1. Sens/Bruins hasn't been much of a rivalry because the teams have never met in the playoffs. Do you think there will be bad blood during this series?
There are enough agitators involved in this series to "develop hatred" in a hurry, so I think there will probably be some bad blood. With guys like Brad Marchand and Alex Burrows on either side, you know there will be scrums, shoving matches, etc. Most Bruins-Senators games have been fairly benign contests. The most notable ones I can think of are the Bruins coming back from two goals down in about two minutes a few years ago, and the Kaspars Daugavins spin-move game.
Most Bruins fans are kind of neutral on the Senators, but I expect that to change after a game or two, especially as fans (and players) start to get more and more frustrated by the 1-3-1.
2. The Bruins have been a dominant possession team sunk by some poor shooting luck and inconsistent goaltending. How much are you expecting from them this postseason?
It's hard to say. Given how bad they've looked at stretches this season, part of it is "happy to be here." However, they also have a lot of talent, and should probably have a better record than they do, especially when you look at some of the names on the roster. Their underlying metrics have been strong all season, and that started to see their luck improve under Bruce Cassidy.
Success to me this postseason would be winning a round and making some noise in the second; anything after that would be a bonus. Losing in the first round wouldn't necessarily be a clattering failure, but if the Bruins fail to at least make a series of it (e.g. going down in five games), it'd be very disappointing.
3. Will Brad Marchand be able to keep his temper, or will his antics get him in trouble again in the playoffs?
You'd hope he gets it by now and will keep things in check, but who knows, really? The last two games showed how important he is to this team. He's a pretty good point-producer in the playoffs, with 39 points in 66 games. He's a much better all-around player than he was the last time the Bruins were in the playoffs (2013-2014). In that postseason, he went goalless in 12 games. Needless to say, the Bruins are probably screwed if that happens again.
The problem I can see with this series is frustration. Guy Boucher's style is frustrating by nature, and for a guy like Marchand, who's great at picking up a head of steam in the neutral zone and carrying the puck in, the congestion could get annoying fast. Plus, throw in a guy like Burrows on the other side and it's kind of a powder keg.
I think he'll be OK, but as you saw against Tampa, you never know for sure.
4. Are you confident with Bruce Cassidy behind the bench entering this series, or would you rather have had Claude Julien?
Personally, I didn't want the Bruins to fire Julien. I think Cassidy has done a good job, but I also think a lot of the "improvements" people are seeing are just a combination of the Bruins regressing to the mean and confirmation bias: fans think that because there's a "new voice" things are different.
In reality, the system is pretty much the same. Cassidy hasn't changed a ton on defense, and his tinkering on offense has been limited to a lot more stretch passes and lobs into the offensive zone. The Bruins appear to be forechecking better under Cassidy, which obviously does wonders for their possession and quality scoring chances.
In a vacuum, I'd rather have Julien behind the bench. However, Cassidy's results are what got the Bruins here to begin with, so I'm interested to see what he can do: will he change his tactics on the fly? Can he make mid-series adjustments?
5. Which player on each team do you expect to have the biggest impact on the series?
It's a cop-out of an answer in that it's too easy, but it has to be the goalies. Having Tuukka Rask is a big reason why people say you can't count the Bruins out of making serious noise in the East come playoff time, as everyone knows a hot goalie can steal a series. Rask has alternated between being subpar and being excellent this year, with his more recent games falling under the "excellent" category.
Then you have Craig Anderson, a great story because of all he's dealt with off the ice, but a guy who's also having a pretty great season on it. Rask is a better goalie at this point in their careers, but Anderson is a guy who gets hot and gets locked in. If the
Bruins can't crack him early in Game 1, he could be lights out.
In one of these games, a goalie is going to steal his team a win that they had no business getting. Whichever guy does that is likely going to be on the team moving on to the second round.
And since that was such an easy answer, here's a better one: a random guy on the third line on each team. Both of these teams have the majority of their talent concentrated on the first line, with slightly less on the second and then a mixture of guys on the third. If a guy like Matt Beleskey or Ryan Spooner for the Bruins or JG Pageau or Tommy Wingels can chip in for either side, it'll be a huge boost.
6. And finally, who will win this series and in how many games?
Bruins in 6.