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Hurricanes vs. Bruins: 3 things to know about First Round series

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs upon us, Pro Hockey Talk's Sean Leahy previews the Eastern Conference bracket, from the Lightning's quest for a three-peat to the Maple Leafs looking to exorcise half a century of demons.

The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs began on Monday, May 2. Today, we preview the series between the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins.

Hurricanes vs. Bruins schedule

Game 1: May 2, 7 p.m. ET – Bruins at Hurricanes (ESPN, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 2: May 4, 7 p.m. ET – Bruins at Hurricanes (ESPN, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 3: May 6, 7 p.m. ET – Hurricanes at Bruins (TNT, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 8, 12:30 p.m. ET – Hurricanes at Bruins (ESPN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 10, TBD – Bruins at Hurricanes (TBD)
*Game 6: May 12, TBD – Hurricanes at Bruins (TBD)
*Game 7: May 14, TBD – Bruins at Hurricanes (TBD)

1. Goaltending questions for both teams

It is not that either team has bad goalies, there are just some questions here.

For Carolina it is a matter of health. Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta combined to win the Jennings Trophy this season for allowing the fewest goals in the NHL and were everything the Hurricanes could have hoped for and move as a goalie duo this season. But they have both had some injury issues late in the season, while Andersen (the superior goalie this season) will not be ready for the start of the series and will not be the team’s Game 1 starter. His return is still to be determined.

In Boston, Tuukka’ Rask’s retirement means Bruins fans will have to find a new scapegoat this season if the team does not win.

The duo of Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark split the playing time 50-50 this season (minus four starts by Rask in the middle of the season) and gave the Bruins better than league average play at the position. But both are completely untested in the playoffs and it remains to be seen if they will be capable of backstopping the Bruins on a deep playoff run, or getting them through a tough matchup against a high powered Hurricanes offense.

2. Two elite defensive teams

While both teams have top-tier forwards (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall for Boston; Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen for Carolina) and the aforementioned goalie questions, goals might still be difficult to come by in this series because these are two of the absolute best defensive teams in the NHL.

The Hurricanes allowed the fewest goals in the NHL while the Bruins were fourth best, and they finished first and second in the league in terms of allowing the fewest shot attempts per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 play.

The Bruins were especially dominant defensively this season, ranking among the top-five teams in goals against, shot attempts against, scoring chances against, and expected goals against. Given the continued excellence of Bergeron and Marchand, a strong coaching staff, and a defense led by one of the league’s best up-and-coming defenseman in Charlie McAvoy and it is not hard to see why they are so dominant defensively.

Both teams were also in the top-10 in the league on the penalty kill (Carolina was first; Boston ninth).

3. Hurricanes absolutely dominated regular season meetings

How much will that matter?

The Hurricanes and Bruins played three times during the regular season, and not only did the Hurricanes win all three games, they won them decisively by scores of 3-0, 7-1, and 6-0. That is an aggregate score of 16-1 in the three games, including 10-0 during 5-on-5 play.

The big difference in a couple of those games was goaltending. The 7-1 loss was one of Rask’s four starts (that did not go well), while Ullmark had a dreadful start in the last meeting between the two teams. In terms of 5-on-5 possession numbers the two teams were fairly even in the three games in terms of scoring chances and expected goals, but goaltending swung things in a significant way.

It is also worth pointing out that it has been nearly three months since the two teams played, with the third meeting happening back in early February. A lot has changed since then, especially for Boston which has gone 24-10-2 in the 36 games since then, while having also added another top-pairing defender in Hampus Lindholm.

Prediction: Hurricanes in seven games