BOSTON — Based on the standings, the Boston Bruins caught a break by drawing the Ottawa Senators instead of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Not that the Bruins have had success against either club this season.
Boston opens a series Wednesday in Ottawa still seeking its first win over the Senators this season. The Bruins went 0-3-1 and were outscored 11-5 by Ottawa – they were 0-2-1 versus Washington.
The Bruins were locked into third place in the Atlantic Division when Toronto lost to Columbus on Sunday. Boston and the Maple Leafs each finished with 95 points, but the Bruins won the first tiebreaker of regulation/overtime wins (42-39).
It didn’t make much difference to Boston where it slotted.
“Well if you look at Washington’s year, they won the Presidents’ Trophy again. So that’s probably not first on your list of who you want to face in the first round,” Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said after practice Monday. “But then again, it really doesn’t matter because you’ve got to beat them all anyway if you want to win.”
The Bruins are back in the postseason for the first time since 2014. There were stretches of the season when it looked like the Bruins would again miss the playoffs. They were 26-23-6 when they fired coach Claude Julien and replaced him on an interim basis with Bruce Cassidy.
They went 18-8-1 under Cassidy, but a four-game losing streak from March 16-23 again raised doubts. The Bruins rebounded with a six-game winning streak that culminated with clinching their postseason berth.
“I think we’re all really excited,” said forward Brad Marchand, who led the Bruins with 39 goals. “You play all year for it and obviously missing the last couple (years) makes it a little more special. I think everyone kind of realizes how lucky you are to be in the playoffs every year.”
The Bruins will start their series with Ottawa short-handed. Defensemen Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo and forward Noel Acciari will not be available because of injuries. To help the defense, the Bruins signed Charlie McAvoy to a three-year entry-level contract Monday. McAvoy left Boston University after his sophomore season March 29 and had been playing for Providence of the American Hockey League on an amateur tryout contract. The 2016 first-round pick (14th overall) could make his NHL debut in Game 1.
“Charlie’s a guy up to this point that has had no problem in the limelight, the big games. So we’ll hope that continues,” Cassidy said.
After losing four games to Ottawa this season, the Bruins think they’re on the right path toward solving the Senators. They have to finish more at the net and figure out how to break the Senators’ neutral-zone forecheck.
“The last few games I thought we had an easier time getting to their end to play,” Cassidy said. “So we’re going to look at our forecheck, how we can get pucks back and generate second chances.”