Here is how I see the Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets matching up for our quarterfinal series...
Tuukka Rask actually had a better year than Tim Thomas last year until he was sidelined late in the year and actually took over the starting job from Thomas in 2010. Now that Rinne doesnt have the likes of Weber and Suter playing in front of him 25-28 minutes a night, how will he perform without a strong shutdown pairing?
Bruins have home ice advantage which lets me decide the matchups with the Jets for 4 of the games. The best shutdown pairing in the past 3 playoffs of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg will be used for 25-28 minutes per game against the Jets top line of Krejci, Kane & Hudler. This is probably the weakest line this defensive pairing has faced in the playoffs since the 1st round against Montreal in 2011. These 2 have completely shutdown the likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom, Giroux, Richards, the Sedin twins, Stamkos, & St. Louis in previous playoffs and shouldnt have any trouble with Winnipegs top line.
For the playoffs the line of 2012 Selke winner, Patrice Bergeron, Marion Hossa and Bryan Little will be getting top line minutes as they provide defensive coverage on Kane, Krejci and Hudler and probably outplaying them offensively. What Krejci will show up for the playoffs? He's known for his inconsistent play and shouldnt really be relied on as a top line C. The question of how Hossa will perform without Kane and Toews was raised yet he's been an all-star caliber player for years even before going to Chicago.
Which leads us to the matchup of Seguin, Lucic & Horton vs. Peverley, Ladd and Wheeler. Winnipeg professes that they are this super physical & gritty team but hasnt that been a staple of the Bruins for the past 5 years and play to their strength? I just dont see enough offensive punch throughout the Jets lineup that the Bruins have. The defensive pairings are similar with Bogosian and Carle providing offense and Ference and Murray being more defensively responsible.
Looking at 3rd lines, the issue of depth comes up again for the Jets as the Bruins have a 20 goal scorer in Chris Kelly, Lee Stempniak; who is now filling the role Rich Peverley did and is now playing on a better team than he was in Calgary but where he still put up 14-14-28 numbers and Jordan Caron who is a former 1st round pick who had an NHL-ready defensive game from day 1 and now gets to show his offensive capabilities for a full season in the lineup.
Most 4th lines see little action in the playoffs but the Bruins consistently roll 4 lines deep as there is no drop off in defensive play when Paille, Campbell & Thornton jump over the boards and have been the best 4th line in hockey for the past 3 years. They have Claude Julien's trust and provide a huge spark in energy for the B's...
Just so everyone can see the matchups...
Kane-Krejci-Hudler vs. Little-Bergeron-Hossa
Enstrom-Byfuglien vs. Chara-Seidenberg
Ladd-Peverley-Wheeler vs. Lucic-Seguin-Horton
Bogosian-Murray vs. Carle-Ference
Blake-Moore-Antropov vs. Stempniak-Kelly-Caron
Aucoin-Hannan vs. McQuaid-Hamilton
Glass-Slater-Moss vs. Paille-Campbell-Thornton
Good luck to Branwingss who's done a great job assembling a strong team up in the Peg.