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The Better Team Won: Bruins Fall to Lightning in 4-1 Gentleman’s Sweep


May 6, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) and Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) greet and shake hands at the end of the game five of the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins 3-1 to advance to the eastern conference finals. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a few days since the Boston Bruins were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-1 gentleman’s sweep and I have had some time to reflect on this series.

Have you ever seen an older brother hold an object way above his head while his younger brother tries to jump up and unsuccessfully grab it? That’s what the Boston Bruins (the younger brother) went through against the Tampa Bay Lightning (the older brother) in their second-round playoff series.

The Bruins were simply outplayed in their series against the Lightning.

Aside from their 6-2 win in game one, the Bruins were out-manned, out-hit, out-shot, and outscored in every single game the rest of the way.

When you as a fan know that it takes every single ounce of effort out of your team just to hang with the opposition, you know you’re in trouble. It’s a terrible way to feel as you sit there on your couch and know the Lightning had the advantage in almost every statistic/category.

Things got off to a stunning start as the B’s won a commanding 6-2 game in Tampa. I think I can speak for all Bruins/hockey fans when I say that I did not expect that type of ass-whooping. Then again, I didn’t expect the Bruins to not win another game in the series.

 

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Source: Chowder and Champions

 

The Players I Told You to Watch

Honestly, the Bruins players I highlighted (David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, and Charlie McAvoy) didn’t wind up doing too much in this series as the B’s top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad “Licky-McGee” Marchand provided almost all of the team’s offense.

DeBrusk had one goal in the first game, McAvoy had three assists, and Krejci had one goal and an assist, including the only goal the Bruins could muster in their elimination game five. The three combined for two goals and four assists and a less-than-stellar -5 rating.

These stats probably had to do with the fact that the Bruins scored almost as many goals in games two thru five (seven) as they did in game one (six).

On the other side, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, and Yanni Gourde all had a solid series for the Lightning, no one really had a “bad” series on the team.

The Lightning defensemen were in full control of this series, especially when they had a lead (which was quite often). Hedman led the charge on that front with six assists and a +1 rating. He was tasked with limiting the scoring opportunities of the Bruins top line while simultaneously creating scoring chances for his own team.

He wasn’t the only top defensemen, either, as his fellow blueliners Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev, Dan Girardi (who scored the OT winner in game four), Anton Stralman, and Braydon Coburn provided little opportunity for the Bruins to get much offense going. If you noticed that I named the entire Lightning defense core, that’s because they all pretty much had a great series.

Superstar Nikita Kucherov was actually stifled by the Bruins top defense pairing of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy and only had two points and a -2 rating. One of those two points was a game-tying goal in a pivotal game four (a goal which was controversial due to a non-penalty, but let’s not talk about that, now), so his presence was still felt at times during this series.

 

Image result for tampa bay lightning

Source: Tampa Bay Times

 

The top line for the Lightning wasn’t the biggest threat for the Bruins this series: it was the second and third lines (and even the fourth) that gave the B’s fits. This includes my final Tampa Bay player to watch: Yanni Gourde. Gourde wasn’t a complete stud in this series like Ondrej Palat (3 G, 1 A, +2) or Brayden Point (2 G, 3 A, +2 ) were on the second line, but he had his moments. Veteran winger Ryan Callahan wore the Bruins down with his physical shifts and hard-nosed play on both ends of the ice.

In Gourde’s second playoff series in the NHL, he had one goal and three assists with an even rating. He averaged 14:42 TOI and was a nice complimentary piece that only added to the stacked Lightning roster.

What Went Wrong

The ultimate demise of the Bruins boiled down to two things: mistakes/turnovers and less depth than the Lightning. The mistakes that the Bruins were able to get away with in the Toronto Maple Leafs series led to their downfall. Almost every mistake the Bruins had, the Lightning were able to create scoring chances and cashed in them a lot of the time.

Roster wise, the Bruins had depth throughout, but the Lightning’s depth was much better, overall. The Lightning’s plan was to suffocate the Bruins in all three areas of the ice, especially the neutral zone so that the Bruins couldn’t muster much offense and spent most of their time trying to get out of their own zone.

After the first game of this series, most people thought the Bruins would have a chance. This game proved to be the outlier as the Bruins were dominated throughout most of the remaining games, even though the final score might not have always suggested that.

I also figured I’d dedicate one small paragraph to the refs in this series since they are apart of the game. The Bruins centermen getting thrown out of the face-off circle was less of a problem in this series than in the Maple Leafs series, but still a problem, nonetheless. The one area that agitated Bruins fans were the inconsistency with calls. There were a handful of times where there was a penalty called at one point and then not called at another.

The only one true gripe I personally had with the officials was the missed holding call against Charlie McAvoy. The only reason it was a bad look was that it immediately led to Kucherov’s game-tying goal.

I don’t think these calls decided the series, but one or two more calls go the Bruins way and this series probably was going at least six games. I still ultimately think that the Lightning would have won this series, regardless.

You know the series didn’t go so great when the highlight for your team was this:

 

Image result for marchand lick

Source: Toronto Star

 

Looking Forward

The 2017-2018 Boston Bruins season were quite the surprise. They were projected to be a middle-of-the-road team and were looking to build off an early exit from last year’s playoffs.

This season surprised a lot of people because of how they started and where they finished in the standings. They started off slow and this appeared to be how the Bruins would perform the rest of the year. Fortunately for them, the Bruins were basically the best team in the NHL from mid-November till the end of the regular season.

There is a lot to look forward to in the coming years with a fair amount of young talent coming up and already playing with the team. Despite an aging core, the Bruins’ proverbial championship window has opened a little more after this season.

Of course, the B’s will have to contend with the Lightning and other top Eastern Conference teams for the foreseeable future, but facing strong competition will only make them better.

Just remember that the younger brother eventually grows up and becomes as strong as his older brother.

Thanks for a great season Bruins (and career, Rene Rancourt) and we’ll see you in October!

 

Image result for rene rancourt

Source: Twitter

 

 

 

 

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