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  4. title => "Are we overlooking a critical weakness for Bruins in Stanley Cup Playoffs?"
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  6. article_body => "<p>Last year, the Presidents' Trophy winning Lightning got absolutely steamrolled in the first round.<\/p>\n<p>We all know that and we've had our laughs over it, but let's not forget why they lost: It was because they blew a big lead in Game 1. That was it. Jumped up 3-0 in the first period, blew the lead and couldn't recover, not just for the game, but for the series.<\/p>\n<p>The Lightning, the best team in the regular season, had a flaw.<\/p>\n<p>They'd sprinted so far out ahead of the rest of the league that they had never been in a tight spot, had their backs against the wall or had to prove anything. Then the second those things happened in the postseason, it was over in a four-game sweep.<\/p>\n<p class=\"wysiwyg-center\"><em><strong>Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by <\/strong><\/em><a href=\"https:\/\/smart.link\/5bb76e2c06579?site_id=Dig_RSN_Bos&amp;creative_id=nbcsbos1075&amp;cp_4=www.nbcsports.com&amp;cp_1=boston&amp;cp_2=alerts&amp;cp_3=nbcsbos1075\" target=\"_blank\"><em><strong>downloading the My Teams App<\/strong><\/em><\/a><\/p>\n<p>The Bruins were the best team in the NHL this season, but they, too, have a flaw. I don't think it's a \"lose in the first round\" flaw, but it's a tangible flaw.<\/p>\n<p>By my count, the Bruins have three (3) solid goal-scorers on the wing. Two of them happen to be among the best wings on the planet (David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand), but they have three sure things, with the third being Jake DeBrusk. Their lack of stability beyond the top line \u2014&nbsp;specifically on the wing \u2014&nbsp;is glaring.<\/p>\n<p>That's a problem, and an easy Leo-pointing-at-the-TV meme of \"what could prevent the Bruins from winning the Cup?\"<\/p>\n<p>It's not like the Bruins exactly had it figured out last year, either, with mostly a revolving door of Karson Kuhlman and David Backes skating to David Krejci's right, but that team had at least a steady duo on every line thanks to the presence of Marcus Johansson skating on the third line.<\/p>\n<p>Johansson is gone. So too are \u2014&nbsp;don't laugh \u2014&nbsp;Danton Heinen and Backes. It appears there are auditions for the second-line right wing job, which could be filled by Anders Bjork or top prospect Jack Studnicka, neither of whom have played an NHL postseason game. Studnicka has the highest ceiling, but he's played in two NHL games. He's also a center who'll be playing the wing. Bruce Cassidy told reporters this week Thursday's preseason game will likely feature a DeBrusk-Krejci-Studnicka line.<\/p>\n<ul>\n<li>\n<h3><a href=\"https:\/\/www.nbcsports.com\/boston\/bruins\/bruins-jake-debrusk-has-changed-mindset-about-contract-after-nhl-break?int\" target=\"_blank\">Haggerty: Long break gives DeBrusk new mindset on contract<\/a><\/h3>\n<\/li>\n<\/ul>\n<p>Ondrej Kase, whom the Bruins acquired when they gave the Ducks a first-round pick to take Backes' contract, is not in Toronto with the team. He'll be a candidate for top-six minutes if he joins the Bruins and gets up to speed, but <a href=\"https:\/\/www.nbcsports.com\/boston\/bruins\/bruins-ondrej-kase-may-need-wait-get-his-job-back-once-hes-ready-play?int\" target=\"_blank\">he's a major question mark<\/a>. He played just six games for the Bruins before the season was halted and had seven goals over 55 games in the regular season.<\/p>\n<p>Then there's Nick Ritchie, whom the B's brought on to give them size. Though he had eight goals thanks to a high shooting percentage in 41 games with the Ducks, he's best served as a bottom-sixer. Ritchie's also not been on the ice of late.<\/p>\n<p>This isn't to say these are bad players, because they're not. It's to say that not knowing whether you've got a steady middle six is not a sign of a Stanley Cup favorite.<\/p>\n<p>Boston's defense, goaltending and top line are absolutely Stanley Cup caliber. Yet what cost them last June \u2014&nbsp;no, it wasn't that they \"weren't tough enough\" \u2014&nbsp;was their inability to bury chances.<\/p>\n<p>So in addition to all the uncertainty the NHL's return to play carries, the Bruins have quite a few \"ifs.\" If Kase gets caught up and becomes a strong fit on the second line, that will go a long way. If the Studnickas, Bjorks and\/or Ritchies of the world turn themselves into household names while the rest of the roster does its thing, the Bruins will be right there with Tampa as the best equipped group to raise the Cup.<\/p>\n<p>Yet if no one ends up grabbing a hold of that second line right wing spot and Bruce Cassidy can't settle on sure-fire linemates for Charlie Coyle, the Bruins could be the latest Presidents' Trophy winner to fall short of their ultimate goal.&nbsp;<\/p>\n<ul>\n<li>\n<h3><a href=\"https:\/\/www.nbcsports.com\/boston\/bruins\/which-team-should-bruins-hope-avoid-stanley-cup-playoffs?int\" target=\"_blank\">Haggerty\/Bean: Which team should the B's want to avoid?&nbsp;<\/a><\/h3>\n<\/li>\n<\/ul>\n"
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Bruins

Bruins

Last year, the Presidents' Trophy winning Lightning got absolutely steamrolled in the first round.

We all know that and we've had our laughs over it, but let's not forget why they lost: It was because they blew a big lead in Game 1. That was it. Jumped up 3-0 in the first period, blew the lead and couldn't recover, not just for the game, but for the series.

The Lightning, the best team in the regular season, had a flaw.

They'd sprinted so far out ahead of the rest of the league that they had never been in a tight spot, had their backs against the wall or had to prove anything. Then the second those things happened in the postseason, it was over in a four-game sweep.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

The Bruins were the best team in the NHL this season, but they, too, have a flaw. I don't think it's a "lose in the first round" flaw, but it's a tangible flaw.

By my count, the Bruins have three (3) solid goal-scorers on the wing. Two of them happen to be among the best wings on the planet (David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand), but they have three sure things, with the third being Jake DeBrusk. Their lack of stability beyond the top line — specifically on the wing — is glaring.

That's a problem, and an easy Leo-pointing-at-the-TV meme of "what could prevent the Bruins from winning the Cup?"

It's not like the Bruins exactly had it figured out last year, either, with mostly a revolving door of Karson Kuhlman and David Backes skating to David Krejci's right, but that team had at least a steady duo on every line thanks to the presence of Marcus Johansson skating on the third line.

 

Johansson is gone. So too are — don't laugh — Danton Heinen and Backes. It appears there are auditions for the second-line right wing job, which could be filled by Anders Bjork or top prospect Jack Studnicka, neither of whom have played an NHL postseason game. Studnicka has the highest ceiling, but he's played in two NHL games. He's also a center who'll be playing the wing. Bruce Cassidy told reporters this week Thursday's preseason game will likely feature a DeBrusk-Krejci-Studnicka line.

Ondrej Kase, whom the Bruins acquired when they gave the Ducks a first-round pick to take Backes' contract, is not in Toronto with the team. He'll be a candidate for top-six minutes if he joins the Bruins and gets up to speed, but he's a major question mark. He played just six games for the Bruins before the season was halted and had seven goals over 55 games in the regular season.

Then there's Nick Ritchie, whom the B's brought on to give them size. Though he had eight goals thanks to a high shooting percentage in 41 games with the Ducks, he's best served as a bottom-sixer. Ritchie's also not been on the ice of late.

This isn't to say these are bad players, because they're not. It's to say that not knowing whether you've got a steady middle six is not a sign of a Stanley Cup favorite.

Boston's defense, goaltending and top line are absolutely Stanley Cup caliber. Yet what cost them last June — no, it wasn't that they "weren't tough enough" — was their inability to bury chances.

So in addition to all the uncertainty the NHL's return to play carries, the Bruins have quite a few "ifs." If Kase gets caught up and becomes a strong fit on the second line, that will go a long way. If the Studnickas, Bjorks and/or Ritchies of the world turn themselves into household names while the rest of the roster does its thing, the Bruins will be right there with Tampa as the best equipped group to raise the Cup.

Yet if no one ends up grabbing a hold of that second line right wing spot and Bruce Cassidy can't settle on sure-fire linemates for Charlie Coyle, the Bruins could be the latest Presidents' Trophy winner to fall short of their ultimate goal.