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Bruins’ playoff run exposed huge roster flaw that must be fixed ASAP

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Bruins' playoff run exposed huge roster flaw that must be fixed ASAP

“Lack of our ability to score in the playoffs, in general, you can’t win every game 2-1,” Boston head coach Jim Montgomery said after the Game 6 loss to the Panthers. “We had the opportunities. We had five odd-man attacks after two periods (in Game 6). In Game 4, we had several breakaways. Their goalie was good and we didn’t beat him.”

The upcoming offseason is pivotal for the Bruins. There are plenty of takeaways from the Bruins’ loss to the Panthers, but one big flaw in Boston’s roster that this series (and the playoffs as a whole) exposed is a lack of elite offensive talent.

How many elite offensive players do the Bruins have? David Pasternak. That’s the end of the list. When your best player is a right wing and you don’t have a traditional top-six center, that’s typically not a recipe for being a Cup contender, even if that player is as talented as Pastrnak.

The benefit of having multiple decisive factors in the forward is that the opponent cannot focus most of their attention and double their defense on a single player. Anything can happen in a game, but over the course of a seven-game series, it’s hard to win with an elite forward. Maybe you can get away with it for a single round, especially if your goalie plays out of his mind… like Swayman did in Round 1 — but in four rounds that’s not a winning strategy.

Brad Marchand is still a top two-way left wing, but he’s 36 years old. Pavel Zacha and Charlie Coyle are very good players. Neither is the second or third best forward on a championship-caliber team. Zacha has one goal in 25 career playoff games. He was largely ineffective at center during the playoffs and, as a result, played a lot of left wing against the Panthers. Coyle scored one goal in 13 games during the 2024 playoffs and has just five goals in his last 27 postseason matchups.

Jake DeBrusk led the B’s in playoff scoring with 11 points in 13 games, but he’s too inconsistent to trust. Morgan Geekie is a very good third line player. If he’s one of your top six centers, as was the case for most of the Panthers series, you’re in trouble. Apart from Pastrnak, no forward in the B squad scares the opponent.

Sure, Pastrnak should and needed to play better than he did in the playoffs. He had five points (three goals, two assists) in seven games against the Leafs, but only scored one goal in six games against the Panthers. Eight points (four goals, four assists) in 13 playoff games is a bit disappointing for a player of Pastrnak’s caliber. outside the series-winning goal in overtime of Game 7 Against Toronto, Pastrnak did not have any memorable scoring moments in the postseason.

Opponents made a concerted effort to manhandle Pastrnak at every opportunity. He received 35 hits in 13 playoff games, the third most of any B. forward including Pastrnak fought Matthew Tkachuk in the second game of the second round.

Pastrnak had an incredible regular season. Without the benefit of playing alongside Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci for the first time in his career, he led the Bruins with 47 goals, 18 more than Brad Marchand in second place. Pastrnak’s 63 assists were a new career high and 25 more than the next closest player on the roster.

The Bruins lost 102 of the 301 goals they scored during the 2022-23 season as a result of players leaving last summer. And they couldn’t replace any of those good players due to salary cap limitations. It was all up to Pastrnak to deliver, and he did just that in the regular season.

He led the team in scoring by a whopping 43 points. The only player in the league to lead his team in scoring by more than 43 points was Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (led by 54 points). But second place on the Lightning was Brayden Point with 90 points, much more than Marchand’s 67. Only four teams (Lightning, Rangers, Avalanche and Bruins) had a gap of 28 or more points between their first and second leading scorers this year. season.

The Bruins only had two players reach the 65-point mark this season. Only nine teams had fewer and all missed the playoffs. Pastrnak desperately needs help.

You can’t win the Stanley Cup with an elite, game-changing forward. Take a look at the last 10 Stanley Cup winners: Golden Knights, Avalanche, Lightning, Blues, Capitals, Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings. All of them, with the possible exception of Les Bleus, had at least two elite forwards.

And when you look at the rosters of the remaining playoff teams, they all have multiple forwards (and some defensemen) who are game-changing talents. Players capable of winning a playoff game practically on their own.

The Edmonton Oilers have Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman. The Florida Panthers have Matthew Tkachuk, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart. The New York Rangers have Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider, and five total 70-point scorers. The Vancouver Canucks have JT Miller, Elias Pettersson and defenseman Quinn Hughes. The Dallas Stars are something of an exception. They don’t have a top-10 offensive player, but they had eight 20-goal scorers this season, plus a top-five defenseman in Miro Heiskanen.

All of these elite teams have a lot of firepower. If McDavid struggles, Leon Draisaitl takes over. If Tkachuk is ineffective or takes bad penalties, Barkov and Reinhart will step up, as we saw in their series against the Bruins. If Pastrnak and Marchand don’t play at an elite level, who else on this team can be trusted to step up when it matters most?

Finding a second elite scorer won’t be easy. These players rarely reach free agency and negotiating with them is quite expensive.

But the Bruins will have some roster flexibility in the summer. If they trade Linus Ullmark, they could have around $26 million in cap space. by CapFriendly. They would still need to re-sign Jeremy Swayman and perhaps DeBrusk, but they will have cap space to at least attempt a major move. They didn’t have that luxury last summer. And if there’s one area where Don Sweeney excels more than most of his peers, it’s trading. His track record is extremely strong there.

Veteran center Elias Lindholm is the free agent that makes the most sense.

He is a legitimate top-six forward and a very good two-way player. He is also elite in faceoffs, an area in which the Bruins struggled during the regular season and playoffs. The Bruins supposedly had interest in Lindholm before the trade deadline. He was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks and, after a slow start with his new team, has scored nine points (five goals, four assists) in 12 playoff games.

Panthers right wing Sam Reinhart, Lightning center Steven Stamkos, Devils right wing Tyler Toffoli and Hurricanes right wing Jake Guentzel are the other top forwards who could hit the market of free agents this summer. Reinhart scored 57 goals this season. Stamkos just completed his seventh season with 40 goals despite being 34 years old. Toffoli has scored more than 20 goals on eight occasions. Guentzel has scored more than 30 goals in three consecutive seasons and won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2017.

The Bruins have a solid foundation to build on from a roster perspective. They have a top 10 goalie in Swayman. They have a top 10-15 blue line, led by Charlie McAvoy. Pastrnak is a top-notch offensive player. Marchand is a great captain and one of the best two-way fullbacks in the league. Mason Lohrei and Matthew Poitras showed great potential as rookies.

This team is not far from being a true contender. But if Sweeney doesn’t acquire another top-six forward, whether a playmaking center or a natural goal scorer on the wing, it’s hard to imagine this group getting past the second round next season. Making this type of improvement should be the Bruins’ number one offseason priority.

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