The Bruins have an enormous target on their backs. As the reigning Eastern Conference champions and President’s Trophy winners, the expectations for the Bruins to make a playoff run this year are higher than ever. Last year’s season was less than ten minutes from an abrupt ending until Boston fans witnessed an unprecedented comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boston has managed a mere one early – Conference Quarterfinal – exit since the ’08-’09 season. The Bruins will also have the home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. This season has been one of the best in franchise history for the Bruins, yet there are worries surrounding Boston’s Stanley Cup chances.
Despite being given the highest odds to win the Cup, some fans fear that an early round defeat may be in store for the Bruins. Since 2000, previous President’s Trophy winners have lost 37% of the time in the opening round. This skepticism is, nonetheless, due to the Bruins’ opponents in the first round: the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit’s regular season success against the Bruins should be alarming; not to mention their recent playoff progress which includes a Stanley Cup victory in 2008 with much of the same roster. The Red Wings’ talent and speed, on top of history, clearly separates them from the other three Wild Card teams. Additionally, the Bruins lost in the Stanley Cup Finals last year, so this would potentially be the second straight deep playoff run.
This year, however, is quite different than last year. The Bruins are short one of their top defensemen in Dennis Seidenberg due to a knee injury sustained back on December 27th. But the Red Wings have experienced their fair share of injuries themselves, losing Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for the significant parts of the regular season. Both teams – the Red Wings more than the Bruins – are hoping to see their game-changing players back at some point in this postseason. Zetterberg could be less than a week out of a return which makes the first part of the series crucial to the Bruins. Zetterberg, a previous Conn Smythe winner, has a history of excellent playoff performances. Without Seidenberg, the task for Chara to shut down Zetterberg will be tougher than ever.
While the Red Wings have some history on their side, the Bruins also have plenty of their own. The Bruins are only a few players away from the same roster that brought them one minute away from forcing a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals last June. The Bruins made it to that spot through some luck in the first round, and a couple of quick series against the Rangers and Penguins. When the Bruins won Game 1 of a series last year, they ended up winning the series. Against the Blackhawks, when the Bruins suddenly fell behind after a triple-overtime Game 1, and ended up losing the series.
Everything is lining up for the Bruins on Friday night. Almost all of the Bruins are expected to play; while Zetterberg is not expected to be in the lineup in Boston. But the biggest advantage the Bruins have is a 31-7-3 record at home throughout the regular season. If the Bruins can manage to take a 2-0 lead in the series, it is possible that the younger stars for the Red Wings will get frustrated. The Bruins need to win the first game of the series if they want to put Detroit back on their heels.