It was an unexpectedly successful season for the Bruins: they nearly captured the Atlantic Division crown, they won a playoff series for the first time in four years and many falsely thought (myself included) that they were a Stanley Cup contender. Then they ran into the Tampa Bay Lightning who knocked them out in five mostly stress-free contests. 2017-2018 should serve as a great lesson for many of Boston’s promising young players. One of the biggest takeaways for the team though is that there is still a sizable gap between them and the truly elite clubs in the league like Tampa Bay. Here are three areas that the Bruins should be focusing on now that the offseason is unfortunately upon them.
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One of the reasons that Boston had so much trouble with Toronto in the first round of the playoffs (going 7 games with the Leafs before they survived in Game 7 at TD Garden) is because of their team-wide speed. Having so many young guys improved the Bruins’ speed but against the Lightning, that was one of the most notable differences between the clubs. That is where the NHL has gone in the last few years, with an emphasis on speed, skating ability and stickhandling skills. It took awhile but Boston has started to realize this fact but they still have plenty of work to do in this regard to catch up with the other top teams.
The Bruins had better defensemen than the Maple Leafs, that is an easy explanation for why they were able to ultimately beat them. However, when they matched up with Tampa Bay (who has one of the deepest defensive corps in the NHL), Boston didn’t have a chance. Of course, it didn’t help that Brandon Carlo got hurt once again in the regular season finale for the second year in a row and that Torey Krug (3 goals, 9 assists in 11 games) left in Game 4 vs. Tampa Bay with a severe ankle injury. Still, do you think that they regret leaving Colin Miller (2 goals, 1 assist) exposed in the Expansion Draft? He’s off to the Western Conference Final with the Golden Knights.
All season-long, we sung the praises of Brad Marchand (4 goals, 13 assists), Patrice Bergeron (6 goals, 10 assists) and David Pastrnak (6 goals, 14 assists). They were almost universally hailed as the best forward line in the NHL. Looking at their statistics, those guys all brought it in the postseason but the problem for Boston is the same can’t be said for many of their other three forward lines. In fact, after they scored six goals in the shockingly easy 6-2 Game 1 victory, Tampa Bay clamped down on the Bruins and held them to only a combined seven goals in the remaining four contests. Boston actually had the top-ranked power play in the 2018 playoffs, clicking at an absurd rate of 36.4% but that brushed aside the fact that they were awful 5-on-5. In the season-ending Game 5 loss to Tampa Bay, the B’s scored first on a David Krejci power play goal but the Lightning tied it on a Brayden Point 5-on-5 goal, followed by a J.T. Miller power play strike and Anton Stralman iced it with a power play goal. Rookie Jake DeBrusk (6 goals, 2 assists) had a solid first postseason but Rick Nash (3 goals, 2 assists) predictably flopped in his first playoffs with the spoked B. Krejci (3 goals, 7 assists) always ratchets his game up this time of season so he needs another reliable winger around him which will help the Bruins advance further.