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Wednesday night the 4th seeded Boston Bruins open their series at home against the 5th seeded Toronto Maple Leafs.  To get the Boston low-down on this series, we’re spending 2 minutes in the box with Sarah from StanleyCupOfChowder.com. Make sure to give her a follow on Twitter at @CupOfChowdah 

1. The Boston Bruins unfortunately lost their season finale to the Ottawa Senators, thus knocking them down to the #4 seed.  They will now take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The Leafs have had a massive turnaround this season.  How do the Bruins match up?

I think the Bruins match up extremely well against the Maple Leafs. The Leafs have had some fantastic puck luck and incredible goaltending this year, but without sounding like too much of a nerd, both are due for a bit of a regression, while the Bruins are due for a good slumpbusting win. They always struggle right before playoffs, it seems – before their Cup run, they’d only won something like 8 of the previous 18 regular season games. I’m not overly concerned about the Leafs’ skill set, because if the Bruins can return to their usual playoff form, things should be ok.

2. The Leafs have a bunch of small speedy guys, but also like to play physical.  Do you think if the Leafs try to play physical, they will be playing right into the Bruins hands?

I think it depends. The Bruins play best when they’re physical, but they walk a fine line — if they crash over into the realm of physical play, taking lots of penalties, and being hot-headed and unproductive, then no, I don’t think they’ll be successful. However, if they can find that edge they had in the 2011 playoffs — physical enough to knock the other team off their game while still retaining some semblance of speed, scoring, and staying off the PK — I think they’ll do just fine.

3. Former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas sat out this season like he said he would and was then eventually traded to the New York Islanders for salary cap relief.  How impressive has Tuukka Rask been in net this season as his replacement?

Tuukka Rask should contend for the Vezina, and I’m not saying that as a homer but as a realist. With five shutouts through 36 games, a 2.00 GAA, and a 0.929 save percentage, the only goaltender with a similar workload and better numbers is Sergei Bobrovsky, who almost managed to haul his awful team into the playoffs. That trophy race will be between those two, no question. No one should really be surprised that Rask has been so successful this year, though — he proved his worth when Thomas sat out part of the 09-10 season with an injury, and won the Bruins a playoff series that year against Buffalo before the team fell in 7 games to Philly.

4. With only a few minor roster moves from last season to this lockout shortened season, do you think that was a big advantage the Bruins had to start the season?

Sort of. Losing Joe Corvo was beneficial, but letting Benoit Pouliot walk in free agency was probably a mistake. We had no answer for the loss of Pouliot on the third line. Jay Pandolfo should not have been playing third line minutes, and yet he was when Chris Kelly was injured. On defense, the addition of Dougie Hamilton was actually a pretty good upgrade over Corvo, and Wade Redden has been a serviceable substitute in lieu of Hamilton or whoever’s injured at the moment.

5. How big of an acquisition was Jaromir Jagr?

It was huge — not just for the quality of the team, but for the emotional well-being of the fans after losing out on Iginla. Hey, we’re only human, right? In all honesty, though, it’s just so awesome watching Jagr play. He has a great attitude; the younger players look up to him, and despite being like a hundred years old he’s impossible to knock off the puck. It’s pretty great.

6. Nathan Horton finally seemed to be healthy this season, but got hurt recently in a fight with the Penguins Jarome Iginla.  How important is it for the Bruins to have him in their lineup? 

It’d be great to have him back, definitely, but the Bruins fare pretty well without him, honestly. He’s struggled to score this year; if he can come back and make a scoring impact immediately then we’ll be grateful for it, but as of right now, we’re okay without him.

7. Rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton looked very good early on for the Bruins, but has been a healthy scratch a few times down the stretch.  Are the coaches loosing confidence in him?

No. I am 100% of the belief that he’s been healthy scratched because he was already on pace to play a full season during the lockout — he played 30+ games with Niagara before the lockout ended, and has played the majority of games with the Bruins this season. He’s a young kid, and getting him some rest before the most intense games he’ll have played so far in his career is incredibly smart.

8. Series Prediction?

Bruins in 6.

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