Bruins/Sens To Determine Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

April 28, 2013 by The Hockey Daily

Tonight the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators will close out the 2012-13 NHL regular season at TD Garden in Boston with a lot riding on the game’s outcome. If the Bruins win in regulation tonight they will finish atop the Northeast Division and play the New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs. An OT or shootout win for the Bruins would see them play the Ottawa Senators in the first round. And if the Bruins lose they will finish 4th and play fellow Original Six franchise the Toronto Maple Leafs. For the Sens, a win tonight would move them into 7th place and guarantee them a first round showdown with the Montreal Canadiens. If the Sens lose in regulation against the Bruins this evening they will finish 8th and do battle with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.

Here is why the Bruins want to win tonight.

For starters, a Bruins win would give them their third straight division title which is an important accomplishment all things considered. The Bruins are a proud franchise, they want that title. By winning tonight the Bruins would also establish home ice advantage in later rounds over the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens, two teams that have given the B’s trouble in recent years. Thirdly, by winning tonight the Bruins would face the Islanders in the first round rather than throw themselves into the media circus that will undoubtedly arise in a first round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs who are seeing their first playoff action in nine years.

Here is why the Senators want to win tonight.

By winning tonight the Sens guarantee a first round matchup with the Montreal Canadiens which is favourable for two main reasons. 1) Montreal and Ottawa are close geographically. Travel would be much easier for the Sens against the Habs than it would be if they lose and have to battle the Penguins or Bruins in the first round. 2) Although it’s doubtful NHL teams have fear of any opponent it can’t be denied that the Penguins superstar loaded group of forwards is not the ideal makeup of a good playoff opponent. The headaches that come with trying to shutdown Crosby and Malkin lines is not exactly desired by anyone. Teams respect what the Pens are capable of offensively making it not unreasonable to think the Senators want to avoid that.

Here is why the Sens may want to lose tonight.

Playing the Habs in the first round could be a nightmare for the Sens. The Canadiens are traditionally a very strong first round team. Plus, Habs fans would pile into Scotiabank Place and kill the home ice crowd advantage the Sens would have on their side if they played the Pittsburgh Penguins or Boston Bruins.

Three Scenarios for the Bruins.

Scenario One:

The Bruins win in regulation tonight they will finish 2nd in the Eastern Conference and play the New York Islanders in the first round. The Bruins are 2-1 against the Isles this season. Bergeron and Chara would get the Tavares assignment and the B’s would hope to destroy the Isles quickly on depth. The fear of playing the Islanders is that they are hot right now. Tavares and company have gone 6-1-3 in their last ten games, including a win over the Bruins.

Scenario Two:

The Bruins lose tonight’s game in any fashion and they will be playing the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. The B’s have dominated the Leafs in recent years and seem to have a clear mental advantage in this matchup. Leafs’ sniper Phil Kessel is historically very bad against his former team the Bruins. The danger in playing the Leafs is that they would enter the series as big underdogs with nothing to lose. No one expects the Leafs to beat the Bruins and that in itself makes them a dangerous opponent. Every mistake the Bruins make in a series with the Leafs would get magnified and blown out of proportion putting unwanted and possibly even unwarranted extra pressure on the B’s to be perfect.

Scenario Three:

The Bruins beat the Sens in OT or a shootout and find themselves up against the Sens in the first round. The Bruins typically own the Senators and would probably feel confident about a first round against them. The danger in facing the Sens in the first round is their resiliency and team mentality. Everyone knows what the Sens have gone through to make the playoffs this season. They have been battling adversity all year long which makes them a little hardened already. In playing the Sens the Bruins would be up against a team with no quit and very strong team depth. Also, the Sens are defensively sound much like the Bruins.

Three Scenarios for the Senators.

Scenario One:

The Sens beat the Bruins tonight and they play the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. It would mark the first time these division rivals play each other in the playoffs. The two sides match up well in theory. Both are defense first with strong goaltending and balanced scoring. Each team boasts possibly the best young offensive defensemen in the game right now in Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Montreal’s P K Subban. The danger in playing the Habs is the same for the Sens as it is for any team. They are the Habs. Love them or hate them when the playoffs begin the Montreal Canadiens have a history of rising to the occasion. Many Habs teams have over achieved in playoffs past and there is always a fear in them doing it again. The Bell Centre atmosphere is second to none in the playoffs. It can be very intimidating.

Scenario Two:

The Sens lose in OT or a shootout and they play the Boston Bruins in the first round. The Bruins would be an okay matchup for the Sens even though regular season history doesn’t suggest it. When two defensive teams play in a series, which is what this would be, either team has a good shot of coming out on top. Assuming there would be a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 wins in this series, the Sens have as much a shot as the Bruins do to be the team that scores the game breaking goal on any given night. The fear in playing Boston is that they own the Sens recently. This season the Bruins won their 10th straight game in Ottawa. And the Sens don’t do much better in Boston.

Scenario Three:

This one is the most intriguing. Sens lose tonight in regulation and they play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. The headlines would be amazing. In the midst of a criminal investigation against Penguins forward Matt Cooke for his skate stomping of Sens star Erik Karlsson earlier this season, a matchup between the Sens and Pens could get ugly. These teams do not like each other at all. This would not be a series where a few games would have to pass before hatred for one another is developed. The hatred is there. The danger in playing the Pens is obvious. They have the most offensively gifted set of forwards in the NHL. This means matchups will be difficult. It also means the Sens will have to be overly cautious to not give the Penguins time on the power play. And five on five the Sens could be forced to spend long stretches of hockey in their own zone.

six teams are affected by the outcome of tonight’s game between the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators.

The Pittsburgh Penguins could play the New York Islanders or Ottawa Senators.

The Boston Bruins could play the New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators or Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Montreal Canadiens could play the Ottawa Senators or Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs could play the Boston Bruins or Montreal Canadiens.

The New York Islanders could play the Pittsburgh Penguins or Boston Bruins

The Ottawa Senators could play the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens or Boston Bruins.