Breaking down the Bruins’ potential 1st-round matchups


A matchup with the top-seeded wild-card team likely awaits the Bruins if they hang on and win the division for the second year in a row.

Bruins right wing David Pastrnak works ahead of Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Brandon Hagel during a March 27 game in Tampa, Fla.
Bruins right wing David Pastrnak works ahead of Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Brandon Hagel during a March 27 game in Tampa, Fla. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

With the NHL season entering its final few weeks, clinchings, eliminations, and playoff matchups are starting to take place.

The Boston Bruins secured their eighth straight playoff berth late last week. But that does not mean the remaining seven games have any less meaning, as they remain neck-and-neck with the Florida Panthers for the top seed in the Atlantic Division.

As the calendar turns to April, the New York Rangers appear on track to take the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers currently hold a three-point lead over the Bruins with a game in hand.

The Bruins currently sit atop the Atlantic Division with 101 points; however, the Panthers are just two points back with a game in hand and have the tiebreaker for having more regulation wins. These two teams will see each other again this Saturday for their final regular season meeting.

A matchup with the top-seeded wild-card team likely awaits the Bruins if they hang on and win the division for the second year in a row. The Tampa Bay Lightning currently hold the top wild card spot in the East, but they also sit four points in back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third seed in the Atlantic.

With the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals battling for the third seed in the Metropolitan Division, all signs point to the Lightning or Maple Leafs for that top wild card spot. But if the Bruins can somehow surpass the Rangers for the top spot in the conference, they’d draw a matchup against the bottom wild-card team featuring one of the Flyers, Capitals, or Detroit Red Wings.

With all the scenarios detailed, let’s break down Boston’s potential first-round matchups.

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

Where have we heard this one before? 

These two Original Six rivals have a decent chance to meet again for their third first-round matchup in six seasons.

The Bruins won all four meetings with Toronto during the regular season. 

The Maple Leafs feature a high-power offense, with Auston Matthews capturing his second consecutive 60-goal season. William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and captain John Tavares serve as Matthews’ primary complimentary pieces.

The Bruins had success limiting Toronto’s lethal offense in the regular season, and that trend would have to continue if they wanted to advance to round two. With the Maple Leafs ending their playoff series drought last year, they will look to improve upon last year’s first-round win over the Lightning and finally overcome the Bruins. 

Jim Montgomery’s club will look to expose Toronto’s defensive and goaltending weaknesses. Goaltenders Iyla Samsonov and Joseph Woll have both endured inconsistent seasons at best. 

Toronto will look to push the pace against Boston’s defense core, an area that Montgomery has called out many times throughout the season.

In the latter half of the season, the Bruins special teams have not performed up to their high standards. Toronto’s star-studded power play could possess some issues for Boston’s penalty kill. Between that and a 5v5 offense that’s stagnated at times, the Bruins could encounter their share of difficulties in a potential seven-game series. 

As seen in their previous first-round meetings, however, the Bruins will want to rely on tight-checking games to counter Toronto’s high-octane offense.

Bruins vs. Lightning

The Lightning are a team that nobody wants to face at any point in the postseason. And right now, they look like a squad that’s ready for the playoff grind.

Tampa Bay sports an 11-2-2 record in its last 15 games, including Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over the Bruins. With three wins in four meetings, the Lightning have remained a thorn in the Bruins’ side during the regular season.

The Bolts feature significant high-end talent throughout the lineup, with a potential Hart Trophy finalist in Nikita Kucherov leading the offense, a perennial Norris Trophy candidate in Victor Hedman anchoring the defense, and 2019 Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy tending the net. 

Boston will look to take advantage of Tampa Bay’s depth, which is not nearly as strong as it was during their back-to-back Stanley Cup runs in 2020 and 2021. The Bruins received some timely secondary scoring from their bottom-six forwards recently, and continuing that trend could help them reach success in a potential matchup with the Lightning.

Like Toronto, Tampa Bay features a lethal top power-play unit. Kucherov is always a step ahead of the defense and with Boston’s special teams recently slipping up, this is an area that Tampa Bay will surely look to expose. 

With their significant postseason experience, the Jon Cooper-led Lightning will not be an easy out for the Bruins, Panthers or whoever draws them in round one. 

Bruins vs. the second wild card team

There is still an off-chance that the Bruins will draw the second wild-card team, which could feature any of the Capitals, Flyers, or Red Wings. 

Despite their -31 goal differential, the Capitals possess a heavy-checking team capable of playing in and winning tight games. The Caps feature one of the best goal scorers in league history Alex Ovechkin, with a supporting cast of Dylan Strome, T.J. Oshie, and John Carlson. Behind Charlie Lindgren’s recent run in net, the Caps have catapulted themselves into the third spot in the Metropolitan Division. 

The Flyers are a surprise team in the playoff picture, being a year or two ahead of their presumed rebuild. As typical with a John Tortorella-coached team, the Flyers will play all 200 feet of the ice, block shots, finish their checks, and be a pain to play against physically. They are led by back-to-back 30-goal scorer Travis Konecny. Amidst the Cutter Gauthier drama and everything else thrown at Philadelphia, they have weathered the proverbial storm and aim to extend their season into late April.

The Red Wings sit just one spot out of the playoff picture in year eight of their rebuild. With a healthy core of young talent like Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider, combined with veterans Dylan Larkin and Alex DeBrincat, the Wings find themselves as close to a playoff spot since their last appearance in 2015-16. Detroit showed their pursuit after adding three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Kane to compliment their scoring production.

With how the standings currently shape out, the Bruins look like they will have their hands full in Round 1. Nonetheless, B’s fans will be in for a doozy of a matchup when the playoffs begin in just a few weeks.

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