The Boston Bruins advanced to the Eastern Conference Final after dispatching the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games. It was a tight series for the most part with four games deciding by one goal, but Boston took over with three straight wins to send Columbus packing. The first two matches were decided in overtime, including a double overtime victory for the Blue Jackets in Game 2 to give Columbus a 2-1 lead at the time, but Boston was the better team afterward.
The top line of the Bruins had a sluggish start to the series, with one point between Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak through the first three games, but the trio exploded for six goals and five assists in Games 4 and 5. Marchand leads the team with 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 13 playoff matches this year. Pastrnak is close behind with 11 points, including a team-leading six goals, in 13 matches. David Krejci has collected 10 points (four goals, six assists) in the postseason. He had the series winner in Game 6 versus Columbus and he added an assist on David Backes‘ first marker of the playoffs.
Tuukka Rask was spectacular in the crease during Round 2 of the postseason. He posted a 39-save shutout in Game 6 after he probably should have had a clean sheet in Game 5 as well. The only goal Rask allowed that night came after the puck went out of play, but the play was allowed to continue because the officials notice. He concluded the series with a .948 save percentage and 1.71 goals-against average.
The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in a seven-game series in Round 1 and swept the New York Islanders in four straight games during Round 2. Carolina outscored the Islanders by a 13-5 margin in the series, while permitting a mere two even-strength goals. Curtis McElhinney, who was pressed into action because of a lower-body injury to Petr Mrazek, was superb in the crease for the Hurricanes. He stopped 71 of 75 shots in three straight victories.
Jaccob Slavin has been steady on the back end throughout the playoffs and he leads the team with 11 points through 11 matches. Teuvo Teravainen (six goals, three assists), Warren Foegele (five goals, four assists), Jordan Staal (four goals, five assists) and Sebastian Aho (four goals, five assists) have produced nine points apiece during their 11 postseason outings this year. Carolina has received production up and down the lineup during an impressive run.
Carolina overcame some injuries in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they never seemed to miss a beat. The Hurricanes entered the series against the Islanders without the services of Andrei Svechnikov, who played in half of the second round, and Micheal Ferland, who didn’t play at all because of an upper-body injury. Carolina also lost Trevor van Riemsdyk (shoulder), Saku Maenalanen (hand) and Mrazek after they were injured in Game 2. Jordan Martinook also missed some time because of a lower-body injury, but he played through it to finish the series. Mrazek and Ferland could be ready for the Eastern Conference Final, but if they aren’t then Carolina knows they have players who can step up if called upon.
This will be an interesting matchup when the series begins on Thursday. The Hurricanes have proven that they are for real and Boston’s veteran group will be another difficult test. Both teams have benefited from depth scoring in the postseason and they have been stingy defensively, while getting superb goaltending. Carolina has been great at locking down the opposition, while permitting a postseason low 27.8 shots against per game, thanks to a forward group that puts plenty of pressure in the attacking zone and a defense that moves the puck very well. If the Hurricanes can limit Boston’s opportunities the same way then that would go a long way to helping the team advance to the Stanley Cup Final. This is going to be a close series and the expectation is that Boston’s experience will allow them to advance, but this is a playoffs that has delivered plenty of surprises. Carolina will be difficult for Boston to handle, but it’s hard to bet against the Bruins, especially if the top line gets going. Special teams could also be a major factor in the series, where the Bruins have flourished and the Hurricanes have struggled. Boston in six.
Krejci has five points in his last five matches, including two goals and one assist in his last two outings.
Marchand came up big in Game 5 of Round 2 with three points (one goal and two assists), but he has been held off the scoresheet in five of his last seven matches. Bergeron has two goals and one assist in the past six games. He scored both markers in Game 4 versus the Blue Jackets, but didn’t much else offensively in the series.
Charlie McAvoy has been suspended for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final after he delivered an illegal check to the head to Columbus’ Josh Anderson in Game 6 of Round 2. Look for Steven Kampfer to play Thursday in his place.
Kevan Miller (lower body) has been making progress, but he isn’t ready to return yet. He has been out of action since Apr. 4 due to an apparent knee injury.
John Moore is dealing with a nagging upper-body injury. He hasn’t played since Apr. 23, but it’s believed he could become available if he’s needed and the Bruins don’t have an alternative.
Noel Acciari, who is listed as day-to-day, has missed the last two games due to an upper-body injury.
Boston has the best power play in the postseason at 28.6%. The Bruins have scored 10 goals on 35 chances. Marchand leads the team with six power-play points, while Bergeron is first on the club with four goals on the man advantage.
The Bruins have allowed six goals on the penalty kill, while being down a man 37 times. The team’s 83.8% penalty kill percentage is the best among teams remaining in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This is Boston’s first trip to the Eastern Conference Final since 2013. The Bruins lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Chicago that year.
Teravainen recorded three goals and two assists in four games against the Islanders. He finished Round 2 with a three-game point streak and multi-point efforts in his last two outings. Foegele also had a three-game point streak (one goal, two assists) to finish the series. Aho got going at the end of Round 2 with two goals and two helpers in his last two contests, while Justin Williams scored a goal in each of the last two matches.
Slavin cooled down in Round 2 with two assists in four games after he had nine helpers in seven contests against Washington in Round 1.
Ferland expects to available for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. It’s unclear who he will play if he gets clearance to return, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he started on the fourth line.
Mrazek, who was back at practice earlier this week, could also be ready for Game 1. If he is cleared to return then he should get the nod against Boston to open the series despite McElhinney’s heroics versus the New York Islanders.
Van Riemsdyk underwent season-ending shoulder surgery last week. He is expected to need four-to-six months of recovery time after he was injured in Game 2 of Round 2 versus the Islanders.
Maenalanen had surgery on his hand after he was hurt on Apr. 28 and he was given a 10-14 day timetable for his return. He skated Tuesday at practice in a no-contact jersey.
Carolina has the worst power play of the team’s remaining in the playoffs with a 10.5 percent success rate. The Hurricanes have four goals on 38 opportunities. Carolina went 1-for-13 in Round 2 of the postseason, with Aho scoring the lone marker. Dougie Hamilton leads the team with three power-play points, including two of the four goals.
The Hurricanes penalty kill has surrendered nine goals while being down a man 36 times (75.0%). New York scored a goal on the power play against Carolina in three of the four contests.
Round 2 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs gave the Carolina/Hartford the first sweep in a best-of-seven series in the franchise’s history.
Carolina has advanced to the Conference Final in each of the team’s last four playoff appearances, including this year. The team was defeated in the Stanley Cup Final by Detroit in 2002, won the Stanley Cup against Edmonton in 2006 and lost in the Conference Final to Pittsburgh in 2009.
The Hurricanes will enter the Eastern Conference Final riding a six-game win streak.
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