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Boston Bruins Bracing For ‘Strong’, ‘Structured’ Carolina Hurricanes

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The Boston Bruins know they’ve been outscored 16-1 and haven’t even managed a single point in the three previous meetings, all losses, to the Carolina Hurricanes this season, but they also know the Stanley Cup playoffs are a different story. After all, this is also the same Hurricanes group that they’ve seen in two of the last three postseasons and dispatched them in each of those playoff series without all that much difficulty.

So, the experienced Boston Bruins know it will be a different story on both counts, both for better or for worse with different players and different points in their career. What the B’s are expecting is a fast, aggressive Canes team that’s going to press and check the Boston Bruins while boasting the NHL’s best defense allowing just 2.38 goals per game.

Certainly, some of that defense will rely on the goaltending situation where Freddie Andersen is a physical question mark to start the series with Antti Raanta expected to be seen between the pipes in Game 1. Meanwhile on the other side, the Boston Bruins are “still evaluating” their goalie situation with a share of playing time possible after Linus Ullmark likely gets the starting call for Game 1 on Monday night in Carolina.

But the Boston Bruins know firsthand that Carolina plays hard, has some high-end players like Sebastian Aho (10 goals, 16 points in 13 career games vs. Boston) that have consistently done damage to them in the past and based their whole concept around great coaching and defense-first players like Jaccob Slavin and Jordan Staal.

“Strong team, obviously. They had their way with us this year. Some of that was a while ago and our team is in a much better place than when we played them earlier in the year,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, referencing the fact that the Bruins and Hurricanes haven’t played each other since mid-February. “We’re not going to take too much stock in that. We have had some success against them in the playoffs recently. Two different teams, so you can’t take too much stock in that either other than it builds some experience for you.

“I’ve said it no matter who we got, Carolina, Toronto, last week New York was in the mix or even Tampa, they’re all good teams and have certain strengths. We expect Carolina to be a difficult opponent. They press, they’re a great skating team and they check well. We feel we can do the same thing, so it should be a great series.”

Do the Boston Bruins view themselves as underdogs given the regular season track record, and Carolina’s standing as Metro Division champs taking on a Boston Bruins team that finished in the top wild card?

Not likely at all.

“I haven’t even really thought about that. Once you’re in the playoffs, seedings really don’t matter,” said Charlie Coyle, who finished out playing in all 82 games for the Bruins this season. “It’s anyone’s game and anything can happen. I haven’t even really thought that. We’re just going to play our game that we’re capable of and see what happens.

“They have a solid team. We’ve seen it all year from them. They’re going to be a great challenge for us that we’re looking forward to. Those guys play well. They’re coached very well, and they play to their structure and had a lot of success this season. It’s a big opportunity and we’re just excited to get going and get that Game 1.”

It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out but expect a lot of pre-series talk about Carolina’s defense and structure, and how much of a challenge it’s going to be for a Boston Bruins offense that can, at times, experience trouble getting to the inside ice where the Hurricanes might be a little vulnerable this postseason.

Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston, WEEI.com, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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