Boston Bruins eliminated

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Florida Panthers with a 2-1 loss in Game 6 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round on Friday.

The Bruins reached the second round for the first time since 2020-21, having been eliminated in the first round in the each of the previous two seasons. They lost to the Panthers in seven games in the first round last season and to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games in 2022.

Boston (47-20-15) was second in the Atlantic Division this season, one point behind Florida, and finished seven points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs in seven games in the first round after going up 3-1 after Game 4, then losing Games 5 and 6 before rebounding to win Game 7.

Against the Panthers, the Bruins won Game 1, then lost three consecutive games by a combined margin of 15-5 before rebounding for a 2-1 road win in Game 5 to push the series to six games.

The Skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Jake DeBrusk, F; James van Riemsdyk, F; Pat Maroon, F; Danton Heinen, F; Matt Grzelcyk, D; Derek Forbort, D; Kevin Shattenkirk, D

Potential restricted free agents: Jesper Boqvist, F; Jeremy Swayman, G

Potential 2024 Draft picks: 3

Here are five reasons the Bruins were eliminated:

1. Delayed starts

This was a problem that went back to the series against the Maple Leafs, one of the reasons it took the Bruins until Game 7 to advance. It reared its head again in the second round, one of the main reasons Boston fell to Florida.

In Game 3, the Panthers outshot the Bruins 13-3 in the first period.

In Game 4, Boston held a 2-0 first period lead despite being outshot 15-5.

It was something coach Jim Montgomery had deemed “unacceptable” in the first round and was equally problematic in the second; the Bruins weren’t able to pressure the Panthers right off the opening draw, allowing their opponent to build momentum over and over again.

The Bruins often saw their play pick up in the second and third periods, which was often too late. In Game 3, for example, Florida led 4-0 by the time Boston scored twice in the third period. But the Bruins couldn’t overcome the hole they’d dug for themselves, and went on to a 6-2 loss.

FLA@BOS R2, Gm6: Panthers, Bruins shake hands after the conclusion of their series

2. Lack of shots, scoring

Boston failed to put enough pucks on Florida in just about every game. After the Bruins had 29 shots in a 5-1 win in Game 1, they followed that with 15 shots in Game 2, 17 in Game 3 and 18 in Game 4 before putting a renewed focus on the issue and outshooting the Panthers 13-4 in the first period in a Game 5 victory.

Though Sergei Bobrovsky played well, the Panthers goalie was far from unbeatable. He allowed 12 goals on 129 shots, good for a .907 save percentage. The problem was until it was down 3-1 in the series, Boston could never put enough shots up on him, could never get enough traffic around the net, and therefore could never score enough goals.

After they scored five times in Game 1, the Bruins scored five goals combined over the next three games, and did not score more than two in any of the last five games.

“The lack of our ability to score in the playoffs in general,” Montgomery said, of the frustrations of the series. “You can’t win every game 2-1.”

3. Failure to extend leads

This was a winnable series for Boston, but whenever it had momentum or a lead, it was never able to extend that lead to give itself a cushion and put games out of reach for Florida.

It happened in Game 2, when the Bruins went up 1-0 in the first period, but could have had as many as three goals given the chances they had on the way to a 6-1 defeat. It happened in Game 4, when a 2-0 lead could have added a couple of extra in the second period with four solid chances to score in an eventual 3-2 loss.

It could have happened, yet again, in Game 5, when the Bruins went up 1-0 in the first period of a 2-1 loss and again in Game 6, when they scored first in another 2-1 defeat. There were breakaways and 2-on-1s, odd man rushes Boston could never quite cash in on.

4. Betrayed by the power play

The Bruins got off to a hot start on the man-advantage against the Maple Leafs, when they scored six power-play goals on 13 chances (46.2 percent) in the first four games of the first round.

They did not score on the power play again until Game 4 of the second round.

Boston was limited to one power-play goal against Florida, going 1-for-16 in six games. The two teams tied for sixth in the NHL on the penalty kill (82.5 percent) during the regular season, but the fact Boston could not break through on the man-advantage, especially also struggling to score at 5-on-5, proved costly.

5. Home groan

The Bruins lost all three games at TD Garden during the series, outscored 11-5.

The problem was nothing new; Boston lost two of its four home games against Toronto in the first round, and the Bruins eventually stayed at a hotel in Boston the night before Game 7 to try to minimize distractions and replicate road conditions. It didn't help; Florida won to close out the series.

And it went beyond this season; the Bruins have lost their last six home playoff games to the Panthers, a huge reason for being knocked out of the playoffs by their division foe two straight times.