The Boston Bruins finished their four-game road trip last night and now have seven regular season games left. The Race for first place is on.
The Boston Bruins returned home with six of eight possible points on their Western road trip. During that trip, they clinched a playoff spot and every game was decided late in the third or in overtime. With the number of bodies missing in action, safe to say that was a successful trip.
Now, the Bruins are set to play the Tampa Bay Lightning. They currently sit only one point behind the Lightning with a game in hand. That means tomorrow night’s game is a battle for first place in the East.
It seems that the last seven games of the season will mean something when it comes time for playoffs. Whether it is the Bruins’ own seeding or affecting that of other Eastern teams, there is a lot to look forward to this next week or so.
Can the Bruins finish first in the East? Will they win the President’s Trophy? Who will they play in the first round? And, who would fans hope they face in the first round?
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Eastern Playoff Complications
All seven remaining games for the Bruins are against Eastern Conference teams. Of those seven, 6 are against teams either already in or bidding for a playoff spot. Of those six, they are only playing three different teams. One, that is a unique scheduling situation. Two, it sure puts some pressure on those teams looking for a playoff spot.
Boston plays Florida three more times. Three! After last night’s games, Florida is three points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand on New Jersey. The Devils currently hold the second wild-card spot.
The first is held by the Flyers, who are one of those Eastern teams left on Boston’s schedule. They are currently one point behind Columbus, two behind Pittsburgh and only two up on the Devils who have a game in hand. That is a very tight race and someone will end up being the “odd man out.”
The Panthers will definitely need two, if not all three wins against the Bruins to make the playoffs. Of course, depending on how those other Metropolitan teams finish. The Devils will be keeping a close eye on Bruins’ games down this home stretch, as they try to finish on the winning side as well.
The funny thing is, Devils fans may be rooting for Boston to help secure their wild-card positioning now, but with more Boston wins, comes the probable first place finish. If Boston finishes first, who is a probable first-round matchup? The New Jersey Devils.
To First, or Not To First
That brings us to the two remaining games against the Tampa Bay Lightning. I personally have gone back and forth on whether I, one, believed the Bruins could finish first in the East, and two if I actually wanted them to finish first. When the injury report continued to pile up a few weeks ago, I thought for sure, they would finish in second, with home-ice against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But, now Boston is only one point behind Tampa and still have a game in hand. First place is a very likely finish. But, is that best? There are many people out there, who do not want anything to do with the title of “President Trophy Winners” when it comes down to playoffs. Which, is also a likely title for Boston if they finish above Tampa. Nashville may be the only team in the West who could win that regular-season title over Boston at this point.
Then you look at those first-round matchups. For all intents and purposes, let’s assume the Bruins finish second in the Atlantic. That means having home-ice and facing the Leafs. If they finish first, that means home-ice and either the Devils or another Metropolitan team.
If playoffs started today, it would be the Devils. I think no matter what, they are set for a tough first-round matchup. After all, it is the NHL Playoffs. But, a series against the Devils, I think is an easier path than the Leafs with a healthy Auston Matthews. Boston is 3-0 this season against New Jersey.
At the end of the day, The Boston Bruins are in the postseason. That’s what matters, especially in the NHL. When it all comes down to it, seeding may not be the end of the world and focus should be on getting healthy. This past road trip was played without key players in the lineup for at least one if not all four games. Those players included Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, Rick Nash, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy, and Zdeno Chara. With the postseason a mere few weeks away, the focus is on getting these players back into the lineup and as close to 100% as possible.
I believe a healthy Boston Bruins team is fully ready to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs, no matter who that first round matchup is with. So, sit back and enjoy the remaining seven games. If you are not bought into this team yet, it’s time you should be.