Finally done with the first round, the diagnosis on the Boston Bruins post-2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is next. The Bruins came in lacking a few things, and that showed itself in their elimination.
The Boston Bruins came into the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs looking to avenge the fact that they had missed two straight coming into this season. They fired head coach Claude Julien at around the three-quarter mark and then stumbled their way into winning the tiebreaker with Toronto. A team that won the lottery just last year.
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Now, how do the Boston Bruins recover from their elimination at the hands of the Ottawa Senators? What do the Bruins need to change to do better next season? Most of your questions will be answered below. Hopefully.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Boston Bruins left wing David Pastrnak (88) and defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) react after being defeated by the Ottawa Senators in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Zdeno Chara is 40 years old. He hasn’t lost height. Actually, he may have. He’s so old the shrinking process might have begun. Anyway, he played the most minutes a night of any Boston Bruin, with 28. Again, a 40-year-old. Chara hasn’t just lost a step, he’s lost several.
So let’s start there. This defense needs to get younger, and desperately. They need actual names to come into this joint and shake it up. Kevin Shattenkirk is a free agent, and I see the Bruins getting in a bidding war. But if they don’t win that top prize, they could look at names like Karl Alzner, Kris Russell, and Michael Stone.
They need help. Desperately. While rookie Charlie McAvoy finally played his first games in the NHL, they came in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s how desperate the Bruins were for defense, they were willing to roll with a rookie getting his feet under him. The Bruins themselves know how desperate they are for defense.
And yes, while the Bruins were hurt, lacking Torey Krug throughout the playoffs, that’s really no excuse. The Bruins defense was terrible all season. While that may not appear in their Corsi numbers, that’s partly the Bruins having defensively responsible forwards (Patrice Bergeron) and also the fact that Tuukka Rask posted relatively good stats.
Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) skates (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)
Yeah. Don’t expect the future pairing of Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug to save this franchise on their own. It’s time to get serious, get some defensive help up in TD Garden, and stop overly relying on Patrice Bergeron.
This was a problem with many of the teams that entered the playoffs. It remains that way with the Boston Bruins, who had only seven players score a goal. Patrice Bergeron tied for the most with two. They only scored ten goals in six games.
The fact that their defense sucked and let up fifteen to an offensively-challenged Ottawa Senators team also hurts. The defense gave up two goals to a guy who hadn’t played since 2015 (Clarke MacArthur) and two game-winning goals to Bobby Ryan.
Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) battles with Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Still, the offense needed to score more than ten goals, and the fact that they were beaten one to nothing is indicative of their offensive abilities. Boston needed more production from Brad Marchand, who scored 39 in the regular season. That was near the league lead, but he couldn’t do it in the playoffs.
Boston had to rely on names like Drew Stafford (trade-deadline acquisition), Tim Schaller and Frank Vatrano for their goal scoring abilities. For the record, Schaller hadn’t played in more than 20 games before this season, and Vatrano played half the season for the Bruins. Sean Kuraly being one of the Bruins best players in the playoffs despite his lack of production also evidenced their lack of stars.
While, again, this was a team dealing with injuries – David Krejci missed half the series – he couldn’t produce when he was on the ice. Boston needs to be better offensively, and with the experience on this team, there’s no excuse.
Yeah, Boston wasn’t healthy. That’s out of their control. Not only key players like Krejci and Krug missed time, but so did Ryan Spooner, Colin Miller, and Adam McQuaid. So it’s not entirely Boston’s fault that they couldn’t find offensive production or defensive capability, but still. They would have relied on McQuaid and Miller.
Boston Bruins right wing David Backes (42) skates in the offensive zone (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
The Boston Bruins were also a uniquely old team. Not only Chara but most of their core group of players. Patrice Bergeron is 31, and so is David Krejci. David Backes, who signed with Boston for six years, is 33. Dominic Moore is 36. So is John-Michael Liles.
McQuaid is 30. Kevan Miller is about to be.
This was a long way of saying: the Boston Bruins core is on the wrong side of thirty. They haven’t won a Cup since 2011, and they’ve missed the playoffs the last two years. Many of these older players are signed to long contracts, so this isn’t a situation likely to improve.
And by the way, of the eight teams remaining in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, five are younger than the Bruins. The ones that aren’t are Ottawa, Pittsburgh, and Washington. All of these teams, by virtue of shedding older players, will be younger than the Bruins next season.
The Bruins need to shed some age. And there’s just no feasible way of doing so. It’s not yet time to panic for the Bruins, but with missing the last two years and winning only two games in this year’s, it’s getting closer.