The Boston Bruins posthumous exit from the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs personifies everyone’s thoughts towards the current year in just five games, it was not supposed to happen like this. Boston’s revenge tour fizzled out by virtue of a double-overtime game-winner off the stick of Victor Hedman which slipped past a Patrick Maroon-screened Jaroslav Halak. Boston’s playoff run was over in all too familiar fashion, the series will read 4-1 in today’s newspapers but at times it felt even more lopsided than that.
Appearing lethargic between Games 1 and 5, Boston struggling to keep up with Tampa’s speed and skill. Offensive rhythm during five-on-five play was hard to come by, at times you had to check the score graphic just to make sure Tampa wasn’t on the power play. Making it all the more difficult to argue that the better team didn’t win.
Remembering back to 2018- Boston ousted the Toronto Maple Leafs in a thrilling seven-game series, of which the clincher was considered by many to be a defining moment for the team. The Bruins scored four unanswered goals in the games final frame. Unfortunately, it appeared all for not, Boston found themselves up against a turbocharged Tampa Bay Lightning team for which they could not match up, falling in five games. A Game 4 overtime loss appearing to be the final nail in the coffin.
Stop me if this is starting to sound like deja vu.
Familiarity breeds contempt, Boston’s core has catapulted this organization to extreme heights over the last near-decade and a half. Not to say that reliance isn’t warranted, after all, Boston won the President’s Trophy and looked every bit the Stanley Cup contender they considered themselves to be from October to March. But wear and tear began to show itself against a youthful Tampa Bay Lightning squad.
Undoubtedly their albatross, Boston’s second and third lines left much to be desired, at times going almost an entire period without making their presence known. Not to mention their famed fourth line missed key cogs like Wagner and Kuraly for the bulk of this series.
Inserting Anders Bjork, Jack Studnika, and Karson Kuhlman was more of a necessity than an instinctual decision by head coach Bruce Cassidy, but the kids were noticeable last night. Due to this Cassidy juggled his lines seemingly all game in a desperate attempt to find a winning combination and he almost did. Kuhlman’s late-game rush nearly resulted in a go-ahead goal for Boston, Studnika’s offensive instincts were on full display highlighted by a high slot tip in overtime, and Bjork was strong on pucks all night fighting to the high danger areas on more than one occasion.
Boston nearly beat Tampa at their own game, but it was too little too late.
Full marks to 35-year-old Jaroslav Halak who was thrust into a difficult situation and, for the most part, delivered a performance which kept his team in it night in and night out. Unfortunately, a lack of goal support often required Halak to extend himself beyond his means. Additionally, the schedule seemed to play a fatigue factor, Games 2 and 3 were back to back, a 7-1 thumping in-Game 3 was a deflating result for the reeling Bruins squad who suffered an overtime defeat the night before. Yet, despite that Halak was stellar again last night, all three of Tampa’s tallies were near impossible shots to stop.
Questions abound as Boston enters this offseason with even more difficult decisions to make than last year. For starters, their Captain of fourteen years, Zdeno Chara is currently without a contract and had you managed to stay up to witness last night’s handshake line it may have been his final one in a Bruins uniform.
Outside of his captain’s status, Don Sweeney will be set to negotiate with Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, and Karson Kuhlman for new contracts. With the former presenting the most obvious challenge with precious cap space available, it’ll likely come down to term for the now 29-year-old power-play quarterback. Would it make sense for Boston to invest six to seven years on a 29-year-old rearguard?
Last but certainly not least a huge thank you to the fellow DieHards out there for following along all year, its been a pleasure.