NHL Eastern Conference Playoffs: Carolina Hurricanes vs Boston Bruins series preview and predictions

The series to start the 2021-2022 NHL playoffs on Monday is the #1 vs #4 matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Boston Bruins. The Bruins, being the 1st wild-card team, get to play the lower of the #1 seeds in the Hurricanes and jump from the Atlantic Division to the Metropolitan Division for the first 2 rounds.

Even though these teams weren’t in the same division, they still played each other 3 times. This means there is still some familiarity, even if the last time they played was in early February. Let’s break down the teams and look at the best bet for the series.

Breaking down the Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes had an amazing season, winning the Metropolitan Division with 116 points. However, that could all come crashing down due to an injury to top netminder Frederik Andersen. Andersen is the backbone of the Hurricanes and had an outstanding season, ranking 3rd in save percentage with a mark of .922 and 2nd with a 2.17 goals against average for goalies with more than 10 games played. Andersen was also a stud in the advanced stats as he was 2nd in goals saved above expected. The Hurricanes will likely turn to backup goalie Antti Raanta, who wasn’t bad as he ranked 16th in goals saved above expected, but he’s still not Andersen.

On top of the goaltending, the Hurricanes had an offense that was near the top 5. They applied pressure on the attack at an amazing rate, ranking 2nd in expected goals. They converted that pressure at a top-10 rate, ranking 9th in goals on the season. Defensively, they relied on Andersen a little more heavily than they would probably have liked. They were average at keeping the scoring chances down, ranking 14th in expected goals against, while Andersen helped clean up any of that pressure, leading the way to the Hurricanes allowing the lowest number of goals this season.

Although Andersen was a huge factor in the Hurricanes’ success this season, they still have a team in front of the goalies that can take care of business. Look for Carolina to step up and support Raanta in this series to make his life as easy as possible.

Breaking down the Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins come into the series as arguably the best defensive team in the NHL. They play a disciplined defensive game, not only from their defensemen, but from the forwards, led by captain and past Selke Trophy winner for the best defensive forward, Patrice Bergeron. The commitment to defense showed as they finished the season ranked 1st in expected goals against. Even with the goaltending not being top tier, as projected series starter Jeremy Swayman ranked 75th in goals saved above expected, the Bruins still finished 4th in goals allowed.

Offensively, the Bruins are a little top-heavy when looking at production. They were led in scoring by 4 forwards, including leading pointscorer Brad Marchand and leading goalscorer David Pastrnak. There was a pretty steep drop-off in the forward production from 4th to 5th place in terms of scoring. That lack of depth caused the Bruins to rank just above average in both expected goals and goals scored on the season. If the top forwards get stopped, the Bruins could be in for a quick series.

The Bruins will need to make sure the defensive strategy is executed to near-perfection in order to stop the Hurricanes. If the top forwards can produce early and often and get to the backup goaltending of he Hurricanes, they can make this a very interesting series.

Carolina Hurricanes vs Boston Bruins series prediction: Hurricanes 4-2

The Hurricanes were much more than just Andersen during the season. They have a decent defense in front of a very capable backup goalie in Raanta and have scoring on all 4 lines. The Bruins’ lack of depth scoring scares me as if the Hurricanes push the play and break the Bruins’ defense, Boston will struggle to keep up. I’m taking the Hurricanes -120 to win the series.

The Hurricanes proved in their 3 games this year that they can break down the Bruins, as not only did they sweep them, they embarrassed them, outscoring them 16-1 in the regular-season series.

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