You are here

Harris: Bruins prepare to face tough Senators when playoffs open Wednesday

rooz Harris: Bruins prepare to face tough Senators when playoffs open Wednesday image

Harris: Bruins prepare to face tough Senators when playoffs open Wednesday Stephen Harris Monday, April 10, 2017 Credit: Christopher Evans STICK TO IT: Ottawa’s Ryan Dzingel chases Drew Stafford as they go for the puck during last night’s game at the Garden. comments The final day of the 2016-17 NHL season was an off day for the Bruins, after their up-and-down campaign concluded in an unimpressive manner — with losses in Games 81 and 82 to Ottawa and Washington.
Those outcomes, in which injuries and the absence of the suspended Brad Marchand had major impacts, left the B’s in the uncomfortable position of not knowing their opponent for Round 1 of the playoffs this week.
Would it be the Senators or Capitals, two teams against whom the Bruins went 0-5-2 this season? As the B’s sat in front of their TVs or computers tracking the Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs game in Toronto last night, they were juggling a Sophie’s choice about their next opponent: Both options were bad.
The Bruins got their answer last night when Columbus rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Maple Leafs, 3-2, and, at least on paper, do them a gigantic favor.
By failing to earn at least one point in Game 82, the Maple Leafs missed their chance to jump up to third place in the Atlantic Division and face Ottawa in the first round. Now, as the No. 2 wild card team, they have to tackle the daunting Capitals.
And the Bruins, third in the Atlantic, will visit the Senators starting Wednesday night. Game 2 is Saturday afternoon, with Games 3 (April 17) and 4 (April 19) at the Garden.
Ottawa, with its stifling 1-3-1 neutral zone trap, is an imposing team — just not nearly as imposing as the Capitals.
The B’s will head to the Canadian capital confident they can solve the Senators.
“Our record of (0-3-1 vs. Ottawa) doesn’t really tell the real story,” center David Krejci said after Ottawa’s 2-1 shootout win last Thursday at the Garden.
“Other than the first game in their building, I think we could have gotten at least two games for sure, especially at home. (So) I feel confident in this team that we can get the job done.”
Veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles noted Thursday that games against Ottawa may not be much fun to watch.
“What they do is just clog stuff up,” Liles said. “They just clog up the neutral zone. There’s not a lot of room to move. So if you’re not getting through the neutral zone effectively, then a lot of times the puck’s coming right back at you. They play a system that’s frustrating and not easy to play against. It’s not the prettiest thing to watch, but it’s effective. It’s a tough system to play against for sure.”
For winger Drew Stafford, the key will be patience and smart puck management.
“It’s frustrating when you’re not taking care of the puck in the neutral zone,” Stafford said. “They just kind of sit back. Those games (are) like a chess match: It’s kind of boring and slow, wait for a mistake and (then) capitalize.”
Making the task so much more difficult will be the potential absence of injured top-four defensemen Torey Krug (suspected knee) and Brandon Carlo (suspected concussion), along with useful fourth-liner Noel Acciari (upper body).
It’s often said that goaltending and special teams are the keys in the playoffs; in truth, an even greater factor is health. On the way to the Stanley Cup in 2011, the B’s were able to keep their lineup mostly intact. As they return to the postseason after a two-year absence, that unfortunately may not be the case.
But if the B’s can prevail over the Senators, it will not be widely viewed as a big upset. And if a team can get past Round 1, building momentum and confidence, who knows what can happen?
Even with their ups and downs, the Bruins have demonstrated many times — most recently, and notably, with the solid 3-2 victory in Chicago over the Blackhawks eight days ago — that they are capable of very big things when they deliver optimal effort, focus and execution.
And, yes, gets great goaltending and special teams play.
“Whoever (the opponent) is, we need to erase our minds and get a game plan in there that’s going to work against whoever we’re playing,” said winger David Backes after Saturday’s loss to the Capitals. “And then go execute it and just play harder than the guy across from you. The way this team has played down the stretch here and had to work our butts off to get in, I love our group. We’re going to have a few days here to prep and get it together — and then go out there and play.”
They’ve got a chance, a good chance. That’s all a team can ask for.

Related posts

Leave a Comment