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Need to Know: Eastern Conference Final

Boston and Carolina to face off in postseason for first time since 2009

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

The 2019 Boston Bruins Playoffs are presented by Beth Israel Lahey Health

BOSTON - As the TD Garden faithful fervently belted out late in Game 5 against the Blue Jackets last weekend, the Bruins are halfway there.

Eight wins down. Eight to go.

And the quest continues on Thursday night when the Bruins host the Hurricanes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, the fifth postseason meeting between Boston and Carolina and the second since the Hurricanes moved from Hartford in 1997.

It is the Bruins' eighth conference final since the playoff format changed in 1982 and first since 2013, while Carolina is making its fourth trip - all coming in its last four postseason appearances - and first since 2009.

"It's very exciting to be where we're at, but we can't get lost," said Brad Marchand. "We're only halfway to where we want to be. We've done what we've wanted to accomplish to this point, but we're not satisfied. We didn't look at the beginning of the year and say we want to get to the third round. We want to go to the distance. We're happy with where we're at, but a long ways from where we want to be."

The Bruins will be without one of their best players for Game 1, after Charlie McAvoy was suspended for one game by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for his illegal check to the head on Columbus forward Josh Anderson during Game 6 against the Blue Jackets.

"Especially this season, we had a number of those situations where we had key players out of the lineup for some time," said Zdeno Chara. "We handled it well. It's a similar situation. We just have to respect that the league made a decision on Charlie and somebody else is going to play bigger minutes and increasing the role."

Take a closer look at the Eastern Conference Final between the Bruins and Hurricanes:

All Lined Up

With McAvoy out for Game 1, here's how the Bruins could line up on Thursday night, based on Wednesday morning's practice at Warrior Ice Arena:

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - David Backes
Marcus Johansson - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner

Zdeno Chara - Connor Clifton
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Steven Kampfer

Tuukka Rask
Jaroslav Halak

"It's between [Kampfer] and John Moore, we have to make that decision," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of which defenseman would replace McAvoy. "I'll let you know [Thursday morning]. If Kampfer goes in it's three righties, three lefties.

"I think you're gonna see some different combinations tomorrow depending on the circumstance."

Noel Acciari did not practice on Wednesday as he continues to deal with an upper-body injury.

Video: Cassidy discusses lineup ahead of Game 1 of ECF

Opposing View

Storm Surge

The Hurricanes were 23rd in the NHL at the start of the New Year. But Carolina surged (more on that word later) over the final three months of the regular season, racking up a remarkable 30-12-2 record and 62 points (one more than the Bruins in that span), good for the fourth most in the league over that time.

The Hurricanes, under the direction of first-year coach Rod Brind'Amour, captured the East's first Wild Card spot, finishing with 99 points, and stunned the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in the opening round of the playoffs with a thrilling overtime victory in Game 7.

Carolina went on to sweep the New York Islanders in the second round and will enter the matchup against the Bruins with eight days of much-needed rest.

"It's gonna be a very tough series, the way that they've played against Washington and last round, they're feeling good right now. We're gonna have our hands full," said Marchand.

The Hurricanes lost starting goaltender Petr Mrazek midway through Game 2 against the Islanders and was replaced by 35-year-old Curtis McElhinney, who stopped 71 of 75 shots the rest of the series.

Winger Micheal Ferland, who had 17 goals and 40 points during the regular season, has not played since Game 3 against Washington, but appears close to a return from his upper-body injury. Carolina will be without forward Trevor van Riemsdyk, who was injured in the Islanders series, and underwent surgery on his left shoulder, sidelining him for four to six months.

Video: Marchand discusses the challenge the B's have in CAR

By the Numbers

Carolina has been paced during the playoffs by blue liner Jaccob Slavin, who leads the team with 11 points (all assists) in 11 games. Slavin skates with former Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton (3-4-7) on the 'Canes top pairing.

"He's got great vision," Bergeron said of Slavin. "He anticipates the play very well. He's got great speed and as offensive as he is, I think he's very good defensively as well. He gets back when he does go on the offense on the rush.

"He seems to be a very smart player. He's definitely one of those players that's fallen under the radar. He's very underrated. He's a great player."

Winger Teuvo Teravainen is first on the team with six goals. Sebastian Aho, Carolina's 21-year-old rising star, has nine points (four goals, five assists) in 11 games. He led the Hurricanes with 30 goals and 83 points during the regular season.

"[Aho's] a key. You look at their lineup, he's a guy that's done some damage," said Cassidy. "I think in this playoff, they've done it as a squad, not one particular guy. But he is the guy in the O-zone if you give him time and space he's a lot like [Johnny] Gaudreau. He can draw people out of those areas and get you impatient and all of a sudden the puck's in the good ice.

"He's a guy that we'll look to neutralize. One of the best ways to do that…if you can take away time and space and frustrate him, get him playing in his own end, that's the key."

The Hurricanes also rely heavily on captain and playoff hero Justin Williams, who has six points in 11 games.

Video: Bergeron touches on Carolina, Marchand ahead of ECF

Bunch of Jerks

During the regular season, Carolina caused quite a stir with its postgame "Storm Surge" celebrations, during which the Hurricanes gathered at center ice following every home victory to acknowledge their fans. Each celebration had a different theme, which included bowling, baseball, and even boxing with a cameo from former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.

Not everyone was a fan of the celebrations, however, with Hockey Night in Canada commentator Don Cherry calling the Hurricanes a "bunch of jerks," which the team has now taken on as its postseason slogan.

Projected Carolina lineup

Warren Foegele - Sebastian Aho - Justin Williams
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov - Lucas Wallmark - Brock McGinn
Jordan Martinook - Greg McKegg - Patrick Brown

Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Brett Pesce - Justin Faulk
Haydn Fleury - Calvin De Haan

Curtis McElhinney
Petr Mrazek (injured)

"I think there are going to be some unique challenges," said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. "They're a strong forechecking team. They get on you, and they get back up on the puck. Their back pressure's been good. Their goaltending has been excellent. Their shooting percentage took a big jump from February on, being able to score some goals and have some confidence as a result of it.

"I think they're a reflection of their coach and how he approaches things in his own lifestyle, and they've got some juice. So, we're going to have to be at our best, and I've said that before. It's not going to change going forward."

Video: Sweeney speaks at end of the 2nd round

This Season

The Bruins won two of three meetings during the regular season, with Marchand leading Boston with five points (two goals, three assists) in those contests. On the other side, Aho proved to be a Bruins killer, notching four goals in seven points over the three games.

Jaroslav Halak played in both Bruins victories, while Tuukka Rask took the lone loss. Carolina played a different goalie in each meeting, with McElhinney, Mrazek, and Scott Darling all getting one start.

Oct. 30 at CAR - Bruins 3, Hurricanes 2

Marchand had the tying (19:42 of the second) and winning (5:23 of the third) goals in the teams' first meeting at TD Garden, with Patrice Bergeron picking up three assists.

Video: Marchand's two goals propel Bruins past Hurricanes

Dec. 23 at CAR - Bruins 3, Hurricanes 5

The second meeting between the teams on Dec. 23 - with Carolina donning their retro Hartford Whalers sweaters - was a wild one. Boston opened up a quick 2-0 lead within the game's first nine minutes on tallies from Ryan Donato and Steven Kampfer, but Carolina responded with four straight goals (two from Aho) to grab the lead midway through the second.

Donato potted his second of the game late in the middle frame, but Teravainen responded with his second of the night at 7:20 of the third to seal the deal.

Video: BOS Recap: Donato tallies twice in 5-3 loss

March 5 at BOS - Bruins 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT)

In the final matchup of the year, David Krejci - off a stellar feed from Jake DeBrusk - scored at 1:46 of overtime to extend the Bruins' historic point steak to 17 games.

Video: Krejci, DeBrusk lead Bruins to 4-3 overtime win

Postseason History

The Bruins are 3-1 in four previous series against the Hurricanes, with Boston holding a 15-11 edge over 26 games. Two of those series (1990 and 1991) came when the franchise was known as the Hartford Whalers.

2009 Second Round - Boston 3, Carolina 4

1999 First Round - Boston 4, Carolina 2

1991 Adams Semifinal - Bruins 4, Hartford 2

1990 Adams Semifinal - Bruins 4, Hartford 3

Last Postseason Meeting

The last time these two teams squared off in the postseason came in 2008-09. Boston was the East's No. 1 seed after a 53-win, 116-point campaign, while Carolina came in as the five seed. Much like Carolina this year, the Bruins entered the series with a long layoff after sweeping Montreal in the opening round.

The Bruins won the first game, 4-1, with Marc Savard picking up the game-winning goal, before Carolina went on to take the next three, putting Boston on the brink of elimination. The Bruins responded with victories in Games 5 (4-0, Mark Recchi GWG) and 6 (4-2, Savard GWG) to force a decisive seventh game at TD Garden.

Game 7 went to overtime where Scott Walker tapped one in from the doorstep with just 1:15 remaining in the extra session to send the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Final, their last trip to the penultimate round before this season.

Fun Facts

  • The Bruins tied a record with four power-play goals in the third period of a 6-1 victory over Hartford in Game 5 of their 1991 semifinal series. The Whalers held a 1-0 lead entering the third, before Boston struck for a club record six goals in the final frame.
  • The Bruins have come back from a three-or-more goal deficit to win a playoff game on seven occasions, including Game 4 of their 1990 series with Hartford. The Whalers held a 5-2 lead entering the third, before the Bruins scored four unanswered tallies (Dave Poulin, 1:28; Bob Beers, 7:00; Dave Christian, 8:10; and Poulin, 18:16).
  • Boston won Game 6 of its 2009 second-round series with Carolina to force a Game 7 for just the second time in their history when they had trailed in a series, 3-1.

Video: Chara discusses teams opportunity this playoffs

    Series Schedule

    Game 1: Thursday, May 9 at 8 p.m. (TD Garden, Boston, MA) - NBCSN

    Game 2: Sunday, May 12 at 3 p.m. (TD Garden, Boston, MA) - NBC, SN, CBC, TVA

    Game 3: Tuesday, May 14 at 8 p.m. (PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC) - NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA

    Game 4: Thursday, May 16 at 8 p.m. (PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC) - NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA

    Game 5: Saturday, May 18 at 7:15 p.m. (TD Garden, Boston, MA) - NBC, SN, CBC, TVA*

    Game 6: Monday, May 20 at 8 p.m. (PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC) - NBCSN, SN1, CBC, TVA*

    Game 7: Wednesday, May 22 at 8 p.m. (TD Garden, Boston, MA) - NBCSN, SN360, CBC, TVA*

    All Bruins' playoff games can be heard on the Bruins flagship radio station, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

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