I did the same for him, so stay tuned to see my answers.
1. What’s the biggest difference between this Bruins team and the one the Canes faced in the Eastern Conference Final last year?
The team is very similar, but I’d argue that the biggest difference is the biggest concern: the depth that was there last year may not be there this year. I say “may not” because the Bruins don’t really know. They acquired depth at the deadline in Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase, but the two barely had any time to get their legs under them before the pandemic shut things down. Throw in an extended absence for both during camp, and “not on the same page” concerns run rampant.
Last year, the Bruins had a potent third line that just seemed to click, as Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle, and Marcus Johansson fit well together. Heinen is gone, Johansson is gone and Coyle has been playing with “Pick a Wing” on either side.
My biggest concern would be that the Bruins can’t figure out their middle six. The first line is going to score...it’s really only a matter of time. The fourth line is decent, if not spectacular. It’s that middle six that could either click and run Carolina out of the building or be a black hole of production-free hockey.
One of those trios has to click, whether it’s DeBrusk-Krejci-Kase, Ritchie-Krejci-Kase...someone.
2. How much concern, if any, is there about the Bruins’ round-robin performance?
Among fans in general? A ton. People are panicking, saying the season is over, Canes in 4, etc.
For me? Not much. These games really didn’t matter. Home ice is meaningless in this bizarro world. It’s fair to say that it’s blind optimism talking, but I just can’t see how the Bruins could completely fall apart once the real games start.
The Hurricanes are a good team, but so are the Bruins. While the Bruins looked bad against Philly, they played well against Tampa and Washington. In a regular season, losing three games to the other top three teams in your conference isn’t cause for panic. It shouldn’t be here either.
Game 1 will be a good indicator. If the Bruins come out flat again, I might have to change my tune. But something tells me the team will be able to turn things up a notch once the playoff games start.
3. What do the Bruins need to do to win this series?
I’d say the goals are the same for either team, really: limit the top line, win the special teams battle and hope your depth can carry you.
I feel like the series will likely turn on which team’s “not first line” guys can produce more. To me, it’s a push; both teams have decent guys in the mix, but they have to put it together. Assuming the first lines cancel each other out, it’s going to come down to what the second and third lines can do.
The Bruins have a better goalie, a more potent first line (though it’s close), and way more experience, though in this kind of season, who knows how much that will matter.
4. We all know about the Bruins’ top line of Pastrnak, Marchand and Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Tuuka Rask. Who’s an under the radar player or two that could have an impact for Boston?
Charlie Coyle is a guy who grew up just outside of Boston and joined the Bruins at the deadline in 2019, and he’s been good for them. He was especially good in the middle rounds of last year’s playoffs, and has really been the third-line center the Bruins have been missing for years. If he can find some chemistry with Anders Bjork and one of Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase, Karson Kuhlman, or Jake DeBrusk, the Canes could be in trouble.
Another guy who’s worth watching is Sean Kuraly. He plays on the fourth line and didn’t have a very good regular season this year, but is one of those guys who has a knack for scoring big goals (Game 7 vs. Toronto in 2019, winner at Notre Dame in the Winter Classic, big goal in his home state of Ohio against the Blue Jackets last spring). He’s not flashy and not an elite talent, but he’s someone who just seems to be there when the heat gets turned up.
5. Give our readers some interesting Bruins Twitter follows for the series.
You can follow us at @cupofchowdah, as our staff shares that account. Conor Ryan of the Boston Sports Journal is a great Bruins follow too, as he always posts the highlights of all of the key plays in real time. Matt Porter of the Boston Globe is good too, as is Ty Anderson from 98.5 The Sports Hub.
You can follow me at bruinshockeynow, but I’m not sure if my takes are worth it.