After finishing second in their division and the Eastern Conference, one point behind Tampa Bay, the expectations for the Boston Bruins were high entering the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Bruins finished significantly better than last year with 17 more points and ended the 2017-18 year strong. Boston had a 12-5-4 record over March and April as they entered the playoffs falling just short of the number one seed in the East.
Boston finished the year with the sixth most goals per game and in the top five in fewest goals allowed. They also finished in the top in both powerplay and penalty kill percentage.
After going up 3-1 in the series, it took seven games for the B’s to make it past the Leafs in the first round. In the series, they outscored Toronto 28-20 and despite dropping two games late, were the better more physical team.
Meeting the division rival Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round would prove to be a much stronger foe. Tampa Bay eliminated Boston in five games, with Game 1 being the only one where it looked like the Bruins could compete with the Lightning.
Despite Tampa Bay out-shooting the Bruins 36-24 in Game 1 Tuukka Rask held his own and Boston looked like they might take the momentum of the series with a convincing 6-2 win. The Bolts came out much stronger for Game 2 and never looked back as they won four straight to move on to the Eastern Conference Final.
What Went Wrong?
The Bruins seemed like they were never able to compete with the speed of the Lightning players. Whether it was Brayden Point, JT Miller, Nikita Kucherov or Steven Stamkos, Tampa’s young offensive production was too much for Boston.
The Bruins were getting a lot of production out of their young stars through the first round. Players like Jake DeBrusk (8pts-6G-2A) Charlie McAvoy (5pts-1G-4A) and David Pastrnak (20pts-6G-15A) played significant roles in Boston getting as far as they did in the playoffs with a total of 33 points.
However, some of that production fell off in the second round with only 12 of those combined 33 points coming against Tampa Bay. Of those 12 points, seven came in the 6-2 Game 1 win. That lack of point production from their young depth played a major part in Boston never being able to score more than three goals after Game 1.
Give the Tampa Bay defence and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy some credit, but you cannot expect to beat a team like that only scoring one goal in Game’s 3 and five respectively. The Bruins did not have the speed or the firepower to make it past one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now.
Is there a heartbeat?
Yes. The Bruins only have two “big name” free agents going into the off-season. Both Rick and Riley Nash will be UFA’s come July 1. The only real question mark is the future of Zdeno Chara. The giant defender will be 42 at the start of the regular season, and it will be interesting to see if he returns for a 20th season.
Boston has a tonne of young talent who showcased their talent early in the playoffs. The blend of young scoring depth and veteran talent is entrenched throughout their line-up. With Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug and David Pastrnak led by veterans Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Backes the Bruins could be one of the most solid teams next year.
Add to that having a top 10 goaltender in the league in Rask, and the Bruins are poised to be another top three seed in next year’s playoffs. If they can make one or two acquisitions this summer and they could be a cup favourite for next year.