Round 1, Game 1 Hotstove

A round table discussion of some Game 1 topics

Given the complete absence of playoff history between the Sens and Bruins, where would you say your hate level for the Bruins is going in to game 1?

Trevor: As someone living in Vancouver, I lived through the Canucks-Bruins final in 2011. The Bruins were an incredibly dirty and frustrating team, plus all the people around me hated them more than anything. I certainly hated them back then, but I don't have nearly the same vitriol as I do towards the Canadiens or the Maple Leafs anymore. That could easily change with a Brad Marchand slew foot though. I can't imagine my hate for them going down.

Beata: I definitely think I hate the Bruins more than the average Sens fan. My mom is a die-hard Canucks fan, so back in 2011, I was really into the Canucks. My hatred for the Bruins has obviously died down since then, but I'm ready for that to come back over the course of this series. They're an easy team to hate.

Ross: I think my hate level is around a 3. Brad Marchand accounts for all 3 of those. No lies, in the 2011 Finals, I wanted Chara and Kelly to win a Cup. I'm sure if you ask me in Game 3 though, it'll be ramped up to an 8/10 though.

Callum: In my opinion, the Boston Bruins may be the dirtiest team in the NHL and have been for a long time. The rivalry between the two teams hasn't been quite that noticeable the past decade, but their style of play gets on my nerves quite enough. There's no room in hockey for some of the garbage that their players pull.

Ross: Other than Marchand, who is easy to hate (spearing, slewfoots, that clip of him saying "I was hoping to get 5" after lying on the ice after a head hit), who do you have an issue with Callum?

Callum: I think the overall philosophy of the team is to play on the edge or beyond. You couldn't count the amount of cheap shots they handed out to the Canucks in 2011 and throughout that entire playoff run. I understand guys like Horton, Lucic and others have moved on, but I still see nonsense from current players all the time.

Ross: OK Lucic is a fair point. Could McQuaid be that kind of guy?

Callum: Definitely.

Adnan: I have absolutely no hatred for the Bruins. I see how much Jack Edwards and their fans hate the Habs, and I nod in approval.

Colin: Besides small rivalries with relatives, and my faint memories of rooting for the Canucks in the Cup Finals, I can't say I have real reason to hate to Boston Bruins. Even just the fact that they had Chris Kelly for a while negated any sort of loathing I had for them.

That doesn't mean these teams have some history, which combined with both being top ten in penalty minutes this season, could send some sparks flying. The Sens eliminated Boston from the playoffs two years in a row, which has already prompted some chirping from Boston's side. Then there's the whole Alex Burrows biting scenario from 2011, and I'm sure Dion Phaneuf and Clarke MacArthur still have the 2013 playoff loss fresh in their minds. And who can forget Chris Neil's big game from 2012, throwing the biggest hit I've ever seen hit on Johnny Boychuk, and following that up by taking down Zdeno Chara.

So although none of this has made me hate the Bruins personally, it could potentially trigger some mayhem in round one.

nkb: Brad Marchand is a real piece of work, but I otherwise don't have much antipathy towards the Bruins. Others have brought up the B's history with Burrows and Phaneuf but to me those two a) are not exactly my favourite players on the Sens and b) got into their conflicts with Boston long before ever joining the Sens. I suspect by the end of this series, I'll have stronger feelings of dislike but for now I'm hovering at about 2 on a scale of 1-10.

Some of you seem largely indifferent to the Bruins. What do you think it will take to crank that up for you by the end of the game?

nkb: For me it's a similar situation to the Sens relationship with the Habs before their two recent play-off series: there just hadn't been much by the way of real, meaningful animosity. A massive fight and a slash that broke Mark Stone's hand changed that for me. If (when?) the Bruins do something similar I'll change my tune.

Adnan: Probably something like a dirty play causing an injury to Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman or Mark Stone. That or the unlikely scenario of Ottawa dominating play but the Bruins getting lucky and winning. But even that would likely be short lived. Ottawa had a tough seven game series against the New York Rangers and it created no long term hatred towards them from me. Usually I hate teams because of me getting annoyed with their fans (Montréal) or hating their players (Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh).

Ross: I don't think anyone hated the Rangers after that series, which is very odd because Alfie was injured and Matt Carkner went to town on Brian Boyle. I have no more ill-will for them now than I did before that series.

Also I think what it will take is a notable play, one way or the other. I didn't hate the Habs until that stupid Gryba hit and suspension. I loved to hate them after the Pageau hat-trick and the line brawl and Therrien looking like a bumbling fool. Something like that could happen and I would probably tilt in the direction of hating them.

Ary: Like Ross stated, I think it'd be very easy for me to despise the Bruins by the end of the series, but right now, I'm probably around a 3/10. In fact, my Atlantic Division hate-o-meter is currently: Toronto + Montreal, Buffalo, Detroit, Boston, Florida, Tampa and has been that way for a long time. Given the injuries on both sides, this could get nasty really quick if a player (say Stone, Karlsson; Pastrnak, Krejci) goes down, and there's definitely enough toughness on both sides (Burrows, Smith, Borowiecki; McQuaid, Stafford, Backes).

We've been focusing on the health of the Ottawa lineup, but word out of Boston on Monday was that Torey Krug is out for tonight (and possibly the series), as well as Brandon Carlo. Can Ottawa take advantage of Boston's suddenly thinning blue line?

Trevor: I think they can. Charlie McAvoy is the wildcard in this, as he's a 19-year old coming out of college, but he has the potential to make a real impact. Even if he does help out, he will not be as good as Krug, plus nobody knows how long Carlo will be out.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to Tuukka Rask though. He can be incredible like he was in the final stretch of the season, or he can be quite bad (as evidenced by his mediocre .915 SV%). If he's on his game, it won't really matter if Boston's defence is thin. If anything, Ottawa should be able to get more chances than usual.

Ross: Ottawa's own thin blue line pales in comparison to Boston's here. I'm a little worried about the Sens' defence with Karlsson, Methot, and Ceci possibly hurt, but if Krug and Carlo are out, Ottawa's in better shape. Suddenly 73-year-old Zdeno Chara might be their best defenceman again. I don't expect a lot out of McAvoy, because he hasn't played much pro hockey per night. I think he'll be fine for 16 minutes per night or something, but he can't replace Carlo or Krug. Suddenly you'll have Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller (two guys who are worse at handling the puck than Mark Borowiecki) playing big minutes. Ottawa should feast on this. Also notable is that Krug was the quarterback of the Bruins' first power play. If he's out for a while, the Bs' power play should suffer.

Adnan: It is certainly better to play them with some regulars out. It is hard to say if Ottawa is going to be able to capitalize because Erik Karlsson hasn't played since Tuesday. He was hurt enough not to play a massive game against Boston last week. Is he going to be at 90%? 70%?

nkb: Torey Krug is the big loss here for Boston. Zdeno Chara has the name recognition, and he still plays a crucial role, but Krug is their most impactful defender. With Krug on the ice this season, the Bruins have gotten almost 58% of the shot attempts 5v5 (which is an astonishing number). He's also their best skater on the blue line and a fantastic passer. If Krug is missing any meaningful amount of time in this series, it will have a material impact on Boston's offence -- the Sens will need to take full advantage.

Ary: Krug is the player that stirs the pot for the Bruins and he has been for a long-time ever since he was signed as a college FA (some of them turn out good!) from Michigan State. The Bruins are going to hope that McAvoy pulls a Werenski and can fill in admirably, but the key difference is that Werenski had the Calder Cup playoffs to adjust to the pro game while McAvoy is coming off of competition like current Sens healthy scratch, Colin White.

He's good, and Chara will insulate him a bit, but I think the Sens can take advantage if they forecheck him aggressively. If given space to transition, McAvoy has the skill to burn them.

As Adnan points out, whether Ottawa can take advantage mainly depends on the health of their *own* star, Erik Karlsson, who said he was fine and can clearly have an impact on one leg. Keep in mind, this is the same dude who scored the first goal of the infamous Habs - Sens series in 2013 after his Achilles injury, and more recently, the player who played 30:11 and finished with two points in an emergency situation.

Ross: Ary, was the college FA thing a shot at Matt O'Connor or Bobby Butler? Or Jesse Winchester? *sobs*

Ary: Funnily enough, Matt O'Connor is staying with the Sens as the third goaltender when Chris Driedger is clearly the better player, so I don't know if that means something...

(but yes, it was a shot at the Sens management group, really)

It's been less than a week since the last time these two teams played each other, but both teams were missing their top player. How does the return of Karlsson and Marchand change things from last Thursday?

Trevor: Well first of all, I'd say that Patrice Bergeron is more important than Brad Marchand. Nevertheless, getting him back is huge for them. But the Senators rely on Erik Karlsson much more than the Bruins rely on Marchand. I just can't see Ottawa even being competitive without Karlsson, but Boston would still have a fighting chance without Marchand.

It's also important to note that their best defenceman Torey Krug will be out for this series, and Brandon Carlo should miss some games. That might have just as big of an effect as missing Marchand, so Ottawa is in a much better spot compared to last Thursday.

Ross: I'm with Trevor on the first part. Bergeron isn't the flashy scorer, but he's the best player on the Bs. The return of Karlsson is a bigger boost for the Sens than Marchand is for the Bruins, because Karlsson is a generational game-breaking talent while Marchand is "merely" an elite scorer.

The other thing that changes is Marchand is a pest but also a bit of a loose cannon. His return means this series could get ugly, or he could get a match penalty and anger his own fans.

Adnan: I think Karlsson's return is a lot bigger. Boston is the better and deeper team on paper, so they could afford to lose one player more than Ottawa could. On the other hand, Marchand was just suspended and should be 100% ready to go. No one knows how hurt Karlsson is at the moment.

nkb: Karlsson's return is more impactful simply by virtue of how much more ice time he plays than Marchand; this is no slight to the B's winger, who is one of the very best in the game. It'll be interesting to see how Boucher handles his match-ups throughout this series, but his tendency this season has been to deploy Phaneuf and Ceci as his "shut-down" pairing. In my opinion, that would be a mistake against the extremely speedy Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line. Instead, I suspect we'll see a lot of Erik Karlsson out there against Boston's top trio; we'll know who makes the bigger impact soon enough.

Ary: Karlsson > Marchand in terms of impact on their respective teams, but while Boston has the forward depth to survive a zesty, silly Marchand and even an injured Krejci, Ottawa doesn't have the D depth to survive an injured Karlsson. What I'll be looking for is to see if Boucher matches Karlsson up against Bergeron right away, hoping that the two stars play it even and win the depth game, or if he looks to hard-match Pageau + Phaneuf - Ceci against the Boston group, hope Anderson can hold them at bay, and unleash Karlsson against the weaker competition (especially given his injury).

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