The Bruins’ Eastern Conference Finals series against the Carolina Hurricanes begins Thursday at 8 p.m. on home ice at TD Garden.
The Bruins defeated the Blue Jackets in six games in the NHL’s second round, while the Hurricanes completed a sweep of the Islanders on May 3. It’s the second playoff series in a row the Bruins have played a team coming off a sweep in the last round.
Here’s what NHL experts are saying about the Bruins’ chances against the Hurricanes:
Emily Kaplan, ESPN: Kaplan predicts the Eastern Conference Finals to go the distance, but she has the Bruins advancing to the Stanley Cup finals in Game 7.
Kaplan splits her assessment of the series into seven distinct categories: first line, depth, defense, goaltending, health, special teams, and coaching.
She awards the Bruins an advantage over Carolina on their first line, goaltending, health, and special teams. The Hurricanes win an advantage on defense, and Kaplan assesses the teams’ depth and coaching as even. Kaplan views the “Bunch of Jerks” as “major disrupters” in the NHL in 2019, but ultimately thinks the playoffs’ upset trend ends with the higher-seeded Bruins advancing.
“Tuukka Rask is playing some of the best hockey of his life. He had a .955 save percentage at even strength in the last four games of the Blue Jackets series, also stopping 26-of-27 high-danger shots (for a .963 save percentage) at even strength in that span,” Kaplan writes. “The Canes have two very capable goaltenders in Petr Mrazek (who started most of the playoffs) and Curtis McElhinney (who closed out the Islanders series when Mrazek was injured). They both have the capacity to lock in and steal a game, but neither is on Rask’s level right now.”
The Hockey News: Bruins in six games.
The Hockey News notes that maybe this surprising conference finals matchup is not so surprising after all. From Jan. 1 through the regular season’s end, the Bruins and Hurricanes were the third and fourth-best teams in the NHL. Though the playoffs have been full of upsets, THN surmises that it’s appropriate two of the league’s best teams in the season’s second-half should compete for a shot at the Stanley Cup.