Prior to the trade deadline, the Boston Bruins were having a fairly disappointing season and weren’t a team many were expecting much from come the playoffs. However, after acquiring Taylor Hall, things changed in a big way and they were one of the hottest teams to close out the 2020-21 regular season. They continued that play in the opening round, one in which they were able to knock off a strong Washington Capitals team in just five games.
Unfortunately, things changed for them in their second-round matchup versus the very defensively sound New York Islanders. While the Bruins were considered the favorites, no one thought it would be easy given how structured of a game the Barry Trotz led Isles play. Despite looking like the better team for the majority of the series, Boston was eliminated in Game 6 on Wednesday night in a disappointing 6-2 fashion. Here are the three main reasons they failed to advance.
3. Depth Scoring
Prior to the Hall trade, the Bruins main problem this season was depth scoring. It took Craig Smith quite a while to get going and Jake DeBrusk had a second straight disappointing regular season, one that may result in him getting traded this offseason. Unfortunately, the three mentioned above, along with guys like Nick Ritchie and Charlie Coyle were extremely quiet versus the Islanders and were unable to help out their main offensive weapons.
While the players discussed above all had disappointing series, the Islanders deserve a ton of credit for that. The style of game they play, although viewed as boring by some, is extremely effective and makes it very tough on the opposition. Despite having a roster that looks fairly underwhelming on paper, Trotz has done a great job at turning them into a serious contender, even though many don’t respect them as such.
2. Rask’s Inconsistencies
Over the years, a group of Bruins fans have constantly criticized Tuukka Rask, deeming him a bad starting goalie. I am not going to do that, as I believe they are wrong and he is an elite level netminder. However, he was outplayed by Semyon Varlamov, and had a save percentage above .900 in just three of the six games in this series.
There have been reports that Rask was playing injured, so it’s hard to be upset with the 34-year-old, but the fact of the matter is he wasn’t as good as what we are accustomed to seeing from him and it played a major role in losing this series. Given that he will apparently require surgery this offseason, you have to question just how hurt he was and whether or not he should have even been starting the final few games.
1. Banged Up Blueline
Though teams always say they never want to use them as an excuse, injuries certainly had a negative impact on this series for the Bruins. They were without veteran defenceman Kevan Miller for the entirety of the series after he suffered an injury in the opening around. The Bruins also lost a very underrated player in Brandon Carlo in Game 3.
Both were integral parts of the Bruins defence and played significant roles on the penalty kill, one which was horrendous in this series. These injuries forced players like Jarred Tinordi and Connor Clifton to play more meaningful minutes, ones that they simply could not handle. It was far from the only reason, but was a major one in why they failed to advance past the Islanders.
Stanley Cup Window Closing
While the Bruins have had their fair share of heartbreaks over the years, this loss in particular really stings. The reasoning for that is their window for another Stanley Cup with their current core is closing given the age of some of their top players. Patrice Bergeron will be 36 next season, while Brad Marchand will be 33. While they were still able to perform at a very high level this year, they could begin to slow down at any point.
Two other aging players in their core are David Krejci and Rask, both of whom are without a contract for the 2021-22 season. While it seems likely that both are back on Boston next season, nothing is guaranteed and they too could see a drop in play given their ages. If everything goes right for this time, they should be competitive again next season, but that remains to be seen. Thankfully, they have some great young talent in players like David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy, but to be a serious threat they will need the other players mentioned to perform at the elite levels we’ve come accustomed to seeing.