Boston Bruins

Oct 28, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) tries to move the puck past Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin (74) during the third period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

For the sixth straight year, for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons, the Bruins are indeed bound for the postseason.

And though the Bruins know they’re going to the playoffs, they have no clue who they’ll be playing when the postseason gets underway as early as May 2nd.

Currently in the top wild card spot in the East, the Bruins could finish as high as second in the Atlantic Division bracket, or could drop down to the second wild card. They could even take care of business between now and the end of the season and still end as a 100-and-something point wild card team. It’s that strong a conference this season.

But with the field set, who is and isn’t on the table for the Bruins in round one?

  • Florida Panthers

    Oct 30, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Taylor Hall (71) controls the puck away from Florida Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour (62) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 30, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Taylor Hall (71) controls the puck away from Florida Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour (62) during the second period at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    Comfortably atop the East with 114 points, the Panthers are the cream of the crop in the conference this season, and will draw the second wild card in the East to begin the 2022 playoffs.

    Already boasting an embarrassment of riches on their roster, the Panthers further loaded up with deadline acquisitions of defenseman Ben Chiarot and forward Claude Giroux, and have gone a straight-up silly 12-1-0 since the deadline. The Panthers also rank first in goals per game (4.19), first in shots per game (37.7), and sixth in power-play percentage (23.9 percent), and have seven of the league’s top 100 scorers for the 2021-22 season.

    Now, the obvious ‘but’ to the ridiculousness that has been their season is that the Panthers are going to be doubted by some until they get over the hump and actually win a playoff series. It’s just how it goes, especially when you look at the talent on that roster and their recent history, as the team failed to get out of the qualifying round in the 2020 postseason and dropped a six-game first-round series with the Lightning last year.

    The Bruins and Panthers haven’t seen one another since Oct. 30 (sick schedule you got there, NHL), which was a 3-2 shootout final that favored the Bruins just three days after the Panthers beat them by a 4-1 final in Sunrise. The sides will conclude their season series Apr. 26 in Boston.

  • Toronto Maple Leafs

    Nov 6, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell (36) is greeted by forward Auston Matthews (34) after a win over the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena. (Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports)

    Barring something that could only happen to the Maple Leafs, Toronto will finish the season locked into the second seed in the Atlantic Division bracket, meaning they’ll play the third seed in the Atlantic in the opening round of the playoffs. The Bruins currently sit three points behind the Lightning for that third-place finish, so it’s certainly possible that the Bruins make a push for that seed and draw the Maple Leafs in the first round for the fourth time since 2013.

    The past is enough to get you giddy at the thought, I know, but this is not a matchup that’s favored the Bruins in 2021-22.

    In two meetings between the sides in 2021-22, the Bruins have been outscored 11-6 on the way to an 0-2-0 head-to-head. The Maple Leafs were more than successful in their first-ever look at Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman, too, with six goals on 25 shots in 40 minutes against the 23-year-old in a Mar. 29 meeting at TD Garden. Given an early hook after two periods of play, it was the first (and still to date the only) time that Swayman had been pulled from a start.

    But, as always, there’s ghosts at play in this matchup, and the Leafs are still leaky in their own end and in goal.

  • Tampa Bay Lightning

    Mar 24, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) awaits a pass in front of Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) during the first period at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    A Bruins-Lightning series in the first round of the 2022 playoffs would take the Maple Leafs falling out of the top three in the Atlantic, which is borderline impossible at this point, so it’s probably best not to spend too much time analyzing this possibility. But if this ends up happening somehow, it’s certainly worth noting that this is the best the Bruins have looked against the Lightning in actual years, with a 3-0-1 record against the defending back-to-back champs this season.

  • Carolina Hurricanes

    Jan 18, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Carolina Hurricanes left wing Teuvo Teravainen (86) controls the puck while Boston Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton (75) defends during the first period at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    Given how the season series between these teams went down, with the Hurricanes not just sweeping the Bruins but outscoring them 16-1 along the way, wanting the Hurricanes in the first round seems insane. I know, I know, I know.

    But is it possible that drawing Carolina in the first round actually beats the alternative of say the Panthers or Leafs?

    For as good as the Hurricanes have been this season (and especially when the Bruins have seen them), Rod Brind’Amour’s club has hit a bit of a snag in the road over the last month or so, with an 8-8-3 record since Mar. 13. That point percentage is ranked 21st in the NHL over that span, and the Carolina power play ranks 26th over that stretch. The Hurricanes were also dealt an injury to starter and Vezina contender Frederik Andersen. Given Andersen’s considerably lengthy injury history, that’s a potentially huge blow. Especially when it comes to a head-to-head with the Bruins, as Andersen dominated Boston in all three wins this season and stopped all but one of the 99 shots thrown his way.

    Again, you shouldn’t outright want the Hurricanes, but if there’s a time to draw ’em, it just might be in the first round.

    Carolina currently sits atop the Metro, which with Florida likely to finish the year as the East’s top seed, almost certainly means they’d play the top wild card seed.

  • New York Rangers

    Feb 15, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) makes a save on Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) during overtime at Madison Square Garden. (Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)

    Making a push for the Hurricanes’ once-comfortable perch atop the Metro, there’s a legitimate chance that the Blueshirts finish the year as the Metro’s top seed, which could set them up for their first playoff showdown with the Bruins in nine years. The Bruins have gone winless against the Rangers thus far (the sides will conclude their season series Saturday in Boston), but the last meeting was a close one, as Jeremy Swayman and Igor Shesterkin dueled to a 2-1 shootout on Feb. 15.

    The Rangers have been a team powered by Shesterkin’s downright stupidly strong play and their lethal power play in 2021-22, but have been around the middle of the pack when it comes to five-on-five play.

  • Pittsburgh Penguins

    Apr 16, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) at a face-off during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 16, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) at a face-off during the second period at TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

    Another unlikely head-to-head in round one, the Bruins have history on their side here, as they have captured wins in 17 wins in their last 28 meetings with the Penguins dating back to 2014. The sides have split their season series to date with one win apiece, and with the Bruins defeating the Penguins by a 2-1 final to clinch a postseason berth last weekend. The Penguins are currently without starting goaltender Tristan Jarry on a week-to-week basis due to a broken bone in his foot.

  • Washington Capitals

    Apr 10, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41) prepares to make a save on Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) in the second period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 10, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41) prepares to make a save on Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73). (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

    This series won’t happen in the first round. I mean, it could, but the odds are just astronomically low, as the Capitals and Bruins cannot draw into the same bracket and face each other in the first round unless it comes with the Caps as the Metro’s top seed. For that to happen, the Capitals would essentially need to win out and need almost everybody in front of them to lose out. But the Capitals became the eighth and final team to clinch a spot in the East’s 2022 playoff mix on Sunday night with the Islanders’ loss to the Maple Leafs. These teams are more than familiar with one another, and they, uh, do not like each other.