NBC Sports

Bean: Reassessing the B's Cup chances after a hectic first round

NBC Sports
USA TODAY Sports photo

The Bruins arrived at the Toronto bubble with the best record in hockey. Soon after, they played themselves all the way down to the No. 4 seed and were picked by most ESPN experts to lose in the first round. If that seems like a lot of change, consider the change that has happened since: Tuukka Rask is back home, David Pastrnak has had an injury that cost him three games and Nick Ritchie is mercifully out of the lineup.

And, of course, the Bruins are through to the second round.

Download
Download MyTeams Today!

So it's worth trying to stop and reassess the Bruins' chances at the Cup with everything that's taken place. 

I'll say up front I didn't see the Bruins going deep this year even before the stoppage. I didn't like their depth on the wing and thought they failed to properly address the issue at the trade deadline.

Plus, Philadelphia was emerging and Tampa was already better than the Bruins. Factor in that they'd made a deep run last year and that some mystery team always emerges and I just wasn't confident in the Bruins playing into June.

But we're in August and the Bruins are still alive. One major game-changer has been Krejci and, to a degree, Ondrej Kase looking OK next to him. Krejci has been the Bruins' best player, something that simultaneously makes sense given his career and is a pleasant surprise given his quiet Stanley Cup Final last year (two points).

So, if Pastrnak is healthy, Kase continues to get acclimated and Jake DeBrusk (three goals) keeps scoring, the Bruins have a strong top six. That at least answers one question about the team going into the playoffs, as the Bruins couldn't say for sure what their second line was a few weeks ago.

 

Then there's the Rask-Halak swap. Worse goalies than Halak have won the Cup; it's just less likely that Halak can carry the Bruins the way Rask has in postseasons past. Halak was good in Game 5 after being terrible in Game 4, so he should head into the next round confident that even though three of them were unacceptable, he only gave up five goals over three games of work.

Here's one question I fear people won't ask enough as they move past the Carolina series, though: Were the Bruins great? Or did they go against a team that fell apart when it lost Andrei Svechnikov?

I think the Bruins were good, not great. They were barely the better team 5-on-5 in the series -- edging the Hurricanes 8-7 in goals and 53-47 in Corsi For percentage. Special teams made it a shorter series, as Boston's power play finally got going and outscored Carolina's 5-2, in the series.

Really, I thought Carolina just fell apart when Svechnikov went down. Taking him off Sebastian Aho's line and playing him with Vincent Trocheck gave the Bruins trouble, but that obviously didn't last.

So can we look at the Bruins after this series and be encouraged by Krejci's performance, among others? Of course, but the Bruins didn't improve enough to suddenly be better than Tampa, whom they're likely to face in the second round.

Tampa's deeper offensively and certainly has the edge in the net. That can change if Halak goes off and Jack Studnicka turns himself into a household name. It could also change if Tampa experiences the type of meltdown it did last year, but the Lightning should be confident against the Bruins. They took three of four this season, beat them in the round robin and should have fond memories of a gentleman's sweep two years ago.

Here's where the fence-sitting comes in, though: If the Bruins play Tampa and beat them, they'll nationally be considered Cup favorites. Their opponent in the conference finals will not be as difficult, then you can flip a coin in the Cup Final.

The Bruins survived the worst-case scenario, which would be following that round robin with a first-round elimination, so their playoff run is officially off to a good start. I just don't see it ending with them raising the Cup... yet.

Haggerty: Bergeron, power play unit get the job done in Game 5