The NHL round robin is finally over for the Boston Bruins, and soon their quest to return to the Stanley Cup Final will resume.
The Bruins lost 2-1 to the Washington Capitals on Sunday in their third and final round robin game. Boston dropped all three matchups and earned the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs for their lackluster results.
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The B's will play the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. It's a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Final, which Boston won in a sweep.
Let's take a look at three instant overreactions from Bruins vs. Capitals and assess their merit (All advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick).
1. Lack of power play success is a concern
The Bruins entered Sunday as one of four teams in the league's 24-team restart that still hadn't scored a power-play goal, and Boston wasn't able to change that fact against the Capitals. The B's went 0-for-2 on the power play versus Washington, leaving the Original Six club with an 0-for-9 mark on the man advantage through the three round robin games.
So, why shouldn't we be concerned over the Bruins power play? Well, for starters, Boston had the second-best power play during the regular season at 25.2 percent. Only the Edmonton Oilers scored more power-play goals than the B's. The Bruins also have several players with high-end offensive skill to put on their player play units, including Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug. Boston's top line struggled in the round robin with zero goals and one assist, but when it inevitably heats up, the power play will benefit as well.
It's important not to take too much from a three-game sample size of the power play right after a four-month layoff. That said, the Bruins need their power play to be more effective in the first round of the playoffs if they're going to give themselves the highest possible chance at advancing.
2. Bruins' round robin struggles will carry into Round 1
The round robin was important, make no mistake about that. Even though seeding is less crucial than usual because home ice advantage is not a factor in the Toronto bubble, earning a high seed would still have been helpful in forging the easiest possible road to the Stanley Cup Final. The league will re-seed after each round of the playoffs instead of using a traditional bracket, so the No. 1 seed will play the lowest-seeded opponent in each round.
The Bruins, judging by their comments and on-ice play, don't seem too concerned about seeding. In fairness, the most important things for the Bruins in the round robin were to get their legs back after not playing for a while and avoid injuries. The Bruins will enter Round 1 of the playoffs with a pretty healthy roster, and while their performance in the round robin was certainly less-than-stellar, they played better in the last two games compared to the awful 4-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers in the opener.
The next games actually matter, and for a veteran group with loads of playoff and championship experience, we should see a hungrier and more motivated Bruins team when the puck drops in Game 1 against the Hurricanes.
3. David Krejci line took an important step forward vs. Capitals
Verdict: Not an overreaction
The Bruins' second line of Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Ondrej Kase played together for the first time in the round robin Sunday, and it gave an encouraging performance.
Overall, the Krejci line held a 10-5 advantage in shot attempts, a 4-1 edge in shots on goal and a 3-1 lead in scoring chances during 5-on-5 action against the Capitals.
Kase was making his round robin debut and made a nice pass to DeBrusk on Boston's only goal. Krejci also picked up an assist on the play.
This goal for DeBrusk was huge. The 23-year-old left winger had scored only one goal in his previous 16 games dating back to the regular season. Hopefully for the B's, this goal helps to spark some consistency in DeBrusk's game entering the playoffs.
Secondary scoring is going to be a huge factor for the Bruins in the postseason, and this second line will play a huge part in whether Boston generates enough offense to make a deep run.