After five grueling months without hockey, Boston Bruins fans rejoiced as the NHL restarted their 2019–20 campaign in two hub cities as 24 teams returned from their fellow quarantines to vie for the Stanley Cup. The Boston Bruins, who were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the qualifiers, had high expectations coming into the bubble. Prior to the postponement of the season, the Bruins were rolling — winners of five of their last six games. The perfection line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak was continuing their dominance, and Tuukka Rask was becoming a dark horse candidate for the prized Vezina Trophy. However, it seemed that the layoff affected the Bruins slightly more than their competition; they looked sluggish through the round-robin and fell to the No. 4 seed. To make matters worse, Tuukka Rask abruptly departed the bubble for a family emergency. The Bruins managed to pull a string of victories together to win the series against the Carolina Hurricanes but were eventually demolished at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who now have a clear path to the title. Here’s why the Boston Bruins played themselves into a crushing series loss:
As much as I love Jaroslav Halak and his value to the team, a backup goaltender can rarely lead your team to a Stanley Cup. He looked sharp in the Hurricanes series, but he was rarely placed in crunch time situations. In the Lightning series, Halak was extremely inconsistent and was embarrassed in the 7–1 loss in Game 3. If Rask had been able to remain inside the bubble, the Bruins could’ve beaten the Lightning in seven games. Goaltending is a backbone for a championship team, and the Bruins simply didn’t have the talent between the pipes for another Cup run.
The Bruins just couldn’t catch a break this series — they continued to make poor mistakes in the defensive zone, which led to lazy penalties. Although the Tampa power play was struggling prior to the beginning of this series, they lit up the scoreboard when on the man advantage. The discipline simply wasn’t there for the Bruins this year. It doesn’t take a genius to know that playing a man down isn’t an advantage.
Poor shot selection
The Bruins are loaded with capable goal scorers. From Pastrnak to Jake DeBrusk and Ondrej Kase, they have an arsenal of players who can light the lamp from time to time. However, they didn’t generate enough scoring chances. They chose shots from outside the circles and from the half wall — generally, these aren’t places where goals are scored. They weren’t aggressive enough on their power plays and waited too long for the “perfect shot,” which inevitably never came. The Bruins shot themselves out of the season.
So, what’s next? The Bruins currently head into the offseason with multiple questions about their roster. Luckily, one was recently solved after Captain Zdeno Chara announced he will be returning for another season in a Bruins uniform. Torey Krug is currently an unrestricted free agent but has expressed interest in returning to the Bruins. This will be a quick reset for the Bruins; they need to secure a more winning mindset if they ever want to compete for a Stanley Cup in their prime.