The Bruins and Senators will begin their series on Wednesday night in Ottawa. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins and Senators will begin their series on Wednesday night in Ottawa. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The 16 teams are set and so is the round one schedule.

In a battle of the Atlantic two-seed Senators and three-seed Bruins, and as reported by WEEI.com earlier tonight, the series between the two division foes will begin this Wednesday in Ottawa at 7 p.m., and Game 2 will be played on the following Saturday at 3 p.m. Game 1 can be seen on the NHL Network while Game 2 will be aired on NBC.

The teams will then come to Boston for a Game 3 showdown on Patriots’ Day in a 7 p.m. game at TD Garden, while Game 4 will be played two nights later at 7:30 p.m.

Game 5 (if necessary) would shift back to Ottawa for a Friday night affair on Apr. 21, Game 6 would be played in Boston on Sunday the 23rd, and a potential Game 7 would be Apr. 26 in Ottawa.

For a complete schedule of every playoff series in round one, click here.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins will play the Senators in the first round. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins will play the Senators in the first round. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

It took until the final game of the season to figure it out, but the Bruins are officially going to Ottawa to start their 2017 postseason run.

Stuck at 95 points thanks to Saturday’s regulation loss to the Capitals, the Bruins were forced to play the waiting game on Sunday, as the 95-point Leafs entered play with the ability to jump the Bruins with a single point, which would have bumped the Black and Gold down into the East’s second wild card spot for a round one date with the Caps.

And after the Bruins failed to get help from the Penguins last night in a 5-3 loss to the Maple Leafs, you almost expected that to be the case.

But it was the Blue Jackets,who entered play with a six-game losing streak and resting some players, that came through with some (unexpected) help for the Bruins on Sunday. The Leafs jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the middle frame thanks to two goals from James van Riemsdyk, but with the Leafs down two defensemen as both Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak departed with injuries, Columbus rallied for a 3-2 victory.

With that final, the B’s will avoid the Capitals in round one, and instead skate as the three seed in the Atlantic bracket.

This is really the best case possible for the Bruins.

The obvious reason, of course, is because they’re avoiding the Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals and the Metropolitan bracket as a whole. But taking on the Senators is an extremely winnable series if you’re the Bruins. Sure, they didn’t win a single game in the season series (they finished the year 0-3-1 in the season series), but they were never truly blown out by the Sens, nor do the Senators have the offensive depth to truly blow the Black and Gold out in a seven-game series. These are the close games that the Bruins have a legitimate chance at winning, especially if Tuukka Rask continues to play at the level he has for the last three weeks.

And the Bruins themselves were not necessarily hung up on the sweep at the hands of the Sens.

“Our record of 0-4 doesn’t really tell the real story, I think,” Bruins center David Krejci said of a potential playoff meeting with Ottawa. “Other than the first game in their building, I think we could have gotten at least two games for sure, especially at home. So, if it happens that we play them, I feel confident in this team that we can get the job done.”

Still, the Bruins will have to be considered the underdogs for this series, as Sens netminder Craig Anderson has been a monster this year, and the Bruins have dropped eight of their last nine head-to-heads with Ottawa dating back to last season.

“Playoffs is just a new scene, a new season series essentially, so we start over,” B’s defenseman John-Michael Liles said of any in-their-head talk that can come with the Senators. “I don’t think there’s any mental hurdles with that.”

This will be the first ever playoff meeting between the Bruins and Senators.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Maple Leafs win on Saturday means that the B's will have to wait until Sunday night to know their playoff opponent. (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports)

The Maple Leafs win on Saturday means that the B’s will have to wait until Sunday night to know their playoff opponent. (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins were about 13 minutes from a date with the Senators.

Tied at 2-2, it was a shot that went off the skate of Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner and into the back of his net that gave the Penguins a 3-2 edge. But Kasperi Kapanen, Connor Brown, and Auston Matthews had their say, as the Maple Leafs punched their playoff ticket with a 5-3 comeback win over the Pens, and made the Bruins wait another day to make their round one travel arrangements in the process.

And now the picture becomes even easier for the Bruins.

Toronto’s win coupled with the B’s loss earlier today means that a point for the Leafs tomorrow in their regular season finale against the Blue Jackets bumps the Bruins down into the East’s second wild card for a first-round date with the Capitals. A regulation loss, however, and the Bruins remain where they are as the Atlantic’s No. 3 seed and take on the Senators in the opening round of postseason play.

The Bruins went 0-3-1 against the Senators this year, and were 0-2-1 against the Capitals. Dating back to last year, the Bruins have dropped six in a row against the Senators and have won just one of their last nine head-to-head meetings. It’s not much better when you talk about the Caps, though, as the Capitals have won nine straight games against the Bruins.

So — though it may be like asking if you wanna drink rat poison or razor blades — is there any preference, guys?

“I don’t like to go down that road,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said when asked who’d he prefer to play beginning next week. “We’re going to be confident no matter who we play. In a nutshell, Washington is the better team, I would say that, go on record saying that. Ottawa is playing very good hockey right now; we’ve had a tough time with them. So, they both present their challenges. Staying in probably the [Atlantic Division], people have said is probably the easier path. So in that regard you don’t want to be the wildcard, but we’re going to end up now – it’s out of our hands. So, we get what we get.”

As Cassidy alluded to, there’s a definite advantage to the Bruins drawing into the Atlantic bracket over that loaded Metropolitan one. If the B’s remain in third place, they’ll have that first-round series with the Sens, and would then take on the winner of the Rangers-Canadiens showdown in the second round if they were to advance. That sure beats the hell out of going against a behemoth Washington squad in round one and then either the defending Cup champion Penguins or Blue Jackets.

But with two straight losses to end their season, the B’s no longer have the luxury of deciding for themselves.

“We’re not going to get to choose regardless, so we can kind of sit back and we’ve got our 82 in before anybody else,” Bruins forward David Backes said. “So, we’re able to sit back and watch a little bit and tally them up at the end, with maybe a day and a half of rest on whomever we’re playing. Use that to our advantage so we can come out flying with full energy when we do start.”

The Bruins have never played in the Senators in the postseason, and last skated against Washington in postseason play back in 2012, when the Capitals upset the Bruins in seven games thanks to a Joel Ward overtime goal.

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Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson made his NHL debut on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson finally made his NHL debut on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy has by all means admitted that he doesn’t know too much about Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.

That’s probably still the case after Forsbacka Karlsson’s NHL debut against the Capitals today, too, as the 20-year-old finished the 3-1 loss with just 8:25 of time on ice in 13 shifts on the ice. The Bruins deployed the first-week pro on a somewhat regular basis in the first period, with six shifts, but he skated just three times in the middle frame, and another four times in a relatively garbage time kind of third period.

But that was almost to be expected, as the Bruins were still playing in a meaningful game and trailing early in this one.

“It’s not ideal no matter when, coming in this time of year in meaningful games,” Cassidy said of plugging Forsbacka Karlsson into this situation. “You know, if you’re eliminated or in those situations and there are teaching moments. I mean, there are teaching moments no matter what, but that’s kind of where we’re at and it’s a good thing.

“But, really the only thing we talked to him about was, ‘Listen, you’re playing against men. They’re going to be hard on pucks, hard around the pucks, so that will be the biggest difference maker for you.” So, and I think he probably found that out today because, you know, he was positionally solid and he didn’t hurt us.”

“They’re bigger, they’re stronger, they make better decisions, go faster. You have less time with the puck, it’s everything like that,” Forsbacka Karlsson said after the debut when asked about going from college right to the pros. “I felt better and better as the game went on. Obviously, it’s a little bit of an adjustment, but once you warm up a little bit it feels better.”

With Tim Schaller skating in game action for the first time since Mar. 8 (15 games ago), and Brad Marchand’s suspension over for Game 1 of the club’s first round series, it’s unlikely that the Bruins will play Forsbacka Karlsson right out of the gate come playoff time, but with the first NHL dip out of the way, the Black and Gold know that it’s only up from here.

“[Forsbacka Karlsson]’s just going to be harder around the battles and every young player learns that and the quicker you can adapt to that, probably the better, the easier the transition is going to be for you,” Cassidy said.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Brandon Carlo left Saturday's game with an upper-body injury. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

Brandon Carlo left Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins entered their regular season finale already down one top-four defenseman in Torey Krug, but Alex Ovechkin bumped that figure up one when he railed Brandon Carlo from behind early in the first period of Saturday’s game in Boston.

Guided towards the corner and off balance (seemingly largely thanks to a hook from Ovechkin), Carlo went face first into the boards, crumbled in a heap, and slowly made his way down the tunnel for the rest of the night, done after 4:00 of time on ice.

“He’s upper body,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Carlo after the game. “Obviously we’ll get it evaluated and see where he’s at. Didn’t look good when it happened, but I don’t know how he’ll be, but it’s upper body.”

Although the hit came and went without a penalty, Cassidy clearly was not a fan of the B’s losing their No. 2 defender for nothing.

“Oh I didn’t like it,” Cassidy said of the hit. “I mean he, I thought – I don’t think it was intentional, you know, to hit a guy from behind. It looked like he held up but he still grabbed him and he was in a vulnerable spot and he went head first into the glass and generally there’s a call on that. Sometimes two, sometimes five, but to have no call at all I thought was wrong, incorrect.”

The Bruins will have tomorrow off, so it’s unlikely that you’ll hear any update on the 20-year-old Carlo.

One of two Bruins skaters to have played in all 82 games this year, Carlo has recorded six goals and 16 points this year, and ranked third among Bruins in blocked shots (115 blocks) and average time on ice, with 20:48 per night.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Given the way the last two years played out, it almost felt unnatural to wake up for today’s regular season finale and realize that the Bruins, who clinched the playoffs for the first time since 2014 with last Tuesday’s win over Tampa Bay, were not in a do-or-die situation.

The Capitals defeated the Bruins by a 3-1 final on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Capitals defeated the Bruins by a 3-1 final on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Given the way the last two years played out, it almost felt unnatural to wake up for today’s regular season finale and realize that the Bruins, who clinched the playoffs for the first time since 2014 with last Tuesday’s win over Tampa Bay, were not in a do-or-die situation.

That’s not to say that they couldn’t make life interesting, or that there was nothing for the Bruins to play for in Saturday’s midday visit from a anything-but-resting Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals group.

With the Senators taking care of business against the Rangers in a matinee affair, a win against the Caps and the Bruins would have locked themselves in the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic for a first-round showdown with those Senators. A loss, however, and the Bruins would have to wait to know their fate (a throwback to last year) thanks to the Maple Leafs’ remaining games, and whether it would involve a series in Ottawa, or a drop down into the second wild card to take on the Capitals in the opening round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Naturally, the Bruins opted for the second choice, as a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Capitals has put them back in a waiting game.

Down Noel Acciari (upper-body) and Torey Krug (lower-body), the Bruins came into this game operating with the decision not to rest anybody with the exception of Tuukka Rask (rest) given what was at stake for the club. But that decision to sit the 30-year-old Rask, who has been on fire for the Bruins of late, for Anton Khudobin took just one shot and 4:21 to bite the Bruins.

On an odd-man rush off a bad line change, it went Justin Williams to Marcus Johansson as the Caps swept through the Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo pairing with ease before Johansson beat a sprawled Khudobin for his 24th goal of the season. It was not the only deficit of the first period, either, as an Alex Ovechkin hit on Carlo from behind knocked the 20-year-old out of the game.

In a game that ramped up with intensity and post-whistle nonsense, the Bruins finally answered when Colin Miller scored his sixth goal of the season on a finish of a Drew Stafford net-front chance, and the Bruins were back in it.

…For all of 56 seconds.

The Capitals immediately responded with a goal from Kevin Shattenkirk tucked right under the crossbar, and added a third when Justin Williams atoned for his goaltender interference nullification of a would-be goal just moments prior and connected for 24th goal of the season, scored at the 19:10 mark of the second period. From there, and as Khudobin exited due to a sickness, it was all over for the Bruins, who put just seven shots on net in the third and final period of play of a listless, don’t-get-hurt loss.

 

So now the Bruins wait.

The good news, in addition to them, y’know, already being in the playoffs is that their fate depends on just one team: the Maple Leafs. Behind the Bruins by just two points and with two games left, the Bruins need the Leafs to lose just one game in regulation to hang onto the No. 3 seed and assure themselves of a first-round matchup with the Senators, as that would make the Leafs incapable of passing the Bruins in points (and the Bruins hold the regulation/overtime win tiebreaker). But if the Leafs finish their year 2-0-0 or 1-0-1, then it’s onto D.C. as the East’s second wild card for a date with the Capitals. The Bruins do catch a slight break in those two games, however, as the Leafs will play the Penguins tonight and the Blue Jackets tomorrow.

It’s not hard to figure out where the Bruins’ rooting interests should be this weekend, too.

As they showed for 60 minutes today — and without Braden Holtby in their crease, too — the Capitals are a buzzsaw of a nightmare for the Bruins. And the positive vibes of a playoff berth would probably last just five games in a series with them. Draw Ottawa and maybe you’re not talking about a guaranteed win (the Sens swept the season series), but you’re talking about a deep series where the Black and Gold could have a legitimate chance of making noise on into the second round.

Next up for the Bruins? Somewhere in a country’s capital.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Bard Marchand. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

Bard Marchand. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

The NHL Awards have more resembled the Academy Awards in recent years due to the predictability of the winners and general lack of suspense for the most part. But this year has real potential for a neck-and-neck finish between “superstar grinder” Sidney Crosby and sophomore sensation Connor McDavid. It’s basically “LA LA LAND” vs. “MOONLIGHT.”

As for the Nose Face Killah (Brad Marchand), a strong showing in the last two games of the season could have solidified his case to be one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy (MVP voted on by PHWA). Alas, the two-game suspension for his crudely executed vasectomy attempt on Tampa Bay’s Jake Dotchin ensures he will finish the season with a still quite impressive 39-46—85 in 80 games played but he can finish no higher than fourth in NHL scoring.

Pat Kane won the award last year so, much like Meryl Streep, he’ll be in the running this year. The question is whether he gets bumped as a finalist for San Jose’s hirsute, dynamic D-man Brent Burns or Sergei Bobrovsky, the brilliant Blue Jackets goalie. But it won’t matter either because there’s a new sheriff in town. And his name is Connor McDavid. Ample points lead. Most points per game. Resurrected a dead franchise into a possible contender. He’s your Hart winner this year and quite possibly half of the next 16 seasons or so.

However, Burns won’t be shut out. Because the Norris Trophy has become the de facto award for highest scoring defenseman award rather than best D, he’s the favorite with 29-46—75 totals. But take into account his overall play and he feels like a shoe-in. Simply, Burns has been a beast for San Jose this season and will beat out the two phenomenal Swedes in Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman for the Norris.

If it wasn’t for Winnipeg’s teenage sniper Patrik Laine, who will eventually replace Alex Ovechkin as the game’s premier scorer, it’s possible (likely?) that all three finalists for the Calder Trophy would wear the blue and white Maple Leaf on their chest. Despite impressive rookie campaigns from Mitch Marner and William Nylander, their teammate Auston Matthews will waltz away with the ROY. He has two more games to crack 40 goals and already has the most ever goals by an American rookie, which is nuts. Laine will get some votes, and deservedly so, but Matthews is going to the playoffs. Add in the fact he plays in Toronto and it’s a no-brainer.

Even though he became just the third goalie in league history to win at least 40 games in three straight years, Braden Holtby will have his work cut out for him in order to win back to back Vezina Trophies. Sergei Bobrovsky has one fewer win and two fewer shutouts than Holtby but beats him in save percentage and goals against. Devan Dubnyk tailed off after a torrid start but should still be a finalist. This is a two horse race but Bob saw 155 more shots and gave up three fewer goals in addition to leading in the two major goalie stats so he’ll win his second Vezina in five years.

The Ted Lindsay Award is the most outstanding player as voted on by the NHLPA so it just carries a different set of biases than the media-selected Hart. Regardless, it’ll carry the same result—-Connor McDavid.

The most wide-open award is for the Jack Adams for Coach of the Year which is selected by the broadcasters. It typically goes to a young upstart or an established coach reviving a moribund team. There’s a dearth of the usual obvious candidates this year so it’ll be interesting to see who the finalists are (and thus, the criteria used to decide). But Minnesota’s Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim’s Randy Carlyle, Toronto’s Mike Babcock, and Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper should all warrant serious consideration. However, East Coast Bias is very real and Toronto, even if not quite the East Coast, will see Babcock rewarded with his first Jack Adams for leading a pack of kids to the playoffs.

As for the Lady Byng? Uhh, wut?

Blog Author: 
Rear Admiral

The Bruins had near perfect attendance at their final practice before the conclusion of their regular season slate.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson's immigration issues have been cleared up. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s immigration issues have been cleared up. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s work visa issues were solved about 30 minutes too late on Thursday night, as the highly-touted prospect had to sit and watch as a spectator for the second game in a row since officially signing his entry-level deal with the Bruins last Sunday.

But finally cleared to join the roster, and with one game left in the regular season, the moment for ‘JFK’ to make his NHL debut has seemingly presented itself with Saturday’s visit from the Capitals.

“He’s a possibility for sure,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Forsbacka Karlsson playing tomorrow. “With some of our injured guys getting much closer to playing we’ll have some decisions to make tomorrow morning, but he could certainly get in.”

A two-year standout with Boston University, with 24 goals and 63 points in 78 games for the Terriers over the course of his NCAA career, the 20-year-old has played the part of student on into his NHL career, as a quiet, back-of-the-room presence that’s simply watching how many Bruins go about their business.

“He’s quiet, I’ll tell you that. He’s like a lot of young guys, just going about his business trying to fit in, so to speak, right now,” Cassidy said. “I understand he’s a very solid 200-foot player and if he gets in the lineup we’ll expect him to play to his strengths and see what he’s got, but he’s a bit of an unknown obviously. Most guys are [in] their first pro game.

“A Nice kid, seems very cerebral. Understands when you’re talking systems and will interact with you in that area.”

(Forsbacka Karlsson, by the way, said that he feels ‘up to speed’ on the B’s system and their desired style of play.)

Able to participate in last night’s warmup, Forsbacka Karlsson seems done with NHL teasers and is raring to go for his first game.

“I’m ready to go, absolutely,” Forsbacka Karlsson, who played center in his college career, said following Friday’s practice.

If given the call tomorrow, Forsbacka Karlsson would become the 10th Bruins player to have made his NHL debut for the club this season, which would be the most first-year talents to suit up for the Bruins since 2005-06.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson