In a rematch of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, the Carolina Hurricanes will face off against the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins made quick work of the Hurricanes last year, sweeping them to advance to the Finals against the Blues. This year, the teams will play without fans in Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.
The two teams are coming into the series after opposite returns to hockey in the Toronto bubble. Although they had the best record in the NHL at the break in March, the Bruins fell to the 4th seed in their round-robin games after losses to the Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. The Canes, on the other hand, dominated the Rangers in three games in their Stanley Cup Qualifier series.
When the Bruins are successful, the “Perfection Line” of Brad Marchand, David Pastranak, and Patrice Bergeron is firing on all cylinders. Pastranak leads the scoring, Marchand sets the emotional tone and Bergeron is one of the best all-around centers in the game. Defenseman Zdeno Chara and goalie Tukka Rask bring tons of playoff experience to the table, as they try to lead young stars Charlie McAvoy and Jake Debrusk to a Stanley Cup.
Expect the Bruins’ powerplay to be a constant threat, as their 25.2 power-play percentage (PP%) in the regular season led the Eastern Conference. Also, thanks to Vezina Trophy finalist Tuukka Rask and a solid defenseman corps, the Bruins allowed the fewest goals against in the league during the regular season.
In the Qualifier series against the Rangers, Carolina forwards Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian
Aho put on a show, tallying 13 points combined (6G, 7A). Just like Boston’s “Perfection Line,”
Carolina is at its best when their line of Svechnikov, Aho and Teuvo Teravainen is clicking. Rod
Brind’Amour’s plan to use both goalies, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, worked to perfection
against New York, so he will likely do that again. The Hurricanes will also rely on their
defensemen to set the tone early in the game, and Dougie Hamilton’s likely return from a broken
leg should motivate that group. Although the Hurricanes’ powerplay struggled in the Qualifier
series (14.3%), Hamilton’s return should help improve that. He is definitely the most offensive-minded defenseman on the team, so Brind’Amour will be thrilled to see him back quarterbacking the powerplay.
Momentum is huge in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Hurricanes are undoubtedly coming into
the series feeling better than the Bruins. However, anger is also an excellent motivator and the
Bruins will be angry after their poor showing in the Round Robin games. The series will be hard-fought every minute, but I predict that the Hurricanes’ will get enough depth scoring beyond
Svechnikov, Aho, and Teravainen to win the series in seven games. Their fourth line of Jordan
Martinook, Morgan Geekie and Brock McGinn played very well against New York, executing
on the forecheck and even scoring a goal. The Bruins probably have the advantage in goaltending and experience, but the Hurricanes are young, hungry for revenge, and led by
experienced winners in Brind’Amour and Justin Williams.
This series should be one of the most competitive of the first round, as both teams could easily
be seen as top contenders for winning the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes have a bad taste
in their mouths after getting swept last year, so I would not be surprised to see physicality right
away. Game one kicks off the series at 8:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, August 11.
Prediction: Carolina in 7