The Eastern Conference playoffs are setting up to be incredible. Every team in the Conference looks like it has the potential to go on a run, nobody should be considered a clear favorite in any potential opening round matchup, and seven of the eight playoff teams currently sit among the top-10 of the league standings by points percentage (Washington, at .621, is 12th in the NHL).
For most of the season the same teams have been getting the bulk of the attention, while everybody has their own storyline. Carolina might be the most complete team. Florida is the most exciting team. Tampa Bay is the reigning (back-to-back) champions. Toronto is the team that just naturally lives in the spotlight. Pittsburgh and Washington still have their hockey legends doing what they have done for the past decade-and-a-half. New York has a potential MVP and is the team on the rise.
The team that keeps sliding unnoticed under the radar? The old reliable Boston Bruins. They entered the season with what looked to be — on paper — their most flawed roster in years with some fairly significant question marks, especially given the departure of David Krejci and the eventual retirement of long-time franchise goalie Tuukka Rask.
As the regular season enters the stretch run the Bruins are one of the hottest teams in the league with everything starting to come together for them at just the exact right time.
They were 6-3 winners over the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon, improving them to 14-2-1 over their past 17 games and helping them climb into the top-three of the Atlantic Division. Since January 1 they are 27-9-1, a .731 points percentage that is the third-best mark in the league during that stretch behind only the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers.
There is nothing to indicate that it is a fluke or any sort of an unsustainable run, either.
Defensively, the Bruins remain one of the league’s toughest teams to generate offense against, currently sitting in the top-six across the board in terms of shot attempts, scoring chances against, expected goals against, and goals against. In most of those categories they are in the top-three. They also have a top-10 penalty kill.
The addition of Hampus Lindholm on the blue line looks like it has the potential to make them even better. In a very brief sampling, Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy have looked downright dominant as a pairing so far. As good as McAvoy is, giving him a partner as good as Lindholm could really give the Bruins a top-tier top pairing.
At forward, Patrice Bergeron is quite literally as good as he has ever been defensively and along with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak gives the Bruins an elite trio of forwards. But they have had that for years. The concern in recent seasons has been their scoring depth, and even that is starting to come together right now. After slow starts to the season Taylor Hall and Craig Smith are starting to become real scoring threats in secondary roles.
The big question is going to be Jeremy Swayman in net, but he has been rock solid for much of the season and really solidified that position.
Boston may not be getting as much attention as some of the other teams in the East, but they have the potential to absolutely wreck somebody’s postseason. There are going to be no easy matchups anywhere in the Eastern Conference in these playoffs, but Boston is starting to look like a particularly fierce matchup given their defensive play, top-talents, and how much of an impact Lindholm could make to their top defense pairing. If you have not been paying much attention to them this season. You should start. Right now. Because they are not going away without a fight.