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Need to Know: Bruins vs. Senators, First Round

Five things to watch for during the opening-round series

by Chris Weyant @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - The Bruins are set to kick off their quest for the Stanley Cup Wednesday night with their first-round series against the Ottawa Senators. The matchup marks the first postseason series in history between the teams.

There are plenty of storylines to watch for between the two Atlantic Division foes. Here is what you need to know:

BREAKING THE TRAP

Bruins fans can fondly recall the last time their team beat a Guy Boucher-led hockey club in the postseason. The Tampa Bay Lightning took the B's to Game 7 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Final, only to come up a goal short in a 1-0 loss at TD Garden.

Boucher employed the same type of 1-3-1 neutral zone trap in Tampa that the Bruins will face against Ottawa in their first-round matchup.

The Senators gave the Bruins fits during the regular season, winning all four contests. Despite the lack of result, the B's feel like they were able to find chinks in Ottawa's center-ice armor.

"The last few games, we had an easier time getting to their end to play," said interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, an Ottawa native. "We're going to look at our forecheck, how we get pucks back, and generate second chances. Those are the biggest keys."

A lot of hockey fans have likened the system the Senators play to that of the New Jersey Devils when they won the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000, and 2003.

Cassidy has seen that script play out for other teams before, and knows his team will need to stay even-keeled in order to have success.

"They want to frustrate you into turnovers, mismanagement of the puck - they tend to want to win low scoring games," said Cassidy.

"I think their systems are different," Cassidy added while comparing the Senators to the Devils of old. "But, the mindset of defense isn't. So, there are certainly some similarities in how they want to win the game and play the game."

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Two of the National Hockey League's premier goaltenders will take center stage in the first round series.

For the Bruins, Tuukka Rask will serve as the last line of defense. The B's have relied heavily on their goaltender, who is tied for third in the league with 65 total appearances. Rask is 37-20-5 with a 2.23 goals against average and a .915 save percentage, and is looking to help spark another deep postseason run for the Black & Gold.

"Tuukka just has to be Tuukka, really," Cassidy said of his goaltender, who he believes can be successful with some help in front of him.

"I don't think there's a magic formula for him. Just let him see pucks. We just have to do what we can to make sure we limit their second chances and scope out and box out."

The Senators will likely deploy Craig Anderson in the crease for the duration of the series. Anderson has one of the feel-good stories of the season, returning to the team after taking a leave of absence to be with his wife during her cancer treatments.

Anderson has been stellar in 40 games this season, posting a 25-11-4 record with a 2.28 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.

Cassidy made note during Monday's media availability that Anderson is quick to play the puck, in part due to the system Ottawa plays.

"He does a good job - their goaltender has to because there's a lot of pucks, with their left D up a lot, some pucks will end up being stretched and tips into that trapezoid," said Cassidy. "I think that's just part of their expectation that, whoever is in the net, that he's got to get out there and make some decisions with it."

In such a tight series, goaltending could play a major role in determining who emerges victorious.

SPECIAL TEAMS

There may not be many difference makers between two teams who are so evenly matched. But the biggest could be the special teams battle.

The Bruins had a dominant year when it came to odd-man situations, finishing first in the league in penalty kill (85.7%) and seventh in the league on the power play (21.7%).

For Ottawa, the special teams story was much different. The Senators finished tied for 23rd in the league on the power play (17.0%) and 22nd in the league on the penalty kill (79.7%).

With Torey Krug out to start the series against Ottawa, however, the Bruins will be down their power-play quarterback and will need additional bodies to step up with the man advantage.

"Special teams is going to be huge in this series," said Brad Marchand. "We're really going to have to learn how to play down low and really work down there."

OTTAWA ON THE MEND

Ottawa lost Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson for five of their final seven games of the regular season due to two lower-body injuries.

The good news for Sens fans is the 26-year-old Swedish defenseman has been cleared to play in Game 1 against Boston, with his ailments seemingly behind him.

Karlsson, who finished the season with 17 goals and 54 assists, is not only a key to Ottawa's attack, but has morphed into a more than capable two-way defenseman over the course of the year, finishing with a plus-10 rating.

Winger Zack Smith will make his return to the lineup after missing the last six games of the regular season due to an upper-body injury. Smith had 16 goals and 16 assists in 74 regular-season games, and will provide grit and physicality up front for the Sens.

Defenseman Marc Methot is also hopeful to return to action in either Game 1 or 2, according to Boucher. The 31-year-old defenseman missed the last nine games of the regular season with a hand injury suffered against Pittsburgh on March 23.

BRUINS PLAYING SHORTHANDED

The last two games of the season against Ottawa and Washington came at a price for the B's, who not only lost the games, but also defensemen Torey Krug (lower-body) and Brandon Carlo (upper-body), as well as forward Noel Acciari (upper-body) to injuries.

None of the three will play to start the series against Ottawa, putting the Bruins in a bit of a bind.

General Manager Don Sweeney did his part to ease the strain by inking Boston University standout Charlie McAvoy to a three-year entry-level contract on Monday.

McAvoy, a right defenseman, could slot in on the back end and provide a much-needed boost to the power play in the absence of Krug, should Cassidy elect to use him there.

"Charlie's going to add his dimension," said Sweeney. "You can't have enough good defenders, enough good puck-movers that can do both."

GAME DATES AND TIMES

The dates and times, as well as viewing and listening locations, for the Bruins first-round series against the Senators can be found below:

Game 1: Bruins at Senators, Wednesday, April 12, 7 p.m. (TV: NESN; Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub)

Game 2: Bruins at Senators, Saturday, April 15, 3 p.m. (TV: NBC; Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub)

Game 3: Bruins vs. Senators, Monday, April 17, 7 p.m. (TV: NESN; Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub)

Game 4: Bruins vs. Senators, Wednesday, April 19, 7:30 p.m. (TV: NESN; Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub)

Game 5: Bruins at Senators, Friday, April 21 (TBD)

Game 6: Bruins vs. Senators, Sunday, April 23 (TBD)

Game 7: Bruins at Senators, Wednesday, April 26 (TBD)

Stay up to date with all of the playoff action by visiting www.bostonbruins.com

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