As it stands now, the Boston Bruins trail the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference standings. The B’s should do all they can to pass the Bolts as the season winds down.
Obviously it’s better to be the #1 seed in the playoffs. The best team in the Eastern Conference gets the easiest path to the Eastern Conference Final. However, this year, being that regular season Eastern Conference champ means even more to the Bruins.
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If the season were to end today, Boston would face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. This isn’t the best news for the B’s, as Toronto won the regular season series between the teams 3-1 (one win in OT). More bad news, the Maple Leafs didn’t even have their best player, Auston Matthews, when Toronto beat Boston 4-3 on February 24th.
Don’t worry yet, B’s fans, there is a way out of this playoff matchup. Boston trails Tampa Bay by six points. Boston still has three more games with the Lightning, that’s six points right there. In their one previous game on November 29th, the Bruins beat Tampa Bay 3-2 in Boston.
Taking the 1 seed away from Tampa would mean playing the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round, if the season ended today. The B’s are 1-1 this season against the Jackets, with a 7-2 win on December 18th. The loss was part of Boston’s dreadful start to the season. I’ll take Columbus over Toronto any day of the week as a more favorable matchup for the B’s.
Last reason to go grab the 1 seed from Tampa is that would then mean the Lightning have to play Toronto in the first round. The Bolts are 2-1 against Toronto this year, but all three games have been within two goals. Perfect scenario for Boston would be to let those two teams beat each other up in the first round, while they take care of business against Columbus.
The Boston Bruins will play 15 games in the next 27 days to close out this NHL season. It’s going to be a tough stretch to end the year. However, if the B’s can squeeze out Tampa for the best team in the east, it will make their lives much easier come playoff time.