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Out go the Bruins: Thoughts from Boston on the latest elimination of a hockey team

Saturday 5/18/24

The Boston Bruins, as I expected, were eliminated for the second year in a row on home ice by the Florida Panthers, losing by a score of 2-1.


I've said most of what needs to be said because I've been dead on about this team all along, but a few notes.


David Pastrnak really hurts the Bruins in the postseason. He's not a playoff performer. He's also strangely lackadaisical on scoring chances where he carries the puck. You see him act this way on penalty shots in the regular season. His body is upright, like he's in warm-ups and is simply tossing the puck on goal, shooting off his back leg with this gentle motion. Set him up with a one-timer and he'll hammer it, but when he has possession of the puck with a prime scoring chance, he's out there on a Sunday drive. Last night he had a breakaway and it was as if he was indifferent to the possibility of scoring. They needed a goal there, which would have made it 2-0.


Florida coach Paul Maurice--who has some Joe Madden in him--thought his team would win. That was what I took away from his in-game interview, when Florida was trailing. His attitude: If we just stay the course, we'll win because we're a bunch of gamers and this opponent folds.


NHL hockey is two forms of hockey. It's regular season hockey and playoff hockey. What is obvious to me when I see the Bruins and Panthers match up like they have over the last two postseasons is that the Bruins are a team built for the regular season, whereas the Panthers are built for the playoffs. (Last night, one of the announcers remarked that the Bruins had beat the Panthers four times in the regular season, as if this signified anything. The Bruins beating the Panthers in November is no indication whatsoever that the Bruins can beat the Panthers in May.) The Bruins are out of their element in the playoffs, while the Panthers are in theirs. The Bruins need to think a lot more about building a team for playoff hockey and success than they do regular season hockey and success.


Jeremy Swayman should be the goalie moving forward. The actual goalie. Not the goalie who plays half or a little more than half the time. That means parting ways with Linus Ullmark because Ullmark and Swayman are too in love with each other as BFFs not to need to share what either of them have.


Also: Dispense with the delusion that Charlie McAvoy is an NHL number one defenseman, because that delusion is part of what is killing you. You're banking on a player being things that he isn't.


Time for coach Jim Montgomery to go. He's a propagator of this team's Care Bear culture. Care Bears don't win many NHL playoff games.


But even if he was not, the fact that the Bruins had seven too-many-men-on-the-ice penalties in thirteen playoff games means the decision to move on from him should be automatic. Ask anyone you know who plays or has played hockey at any level--squirts, house league, high school, beer league--if they've ever seen or been part of anything like that, and they'll say no, never. It's not just a fireable offense. It's a you-gotta-go-sir offense.


For the second year in a row, the Bruins lost three home playoff games to the Panthers.


I heard an interview with Montgomery between Games 5 and 6 in which he was sounding all sad about how hard it is to play at home, because if the fans boo, they players get sad and sad players have a harder time winning hockey games.


I could have thrown up. He was asking the fans, before a playoff game involving professional athletes, not to voice any displeasure with the team. (Had the Bruins so much as been lightly booed at home in this series? How about in last year's choke job?)


As I was saying yesterday, to allow this same team to finish your season in your rink like they did last year was an outcome that just couldn't happen. It says most of what you need to know about the Bruins at present, their culture, their make-up.


You can't fault a team for not being as good as another team. But you can fault a team for not fighting as hard as they should and for not being as strong as they ought to be. That isn't a physical thing.


So I found this rather disappointing, though far less so than last year. Unfortunately, this is what you expect from the Bruins. Year in, year out. Decade after decade. They are Boston's biggest losers, a title the Red Sox held for most of a century. Bruins culture is losing culture.


Here's wishing the guys a summer packed with hugs, and I'll see you in the fall, fellas.



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