Bruins' possible first-round opponents likely down to Penguins, Panthers


The group of NHL teams with a strong chance to earn the second wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference has narrowed over the last week.

The Washington Capitals have lost six of their last seven games. The Buffalo Sabres have lost five of their last seven games. The Ottawa Senators have lost four of their last eight games. 

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As a result, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers have the best odds of securing the No. 2 wild card spot. The New York Islanders are the frontrunners for the No. 1 wild card berth.

The Boston Bruins clinched the Presidents' Trophy, the No. 1 overall seed and home ice advantage throughout the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result of their win on Thursday night. They will play the No. 2 wild card team in the first round.

Here's an updated look at the wild card standings entering Friday.

Wild Card

  1. New York Islanders: 76 GP, 39-28-9 (87 points)
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins: 75 GP, 37-28-10 (84 points)

In the mix

  • Florida Panthers: 76 GP, 38-31-7 (83 points)
  • Ottawa Senators: 75 GP, 37-33-5 (79 points)
  • Buffalo Sabres: 73 GP, 35-31-7 (77 points)
  • Washington Capitals: 76 GP, 34-33-9 (77 points)

The Athletic's latest projections have the Penguins finishing as the second wild card team with 92.2 points, including a 67 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. The Florida Panthers still have a good shot at securing the No. 2 wild card spot, too. The Athletic's model gives the Panthers a 90.5 projected points total. 

A Bruins-Penguins series in the first round would be fun. Both teams have a lot of veterans and several former Stanley Cup champions. Despite being two of the most successful Eastern Conference franchises over the last 15 years, the Bruins and Penguins have met in the playoffs only once during that span. It was the 2013 Eastern Conference Final, which the B's won in a surprising sweep. 

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The Bruins are 2-0 against the Penguins this season, including a 2-1 win in the 2023 Winter Classic at Fenway Park in January. They'll play for the third and final time in the regular season Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

The Panthers won the Presidents' Trophy last season and are among the most offensively talented teams in the league. They have scored the fourth-most goals with 258. Florida isn't a very strong defensive team, though, ranking 23rd in both goals allowed and save percentage. The Panthers are one of two teams to beat the Bruins twice this season.

The Bruins and Panthers have met just once in the playoffs when Florida eliminated Boston in five games in the 1996 first round.

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