can absolutely outplay them for a 7 game series.