The Boston Bruins have tallied a ton of historic accolades this season. They've been phenomenal all season, as evidence by the follow marks:
- Racked up an Montreal Canadiens record of 132 points). (topped the 1976-77
- Broke a team record of 121 points (set by 1970-71 Bruins).
- Won the Presidents' Trophy for the fourth time in franchise history and the first time in the last 10 years.
The Bruins finished the regular season with a 65-12-5 record and only dropped consecutive games on two different occasions all season. They received production from everywhere on the ice.
Goaltender Linus Ullmark ranked first in wins (40), goals-against-average (1.89) and save percentage (.938). According to MoneyPuck, he owned a .966 save percentage when facing unblocked shots throughout the season, which was good for No. 1 in the league.
Then there's the offensive attack, which was led by David Pastrnak. Boston's star winger tallied a career-best 113 points (61 goals, 52 assists), which was tied for third in all of the NHL. The Bruins finished second in goals per game with 3.64 -- despite not having Brad Marchand to start off the season.
All of this is to state the obvious: The Bruins have proved to be an absolute juggernaut this season. But as the page turns toward the Stanley Cup playoffs, it's worth asking a very important question: Can any Eastern Conference team actually beat the Bruins in a seven-game series?
Let's take a closer look.
The Rangers didn't exactly have an abundance of success when facing the Bruins in the regular season. The Bruins outscored their Eastern Conference foes 11-5 in three meetings. The Rangers did not win any of those games:
- Lost to Bruins, 5-2, on Nov. 3
- Lost to Bruins, 3-1, on Jan. 19
- Lost to Bruins, 4-2, on March 4
Hold on though. Let me at least explain why New York could actually have the best chance to take down the Presidents' Trophy winners. The Rangers only faced the Bruins once with their current roster construction.
The Rangers landed star winger Vladimir Tarasenko in a trade with the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 9 and then acquired Patrick Kane from the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 28 to add another key piece for a potential Stanley Cup run. In the lone meeting against the Bruins with Kane and Tarasenko in toe, the Rangers did manage to outshoot the Bruins 26-24 at TD Garden. Tarasenko registered an assist in the loss despite not registering any shots on goal. Meanwhile, Kane recorded two shots on goal in what was just his second game following his trade to New York.
Last season, the Rangers were just two wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals. The team won the first two games of that series vs. the Lightning. Now the Rangers return to the postseason as a much more well-rounded squad. Kane and Tarasenko have both hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup in the past, so they know what it takes to win. In addition, New York also added Vincent Trocheck last offseason to give the team a very talented playmaker as their second-line center.
Beating the Bruins in a seven-game series is going to be a tall task for any team. But if any team is capable of being up to the challenge, on paper at least, it's the team with the deepest forward group. That's the Rangers.
Very few teams have played the Bruins tougher than the Devils this season. Two of the three contests between these two teams were decided by just one goal:
- Lost to Bruins, 4-3, on Dec. 23
- Lost to Bruins, 3-1, on Dec. 28
- Lost to Bruins, 2-1, on April 8
Much like the Rangers, the Devils currently look different than they did for their first two meetings against the Bruins. At the trade deadline, New Jersey acquired Timo Meier from the San Jose Sharks. He has since racked up nine goals and five assists in 20 games. Meier's presence on the third line has given the Devils some much-needed scoring depth behind the likes of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Dawson Mercer.
In the Devils' lone matchup against the Bruins after acquiring Meier, they gave Boston one of its toughest tests of the entire campaign. Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood was terrific in net as he stopped 38 of the 40 shots that he faced. Blackwood made key save after key save and gave the Devils every chance to come away with a win. Ullmark was just better in that particular contest, as he recorded 29 saves in a 2-1 win.
It is worth mentioning that Meier was incredibly active in that game with team-high five shots on goal in the loss. Where the Devils really came up short was on the power-play, where they went 0 for 3. Opportunities on the man-advantage is where opposing teams need to capitalize against the Bruins. Boston did draw the eighth-most penalty minutes in the league on the season.
The Devils certainly have the scoring depth to hang with the Bruins. However, they're going to need to get superb goaltending in order to keep pace in a seven-game series.
You all know the story, but it has to be repeated here: Yes, it's been the same song and dance when it comes to the Maple Leafs over the past several seasons. If they actually -- finally -- can make it out of the first round, anything is possible.
If the Maple Leafs are to exorcise their demons and defeat the Lightning in the opening round, next up in the playoffs would be the Bruins. And they could fare well against Boston in a seven-game series, based off of the regular-season results:
- Beat Bruins, 2-1, on Nov. 5
- Lost to Bruins, 4-3, on Jan. 14
- Lost to Bruins, 5-2, on Feb. 1
- Lost to Bruins, 2-1, in overtime on April 6
Going 1-3 against the Bruins in the regular season isn't ideal, but three of those four contests were extremely close. They even notched a win in the opening game while taking the Bruins to the brink in overtime just one week ago.
And Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas didn't just sit on his hands leading up to the trade deadline. The team made a flurry of moves, including landing veteran winger Ryan O'Reilly in a trade with the St. Louis Blues. O'Reilly has a boatload of postseason experience and even won the Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019 in a seven-game victory over the Bruins.
O'Reilly, 32, recently returned to the lineup after missing a month due to an upper-body injury. He's registered just 10 points (four goals, six assists) since coming over from the Blues, but the addition should pay dividends come playoff time, as he's racked up 49 career points in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But as usual, a great deal of the pressure is going to fall on the shoulders of Auston Matthews. Matthews scored four goals and dished out five assists in the Maple Leafs' opening-round series loss at the hands of the Lightning last season. The Maple Leafs will need Matthews' dazzling playmaking ability if they want to solve Ullmark over the course of a seven-game series. If Matthews and company can produce offensively and Toronto gets solid goaltending, they certainly have a decent chance to take down their Atlantic Division rivals.