Tale of the tape: How the Bruins and Hurricanes match up
The Bruins have been through an extremely difficult first-round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs and an unexpectedly grinding second-round showdown with the physical and well-rounded Blue Jackets. Now the Bruins will face off against the Cinderella Carolina Hurricanes, who have improbably made it all the way to the Eastern Conference final after barely making it into the playoffs this spring.
Certainly, the Hurricanes have some good players with Bruins-killer Sebastian Aho, frontline D-man Jaccob Slavin, Game 7 hero Justin Williams and old friend Dougie Hamilton on their roster. They are to be respected after outing the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in the first round.
"It’s very exciting to be where we’re at, but we can’t get lost,” said the Bruins' Brad Marchand of being in the conference finals for the first time in six years. “We’re only halfway to where we want to be."
Still, this is a team that the Bruins hold the edge over in talent, depth and playoff experience, among other things, and this a team that they should absolutely beat. The prediction: The Bruins roll over the Hurricanes in five games and are headed to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in six years and the third time in the past eight seasons.
Here’s how they stack up in the key categories:
The Hurricanes certainly have some high points among their forwards. Teuvo Teravainen has six goals in 11 games in the playoffs and Jordan Staal and Warren Foegele both have had strong postseasons, too. Then there’s Sebastian Aho, a certified Bruins killer after torching them the past couple of seasons. Aho has eight goals and 12 points in nine career games against the Black and Gold and is coming off 30 goals and 83 points this season in a breakout campaign. But those kinds of numbers are customary for each member of the Perfection Line with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak on a stardom level that nobody on the Hurricanes can approach. The B’s also hold the depth advantage with a much stronger fourth line, and greater quality through their second and third lines despite Canes' Brock McGinn and Williams stepping up in the playoffs. The B’s top line finished with four goals and 10 points in three games against Carolina this season, so there should be plenty of opportunities for them to do damage again. EDGE: BRUINS
The Bruins have made some nice gains in these playoffs. Charlie McAvoy is averaging almost 25 minutes of ice time per game and has evolved in Boston’s No. 1 defenseman. The Bruins will most definitely miss him in Game 1 while he serves out his suspension. Brandon Carlo has also taken a step forward and has been an extremely important shutdown D-man in this postseason. Zdeno Chara is a Hall of Famer with a ton of experience, and Torey Krug is coming off a very strong two-way series against the Blue Jackets. Still, this is a clear area of strength for the Hurricanes. Jaccob Slavin had 11 points in 11 games thus far in this postseason. Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce and Justin Faulk have all factored heavily into Carolina’s offense as well. All four D-men are averaging more than 20 minutes per game and Slavin is logging more than 26 minutes of ice time in the playoffs as a premier two-way D-man. If there is an area where the Hurricanes are going to do damage, this is it. EDGE: HURRICANES
The Bruins have a lopsided advantage here. Tuukka Rask has a 2.02 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in these playoffs. He outplayed Sergei Bobrovsky in the best playoff series of his career against the Blue Jackets. He is the leader in the clubhouse for the Conn Smythe after a couple of playoff rounds and is beginning to give off a Tim Thomas 2011 vibe. Carolina, on the other hand, has a couple of average goaltenders in Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney splitting time. McElhinney has been amazing since Mrazek went down with an injury in the middle of the Islanders series. He has a .947 save percentage and a 1.56 goals-against average. Mrazek has been perfectly okay in the playoffs with a .913 save percentage. He was certainly good enough to beat the Capitals in the first round. Still, we’re talking about average, beatable goaltenders that the Bruins best players should have a field day with if they can get through Carolina’s strong defensive corps. The chances will be there for Boston and neither of these guys is a Bobrovsky-type. EDGE: BRUINS
Like Columbus, Carolina has a very strong penalty kill unit that will provide a challenge for the power-play-reliant Bruins, who need special teams scoring for success. The Hurricanes had the 20th-ranked power play in the regular season and really don’t have a lot of high-powered weapons when it comes to special-teams scoring. The Bruins just started to really ding the Blue Jackets on special teams at the end of their series, but had their issues killing penalties where they couldn’t get clears against Columbus. It may be less of an issue against a Hurricanes team that isn’t quite as dangerous on the PP. The one real issue to watch here for the Bruins: The number of shorthanded chances and rushes that the B’s allowed to the Blue Jackets. That is something they need to shore up, but this should be another area where the Bruins can do damage given their power play’s overall success in the postseason. Patrice Bergeron has been big with four PP goals in the playoffs and that’s a number he could keep building on. EDGE: BRUINS
Rod Brind’amour certainly deserves credit for his fiery approach and his ability to transform an intense playing approach to leading the Hurricanes via the bench. He got his team to focus, play extremely hard and to believe in themselves in a way they hadn’t in quite some time. He also got involved in the first-round series vs. the Capitals when the whole Alex Ovechkin fight happened and that seemed to really be an early turning point in that series. This is his first go-round coaching in the playoffs, however, and he’s facing a Bruins coach in Bruce Cassidy who's already banished Cup-winning coaches Mike Babcock and John Tortorella. Cassidy has made the right calls with the lineup and did it again vs. Columbus when he reformed the Perfection Line midway through the series. He also made the right call inserting David Backes back into the lineup. Cassidy is pushing the right buttons and pulling the right strings and should have a real palpable advantage over the inexperienced Carolina coaching staff. EDGE: BRUINS