The Boston Bruins face the Ottawa Senators Saturday night for the first time this season. The game features two teams on opposite sides of the Atlantic Division.
The Bruins currently sit at the top of the division with 20 points. They only have one regulation loss in 12 games.
David Pastrnak leads Boston, and the NHL for that matter, with 12 goals. He has 24 total points.
The Senators find themselves at the bottom of the Atlantic with seven points. They only have three wins this season.
Ottawa’s top scorer, Connor Brown, has 10 points in 11 games. Nobody else on the team reached double-digit point total yet.
Based on the current states of Boston and Ottawa, it’s easy to forget that these teams met in the postseason only three years ago.
The 2016-2017 season represented a big transition for Boston. After the Bruins missed the playoffs for two straight years, they found themselves 26-23-6 through the first 57 games of the season. With the playoffs in doubt again, GM Don Sweeney fired Claude Julien.
Bruce Cassidy stepped in as interim coach, and it quickly became clear he was the right man for the job. Boston finished the season 18-8-1, good enough to secure a playoff matchup with Ottawa.
The Senators were the favorites before the series, and this held true through the first four games. After Boston took game one, Ottawa won the next three to take a 3-1 series lead.
On the brink of elimination, the Bruins won a 3-2 double overtime thriller in Ottawa to send the series back to Boston. Sean Kuraly had two goals, including the OT winner.
The Bruins, however, could not complete the series comeback and lost game six at home. Boston’s season ended, while Ottawa eventually went all the way to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Recent playoff series with Toronto overshadow the Boston-Ottawa matchup, but it did have some big moments. One goal decided all six games, and four games went to overtime.
More importantly, the playoff series with Ottawa was a major stepping stone for the Bruins. Pastrnak got his first taste of playoff action, and he’s since become the team’s most prolific scorer.
The series also marked the NHL debut of Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy famously signed with Boston right before the Ottawa series, and he played in all six games. Now, with all that experience under his belt, McAvoy is the team’s best all-around defenseman.
The Bruins learned from the playoff series with Ottawa, and the experience pushed them forward over the next few years. Boston made advanced past the first round the next three seasons, and went to the Cup Final last year.
Things didn’t turn out quite so well for Ottawa. The Senators made it to the Conference Finals the year they beat Boston, but everything after that turned out bad.
Ottawa missed the playoffs the next three seasons, and they finished in the bottom two of the division each year. Not only that, the Senators lost pretty much all their top players.
Ottawa’s top five scorers from the 2016-2017 season are no longer with the team. The Senators traded Karlsson to the Sharks because of his contract status, and off-ice issues forced them to trade Hoffman to Florida.
Plus, early in the 2017-2018 season, Ottawa traded a first-round pick to get Matt Duchene. This failed horribly. The Senators had a poor season, so the pick ended up in the top five of the draft. Duchene didn’t make a big impact, and Ottawa traded him last season.
When the Bruins take on the Senators Saturday night, we’ll see two teams on opposite sides of the NHL spectrum. That seems hard to believe based on what we saw only three years ago.