After jumping out to a 2-1 series lead, the Boston Bruins ended their season on a 3-game losing streak at the hands of the elusive New York Islanders. With the loss, the Bruins have now been eliminated in the second round of the playoffs in two straight seasons. While last season’s exit was disappointing, it was a slightly easier pill to swallow for Bruins fans, as the Tampa Bay Lightning were just a flat out better team than Boston. At the end of the day, the Bruins could say that they left it all on the ice, they were simply outmatched by the eventual Stanley Cup champs.
This year’s finish to the season certainly stings a bit more as the Bruins proved for the majority of the series, that they were the better hockey team. New York is a scrappy, determined team, and what ultimately led them to victory was their ability to make adjustments to the Bruins style of play, not necessarily their outright skill and speed.
Right from the start of Game 6, it was evident that the Bruins just didn’t have it, that spark and edge needed to push the series to Game 7. The Islanders opened the scoring when Charlie McAvoy lost track of a rebound, allowing Travis Zajac to have a clean shot at Tuukka Rask who was unable to get in front of the puck. The Bruins were able to get a power play goal late in the first however, coming from Brad Marchand. This would be the lone goal of the period for the B’s who for one of the first times in the series, were outplayed in the first period.
Things only went downhill once the second period began. Brock Nelson would get the next two goals for the Isles, and Kyle Palmieri would get the fourth. The Bruins have struggled in the second period all season, and this was the night that it finally did them in. The Bruins not only gave up three goals, but struggled to generate any kind of offense, and heading into the third period down 4-1, they were left searching for a miracle to save their season that just wouldn’t appear.
The third period was just pure domination for the Islanders, who for the first time this series, truly outplayed the Bruins in an entire game. The Isles defense shut the Bruins down completely as the Bruins were only able to put five shots on Semyon Varlamov. Brad Marchand did net his second of the game early on off of the power play, but the B’s got absolutely nothing from anyone else in their lineup. They struggled to even get Tuukka Rask pulled towards the end of the game because the Islanders forecheck was so strong. Cal Clutterbuck and Ryan Pulock would add empty netters for the Islanders to push the final score to 6-2.
The Bruins lack of depth was on display in the series, as the bottom six were non-factors the entire series. The Islanders realized this, especially tonight, and shut down the second line as well, which was all they needed to do. They could handle one line operating, even if it was the top line, because they were only able to generate a couple of goals.
A guy who was noticeably missing throughout the series was Taylor Hall, who up until the second round, was a terrific addition to the lineup. Before arriving in Boston, the Bruins were lost depth wise, as they couldn’t get anything from the bottom nine. With the addition of Hall however, it was clear that David Krejci had a new energy and the top six forwards were firing on all cylinders for the rest of the season. But with a smart coach in Barry Trotz, and a stout defense, the Islanders realized that Taylor Hall unlocked a lot of the Bruins offense and shutting him down was a game changer. Without Hall firing on all cylinders, the Bruins offense was missing, especially tonight.
As much as the Islanders adjustments helped them, the Bruins lack of adjustments strongly hurt them. One of the most evident non-adjustments was the power play. The Bruins did score a goal tonight, but were shut down in large part because they didn’t recognize what the Islanders were doing to stop them. For example, the Bruins kept trying to get the puck to Patrice Bergeron in his trademark bumper position, but the Islanders were all over it, smothering him. Even when Bergeron had a guy in his face or two guys crowding him, the Bruins would continuously try to feed him the puck and lose possession almost every time. This, along with countless other missed adjustments, were the main reasons the Bruins were unable to overcome the Islanders.
In the coming weeks and months, the Bruins will have to figure out what to do with some veteran contracts, as well as prepare for the upcoming season by hopefully adding to their lineup and improving their depth on both offense and defense. It will certainly be a long wait before puck drops again at T.D. Garden, but for now, Bruins fans will be forced to watch the Islanders take on the reigning champs in the Eastern Conference Finals.