"And it's going to be even harder in playoff time", Bruins forward Marchand said. Well, the boys in Black and Gold certainly showed them. The Panthers were out shooting the Bruins 20-17 in a game they had nothing to play for. That's as close as the Bruins got, however, as Evgenii Dadonov scored a late rebound goal in the third period to ice it for the Panthers after a couple of close calls for a B's team that was pushing it at the very end. The Bruins trailed Tampa Bay by a point heading into the regular-season finale but couldn't top a Panthers team that was eliminated from postseason contention Saturday. This matchup is the flawless example as to why the National Hockey League playoff format needs to be re-done. The Bruins won the first three, most recently earning a 3-2 victory on January 25 in Ottawa.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, they lost the make-up game to the Panthers by a score of 4-2 and could only claim second in the Atlantic Division. Ridiculous in theory and in practice.
As a result, the Bruins will play the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Now that the Maple Leafs finally know the identity of their first-round playoff opponent, they set out Monday to prepare for the Bruins ahead of Thursday's series-opener at TD Garden. In fact, after that home-and-home, the Bruins went 44-15-8 to end the season. The Bruins own the tiebreaker and would have been the number one seed. The first three are back in full force, and there are reports that Nash may be available for the playoffs.
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The Senators will attempt to extend their winning-streak to two-games.
The Senators closed out the season with back-to-back games on the road against two of the top teams in the East. Perhaps the extra 4 days off will rejuvenate him and his game. His physical shutdown game from the prior year was back, and he became less of a defensive liability. No matter how healthy the Bruins are for Game 1 or how you align Cassidy's lineup for that night, the Bruins are going to have five rookies.
"It starts all over now", said Leafs coach Mike Babcock.
Toronto entered this season with expectations of making the playoffs and getting past the first round after last season's early exit at the hands of the Capitals. The team has been forced to kill penalties for just 8.1 minutes per game over its last 10 matchups, in total. Lose or tie and it's the Toronto Maple Leafs in an Original Six matchup.
This is one series that could easily go 6 or 7 games. However, that being said both sides will look at this series as an opportunity to put themselves at the forefront of contenders - no other first-round series has the quality of these two sides.