For less doom-and-gloom, read Jake’s article on reasons for optimism.
Bruce Cassidy in the Playoffs
Coach Cassidy has been to the playoffs in many seasons as a head and assistant coach, and is no stranger to the hot seat behind the bench in those situations. Unfortunately, his only sniff of the playoffs at the NHL level as a head coach was for the Washington Capitals ended in a disappointing first-round loss, and he was fired the next season after 25 games.
Now, we realize that it’s been over a decade since that point, and Cassidy as undoubtedly reshaped his methods and systems quite a bit. However, his encounters with the Big(ish) Dance in the minor leagues have not yielded much more. Just looking at years since his ousting from Washington, his teams have qualified for the playoffs five out of seven years but have been eliminated in the first or second round every year. That’s including four straight 40+ win seasons with the Providence Bruins, finishing first, second or third in the Atlantic, only to bow out early.
With Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak shining at the top of the Bruins’ stat sheet, it’s tough to look below that, what with all the glare. Even after a lackluster start to the season, Bergeron isn’t supposed to be counted on for points. Where the dropoff begins is Krejci’s assist totals. Over a full season - and Krejci played ALL 82 games this year - he only had 31 helpers, a far drop from more typical full-season counts of 40+ assists. We’ll admit that it’s most likely due to his revolving cast of wingers, but he’s played pretty consistently with Pastrnak, so there should be some chemistry building between them at this point; however, not having a regular on his left definitely hurt that line. We saw a bit of a resurgence from Ryan Spooner, if only in terms of flashiness - OT winners notwithstanding, his ten-point drop from last season is disheartening, and similar to Krejci mostly lost ground in the assist column. No, assists aren’t goals and goals win games, but clearly guys who are supposed to feed the puck should be helping offense along. Without rehashing season-long gripes, Beleskey’s injury-riddled season and having 5 4th-line players in the bottom six further hampered scoring depth on this team.
Oh, man. This one is a tough pill to swallow.
Torey Krug’s apparent knee injury and Brandon Carlo’s likely concussion within the last few days of the regular season hurts real bad. (Hurts for them, too, not to make light of their injuries.) Two top-four defensemen out to start the playoffs throws a huge wrench into the B’s systems play. Carlo had been playing admirably for a rookie and was largely covered by Chara’s experience in tough situations, and Krug is a major contributor to scoring, having ranked 5th overall on the team in points. Krug is the bigger loss here, no offense to Carlo, and those points will be much tougher to come by via Colin Miller or Charlie McAvoy, who will likely play his first career NHL game in the playoffs.
Power Play woes
The Krug Effect comes into play here - nearly half of his points came via the power play, and he helped keep the Bruins in the top ten man-advantage teams in the league. Without Krug over the last game-plus, the power play sputtered, largely looking unable to gain or retain zone possession and essentially burning two minutes instead of making strides toward a comeback against Ottawa and Washington - two teams that the Bruins will need to pass through in order to make a deep playoff push.
Futile attempts against top-tier teams
Speaking of Ottawa and Washington, the Bruins failed to play well against playoff-bound teams. Though some of these games came too early in the season to really know who would be in the playoffs, these things tend to be somewhat predictable - at least at the top of each conference. 2-2 against the Canadiens was alright, though rough losses at home weren’t fun to watch. 0-3 against the Capitals? 0-3 against the New York Rangers? 0-3 against the Ottawa Senators? 0-4 against the TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS?!?! Hey, at least we went 5-0 against the Panthers, and 4-0 against the Sabres...