Second-round preview: B's vs. Canes

Updated: April 29, 2009, 6:18 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun |

The Boston Bruins and the old Hartford Whalers. Just like old times. Good ol' Adams Division hockey. Key up "Brass Bonanza"!

And today, like yesteryear, the Bruins continue to dominate the Hartford/Carolina franchise. Boston swept the season series this year 4-0-0, outscoring the Hurricanes 18-6. Mind you, three of those four games were before the All-Star break, before Carolina took off. The Bruins have won the three previous series between the franchises, including a six-game set in 1999.

But beware the recent Hurricanes. They charged into the playoffs playing some of the hottest hockey in the NHL and upset the favored New Jersey Devils in seven games, coming back from 3-2 down in the series and showing the kind of grit and character that won them a Stanley Cup in 2006.

1. Rusty Bruins? The Bruins haven't played since April 23, thanks to a four-game sweep of the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. That will be almost a two-week break between games. No matter what anybody says or what coach Claude Julien did in practice to keep the team focused, the Bruins may need some time early on in Game 1 to find their legs. That's just the kind of opening the Hurricanes will be looking for. Teams coming off seven-game series victories generally carry that momentum into the early part of the next series. On the flip side, Carolina played a long, punishing series with the Devils, and the fatigue factor could creep in later in the series with Boston.

2. Goalie duel: Vezina Trophy finalist Tim Thomas carried his regular-season prowess into the first-round sweep over the Habs, allowing only six goals and sporting a .946 save percentage. But don't underestimate Cam Ward. He went toe-to-toe with Martin Brodeur in the first round and came out on top -- his 2.11 goals-against average and .938 save percentage jumping off the page. And he's got something Thomas certainly does not -- a Cup ring and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Here's the rub with Ward: He got hammered by the Bruins this season, going 0-4-0 with a 3.90 goals-against average and .871 save percentage. Yikes. At the other end, Thomas went 3-0-0 against the Hurricanes this season with a 1.33 GAA and .957 save percentage.

3. Balanced scoring: Both teams had balanced scoring in the opening round, but few teams in the NHL are deeper up front than the Bruins. Marc Savard centers P.J. Axelsson and Phil Kessel on one line; Patrice Bergeron is between Chuck Kobasew and Mark Recchi; David Krejci is between Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder; and the fourth line has Stephane Yelle between Blake Wheeler and Shawn Thornton. Wheeler is on the fourth line. That says it all. If you're Carolina, which line do you key on and how to you stop the others?

4. Where's the power? The Hurricanes won't be able to pull off a second consecutive upset without getting more production from their power play. They defied the odds by beating New Jersey despite going only 2-for-29 on the man advantage. That's a 6.9 percent success rate. The penalty kill, however, was dandy, allowing only three goals on 27 opportunities for an 88.9 percent success rate.

5. A real test: Let's be honest, the Bruins lucked out when they drew Montreal in the first round. The Canadiens were without their most valuable player in All-Star defenseman Andrei Markov, while defenseman Mathieu Schneider and star winger Alex Tanguay also missed time in the series with injuries. It was the easiest first-round matchup of any team. Now comes a better test, although many will say the Bruins got lucky by avoiding Pittsburgh after the Devils melted down late in Game 7 on Tuesday night. The bottom line: The Bruins have yet to prove much. Yes, they were the class of the East this season, but now comes a real series.

• Zdeno Chara vs. Eric Staal: Boston's Norris Trophy finalist will no doubt take on Carolina's star center and playoff leading scorer as often as Julien can get him out there. Staal had seven points (5-2) in seven games in the first round, including the dramatic late-game winner that ousted the Devils on Tuesday night. Chara was dominant in helping shut down the Habs. This should be a compelling matchup to watch.

• Boston: Winger Michael Ryder led the Bruins with seven points (4-3) in only four games while taking his revenge out on his former team in Montreal. Wheeler, albeit playing on the fourth line, was held pointless.

• Carolina: Unheralded winger Chad Larose had a breakthrough year and continued his strong play in the first round, tying for the team lead with seven points (two goals and five assists). Winger Erik Cole, reacquired at the trade deadline, was pointless in the seven-game series with New Jersey. Wake up, Erik!

• While I know all the numbers add up to a Bruins cake walk, Staal's goal in Game 7 just gives us a hunch the Canes may have more magic left in them. Carolina in a shocking seven.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer