For the second time in two years, the NHL will see a Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes playoff match-up. The two teams met in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals with Boston sweeping the series. Fifteen months later let’s look at how these teams stack up.
2019 Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes Eastern Conference Finals
You can’t talk about this series without bringing up last year’s series. Both sides were evenly matched even though the series ended in a sweep. Shots were nearly equal in every game. The two big differences were goaltending and special teams.
Tuukka Rask was fantastic in the series for Boston. He finished the series with a .956 save percentage and was brilliant in Game 3, stopping 35/36 shots. Carolina’s goaltending was a different story. Petr Mrazek started the first two games. He was mediocre in Game 1 but in Game 2 he let in six goals on 25 shots and didn’t see the crease after. Curtis McElhinney played in Games 3 and 4 and had an alright save percentage of .906.
As for special teams, Boston dominated. The Bruins scored on seven out of 15 power plays while Carolina only scored once on the man-advantage.
The 2019-20 season
During the regular season the Bruins were the top team with 44 wins and a .714 win percentage. The Hurricanes finished sixth in the Eastern Conference with a win percentage of .596 and won 38 out of 68 games.
They only played one game against each other this season which was a 2-0 Boston win in early December. Boston outshot Carolina 34-24 in the game, and Jaroslav Halak posted the shutout. Once again the Hurricanes had a tough time scoring against Boston.
The Postseason So Far
The Hurricanes played an impressive qualifying round against the New York Rangers. They swept New York in three straight games after the Rangers swept them in the regular season. It was the only sweep of the play-in round. Carolina’s leading scorer in the regular season, Sebastian Aho, was great that series scoring three goals and eight points in three games. He scored a beautiful insurance goal in game three.
The Bruins have not had a great postseason so far. It didn’t start out great because at one point they had nine players unfit to play at once during training camp. They got healthy in time for the round-robin but they went winless in three games. Outside of their first game the Bruins only lost their next two by one goal.
Boston’s big line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak only got one point between them and that was an assist from Bergeron. However, this year’s co-goal scoring champion, David Pastranak, did record 13 shots in three games.
Both teams offences are similar in terms of output. Boston scored the sixth-most goals in the league with 227 while Carolina was five goals behind them at 222 with two fewer games played. They both were close in terms of shots on goal per game. Carolina had 33.3 shots while Boston had 32.1. The Bruins had the second-best power play in the league while the Hurricanes sat eighth in the league.
Boston has its notorious big line offensively. Pastrnak scored 48 goals and 95 points, Marchand scored 87 points and Bergeron slid this year with 56 points in 61 games but he still managed to score 31 goals. They also have a ton of depth. The Bruins had 11 players who scored 20 or more points with Anders Bjork and Brandon Carlo on the cusp with 19.
Carolina also has high-end talent with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen. Aho was the best with 66 points but his 38 goals were sixth in the NHL. The other two broke the 60 point mark. They also have depth with 14 players scoring over 20 points.
Both sides are excellent defensively. Boston allowed the fewest goals in the league with 167 and Carolina was ninth with 193. However, in terms of shots allowed Carolina allowed the second-fewest at 29.3 while Boston allowed 30. The Bruins and Hurricanes sit third and fourth-best in the league at killing penalties.
Carolina has a good defensive core. Jaccob Slavin is arguably the best defensive defencemen in the game while Brett Pesce is excellent as well. They also have winning experience on the backend as both Trevor van Riemsdyk and Joel Edmundson have both won Stanley Cups. The big X-factor for the Hurricanes is if they get Dougie Hamilton back. He broke his leg during the season that put to end to his Norris Trophy calibre season where he scored 40 points in 47 games. He has been out with a non-related injury but was reported to be out for a few weeks in late July. That timeline suggests he could be back in this series.
The Bruins are solid as well. Charlie McAvoy is one of the best young defencemen in the NHL, while Torey Krug is excellent offensively with 49 points this year. This is a similar defence that helped propel the Bruins to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals last year, so they know what they’re doing.
In terms of offence and defence, both teams are fairly similar. Goaltending is where one team has a clear advantage and that is the Bruins. Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak form arguably the best tandem in the NHL with neither of them posting a save percentage below .919. They also have had a lot of success against the Hurricanes.
Carolina’s weak point is their goaltending. Mrazek had a mediocre save percentage of .906 this season while James Reimer had a .914, which is good but still lower than Halak’s .919, which is the lowest between him and Rask. Mrazek also lost the starting job in the Bruins in last year’s playoffs. The good news for the Hurricanes is both Mrazek and Reimer were great in their play-in series, both posting save percentages above .940. However, that is a small sample size and numbers can easily be inflated.
This is a close series. Both teams have a lot of skill and depth in their forward groups and both sides are defensive juggernauts. Due to how evenly matched they are the Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes should be a long series.
There are two big factors. If the Bruins top line can’t get going then that is a big problem for Boston. But if Carolina’s goaltending doesn’t hold up then that doesn’t give the Hurricanes a good chance of winning either. Boston’s top-line always seems to come through so I will put more faith with them than the Hurricanes’ goaltending. Therefore, I have the Bruins winning in seven games.