Bruins on Boylston: Using the Predictor 3000 to project postseason opponents

The+Boston+Bruins+have+19+games+left+to+play+in+the+2022-23+NHL+season%2C+and+have+posted+a+49-9-5+record.+

Illustration by Ryan Yau

The Boston Bruins have 19 games left to play in the 2022-23 NHL season, and have posted a 49-9-5 record.

By Leo Kagan, Sports Editor

The Boston Bruins have 19 regular season games left to play. If they pump enough points out of them between wins and overtime losses, they stand to make NHL history

But the B’s aren’t focused on the last 19 games—they’re focused on the 16 wins that come after: those that will secure them the franchise’s first championship since 2011. 

The Bruins loaded up at the trade deadline with a pair of bold, screw-the-future-type moves. Despite losing left wings Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno to long-term injuries, these trades have moved the Bruins one step closer to their final form: an unfairly dominant team whose playoff chances flatten everybody else’s

Earning 16 wins in the postseason, however, is easier said than done; there’s a reason only one team does it every year. Despite their juggernaut status, the Bruins have their work cut out for them in a loaded Eastern Conference that just got that much more terrifying after one of the busiest trade deadlines in NHL history.

Nonetheless, if any team can carve through the robust competition this year, it’s the B’s. But what will their path to postseason glory be? 

In a return to pseudo-science, I’ve developed yet another quasi-accurate tool to project the Bruins’ playoff opponents: the Predictor 3000. (Writing names for these is hard, cut me some slack.)

We’ll assume the Bruins do win all four playoff rounds—which the Predictor 3000 says is the unquestionable future—and let our handy tool take care of the rest.

Eastern Conference quarterfinals: Pittsburgh Penguins (Bruins win in five games)

As the Eastern Conference currently stands, there are six playoff locks: the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers. 

Competing for the last two wild card spots are five more legitimate contenders: the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, and Florida Panthers. 

The Panthers stood pat at the deadline. With no future assets to deal and no cap space to acquire new players, it was probably the right course of action, but not one that will secure them a playoff spot. The Senators and Sabres are both young teams finally taking the jump forward into relevancy after years of dismal rebuilding. While the Senators added a top-four defenseman in Jakob Chychrun, neither the Senators nor the Sabres have contender-level rosters, and each is staring down an inordinately tough schedule

That leaves the Penguins who recieived plenty of flak after a puzzling trade deadline, and the Islanders, who, despite adding center Bo Horvat, still seem ill-equipped to make a deep run in the playoffs. 

The Predictor 3000 believes the Penguins will be the lesser of the two teams, leaving them in the second wildcard spot and giving them the first-round match-up against the Bruins. 

But it doesn’t matter much whether the B’s face the Pens or the Isles—the Bruins are vastly superior to both. Both potential opponents have similar roster construction flaws: too old and lacking in depth. 

The Bruins, boasting better depth than any other NHL franchise—when healthy, former league MVP Taylor Hall is on the third line (!!!)—will roll over any wildcard wannabe. Right now, every contender for the Penguins’ spot is just competing for the opportunity to be swiftly eliminated from the postseason. 

Eastern Conference semifinals: Toronto Maple Leafs (Bruins win in seven games)

This is a bold projection from the Predictor 3000.

The Leafs? Winning? A playoff series?

Bold indeed, but folks, you can’t disagree with pseudo-science, and the Predictor 3000 states that the cursèd Toronto Maple Leafs will beat out the three-consecutive-Stanley-Cup-Finalists Tampa Bay Lightning come playoff time. 

Even after adding left wing Tanner Jeannot to the lineup—a classic Tampa move that involved surrendering a ridiculous amount of draft capital for a prototypical bottom-sixer who will undoubtedly blossom the second he steps foot in Florida—the Lightning still seem like they’re not quite on Toronto’s level. It doesn’t help that they lost a key blue-liner in Ryan McDonough over the summer. 

The Leafs, meanwhile, have beefed up their backend and their forward corps via a ludicrous trade deadline of their own, and the Predictor 3000 believes that it’s finally enough to put them over the hump. 

But even the league’s fourth-best team isn’t enough to dethrone the Bruins in the postseason. The Predictor 3000 projects the Leafs as a genuine challenger, likely to take the B’s all the way to a Game 7, but ultimately, the Bruins will prevail. 

The Leafs don’t lack in star power, with center Auston Matthews and right wingers Mitch Marner and William Nylander leading the way. They have depth post-deadline to support their stars effectively, adding forwards Noel Acciari, Sam Lafferty, and former playoff MVP Ryan O’Reilly as well as defensemen Jake McCabe, Luke Schenn, and Erik Gustafsson. 

But the Leafs’ biggest weakness is in net, where the Bruins’ Linus Ullmark, the league’s best goaltender right now, gives the Bruins the edge. Sorry, Toronto!

Eastern Conference Finals: Carolina Hurricanes (Bruins win in seven games)

The Predictor 3000 projects a rematch of last spring’s contentious playoff series between the B’s and the C’s, but this time puts the Bruins in the winning column. 

Carolina didn’t tinker with its roster much over the summer, keeping the core in place while adding more star power with two trade acquisitions: offensive defenseman Brent Burns from the San Jose Sharks, and goal-scoring left winger Max Pacioretty from the Vegas Golden Knights.

Burns has played very well for the Hurricanes, but Pacioretty has missed nearly the entire season due to injury and won’t make a postseason return. Many speculated that Pacioretty’s absence would make Carolina an ideal landing place for former Shark Timo Meier, but Meier went to the Devils at the deadline instead. 

Some have questioned whether Carolina’s inactive trade deadline will hurt them in the postseason, but the Predictor 3000 isn’t convinced—it still sees a genuine contender even without a deadline boost. 

The Hurricanes will have to defeat one of the wildcard teams (likely the Islanders) and either the Rangers or Devils. However, the Hurricanes are built too effectively for postseason hockey to not make a deep run this season, which pits them against the Bruins. 

For the B’s, overcoming Carolina’s overwhelming forecheck will be crucial, and despite the Bruins’ better on-paper roster, Carolina will pose a real challenge to the B’s just as they have historically. For Boston’s hockey club, this will be the most difficult test of the postseason, but the Predictor 3000 projects them to surmount even the Hurricanes en route to the Stanley Cup Final. 

Stanley Cup Final: Dallas Stars (Bruins win in six games)

More conventional wisdom might place the reigning Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in Dallas’ spot, but the Predictor 3000 is on the cutting edge (of my thinly veiled gut-feeling decisions), and the Avalanche are barely occupying a playoff spot as is. 

The Vegas Golden Knights, Minnesota Wild, and LA Kings are also legitimate contenders, but none of them have all the necessary components of a Stanley Cup champion in the way that the Stars do. 

Consider this: the Stars boast a franchise goaltender in Jake Oettinger, a No. 1 defenseman in Miro Heiskanen, young star forwards in Jason Roberston and Roope Hintz, and veteran support in Joe Pavelski, Tyler Seguin, and Jamie Benn. All that, and they managed to add supplementary scoring at the trade deadline, too. 

Vegas and LA both lack a franchise goalie (or even a very good starter), and Minnesota doesn’t have nearly the amount of star-power Dallas possesses. Anything can happen in the postseason, but right now, Dallas is in the lead for Western Conference champion. 

That said, they aren’t a true match for the Bruins, who have all the Stars boast and more (two No. 1 defensemen, more depth scoring, better veterans, etc.)

The Predictor 3000 projects the Bruins to dispatch with the Stars in six games, less of a challenge than the Hurricanes or Leafs but a clear cut above the Penguins. 

Stanley Cup champions: Boston Bruins (Bruins win in 25 games)

The Predictor 3000 has the Bruins in the winning column at the end of the postseason—must’ve been designed by a B’s fan…

Regardless of whether the Predictor’s less-than-exact scientific methods are legit, the Bruins have a strong shot at a championship this year. The remainder of the regular season is nothing more than preparation for what will hopefully be a complete postseason run. 

So for all the Bruins fans out there reading (hi Mom and Dad!), spend the last 19 games of this season enjoying some good old fashioned Boston dominance, and dream of rings in June.