The Boston Bruins still don’t know exactly who their first-round opponent is going to be between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, but they do know they’ll commence the Stanley Cup playoffs on the road.
With two games remaining, the Bruins and Islanders are still battling it out for the third and fourth seeds in the East Division, but both teams will begin the postseason as the lower seeds on the road. The Penguins have clinched the top seed in the East and the Capitals have locked into the No. 2 seed, but it remains to be seen what the final matchups are going to be in the opening round.
Fortunately, the Stanley Cup playoff mathematics does allow for the Boston Bruins to begin wrapping their brains around starting the postseason as the road team.
“At the end of the day our home and road records are both very similar. Our guys are good that way, so if we’re playing the right way [we] feel they have a really good chance to win no matter where they are playing,” said Bruce Cassidy of the Bruins, who are 17-7-3 at TD Garden and 15-8-4 on the road this season one game each left to go in the regular season. “We’re going to start on the road, so we’re not going to have the luxury of [the matchups] and my philosophy is that I’ve never liked chasing the matchups. It gets players out of their rhythm. I prefer the challenge of ‘Hey, you’ve got to beat the guy across from you and you’ve got to be able to play against the guy across from you.’ We build that in through the year, so it’s not a shock to the system come the playoffs when a line is out there against, say, a Crosby and Ovechkin and they’re like ‘What am I doing out here? This is not my job.’
“Yes, we prefer certain matchups and icings and coming in and out of timeouts you can re-establish those. On the road if you want a Bergeron on a Crosby and you’re getting away from it, you can certainly come back with a double shift of a line to get a certain matchup back if need be. But they’ll control that. My philosophy is that [every line] should be able to play against anybody. The D-pairings are more important, but it’s a lot easier to change and get your pairing matchups without losing the rhythm of the game. That’s something we look forward more than the forward groups.”
Cassidy said the Bruins’ strategy centers much more around getting certain, specific five-man groupings out on the ice together rather than hard matchups against the other team. At times in the past, playoff opponents have more so created problems for themselves by playing the matchup game with the Perfection Line.
But this season, more than the recent past, the Bruins are going to present much bigger matchup issues given their depth and quality up and down the lineup.
The Black and Gold want Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk out there with the Perfection Line to create a puck-moving, offensive force, and Jeremy Lauzon and Kevan Miller will likely be slugging out with the bottom-6 lines as defense-first options.
Either way, though, the Boston Bruins are ready for the business trip mindset on the road to start the playoffs once things get going most likely toward the end of this week.