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Bruins lose in second round, injuries to key defensemen among reasons

Rask's health, lack of even-strength scoring depth led to elimination by Islanders

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

The Boston Bruins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the New York Islanders, losing 6-2 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Second Round on Wednesday.

The Bruins (33-16-7) were the No. 3 seed in the MassMutual East Division and were 3-3-2 against the Islanders during the regular season.

Here's a look at what happened during the 2021 postseason for the Bruins and why things could be better next season:

 
The skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: David Krejci, F; Taylor Hall, F; Sean Kuraly, F; Greg McKegg, F; Mike Reilly, D; Kevan Miller, D; Steven Kampfer, D; Jarred Tinordi, D; Tuukka Rask, G; Jaroslav Halak, G

Potential restricted free agents: Ondrej Kase, F; Nick Ritchie, F; Trent Frederic, F; Zach Senyshyn, F; Brandon Carlo, D; Callum Booth, G

Potential 2021 NHL Draft picks: 7

 
What went wrong

Defensemen injuries: The Bruins lost two key defensemen to injuries during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, starting with Miller in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup First Round against the Washington Capitals. Although coach Bruce Cassidy said there was a possibility that Miller could have come back had Boston pushed New York to Game 7, he missed the entire series against the Islanders and the Bruins missed his presence. They also were without Carlo for the final three games against the Islanders, all losses. In Game 6, the Bruins had puck management issues and defensive breakdowns, some of which might have been avoided had they not been down two key defensemen.

Not enough even-strength scoring: The Bruins were led offensively in the series by their top line of David Pastrnak (five goals, four assists), Brad Marchand (five goals, four assists) and Patrice Bergeron (one goal, four assists), who combined for 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists), including two power-play goals by Marchand in Game 6. But as Cassidy said Wednesday, "Certainly could have used some more scoring out of certain people in this series. You can do the math on that." The Bruins needed more from its second line of Hall (one assist), Krejci (one goal, one assist) and Craig Smith (one goal, one assist), who combined for five points (two goals, three assists) at even strength. They needed more from third-line center Charlie Coyle, who scored one goal in six games. The Bruins didn't get enough.

Rask's health: There was no question that Rask was not healthy. Cassidy referred multiple times to "nagging" injuries that plagued the goalie throughout the regular season and postseason. But other than the third period of Game 5, Cassidy stuck with Rask, the goalie he trusted most, against the Islanders, instead of turning to rookie Jeremy Swayman. It's unclear whether anything would have changed had he made a goalie switch, but it's clear that Rask's injury, which may require offseason surgery, impacted his play.

 
Reasons for optimism

Swayman a bright spot: With the tandem of Rask and Halak entering the season as one of the best in the NHL, it didn't seem likely that Swayman would enter the equation so soon. But with Rask injured and Halak on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list from April 5-17, Swayman got his chance. He was 7-3-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games and passed Halak on the depth chart to become Rask's backup. With Rask and Halak able to become an unrestricted free agents July 28, Swayman's play may offer additional flexibility under the NHL salary cap for the Bruins, and a shot at the starter's job for Swayman sooner than anticipated.

No downturn for Marchand: Even at 33, Marchand somehow continues to get better. The forward was the Bruins' most valuable player all season. He scored 69 points (29 goals, 40 assists) in 53 games, and 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in 11 playoff games. His average of 1.30 points per game during the regular season was the highest of his 12-season NHL career.

McAvoy takes steps: Charlie McAvoy became the leader of the Bruins' defensemen this season following the departure of Zdeno Chara, and the 23-year-old proved he was up to the task. He scored 30 points (five goals, 25 assists) and averaged 24:00 of ice time in 51 games, the most of his four NHL seasons. He also had a plus-23 even-strength goal differential, tied for sixth among NHL defensemen. McAvoy demonstrated his ability to play heavy minutes against the toughest opponents and pushed himself offensively as well.

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