Here are Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the Bruins' season-ending loss to the Lightning on Monday night. . .
GOLD STAR: Victor Hedman was a monster. He finished with 38:25 of ice time and scored the game-winner in double-overtime while firing a puck through traffic after very nearly winning the game for Tampa Bay a few minutes earlier as well.
Hedman finished with the game-winning goal, two points and a plus-3 rating and showed exactly what a No. 1 defenseman looks like at the very height of his game while the Bruins have one that’s now too old to be a true difference-maker and another that’s too young to be as dominant as Hedman was for Tampa Bay. Hedman finished with 10 shot attempts, two hits and two blocked shots, but was the steady, tough puck-mover, defender and ultimately play-maker that the Bolts needed in order to advance in the series.
The number of star players in the prime of their careers is one of the big differences between the Bruins and Lightning at this point.
BLACK EYE: The lack of size and toughness up front continues to be a problem for the Bruins. With Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly and Nick Ritchie all out of the lineup, there was nobody to defend Charlie McAvoy when he was run from behind in the corner by Cedric Paquette without even a two-minute penalty being called by the officials. When that happens, one would expect a response of some kind from the Bruins whether it’s going after Paquette or pounding one of Tampa’s players with a big hit.
Instead, none of that happened and the B’s lost McAvoy to repairs in the dressing room for a period of time. The Bruins also couldn’t fight through the Tampa defense for enough offense to win more than one game in the series either. It underscores that Boston needs to find a big, strong winger that can also preferably play in a top-6 role, and they don’t have that kind of player right now. It really shows up when the team can’t go more than five games against the Lightning.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins fought the good fight, but things really turned in the second overtime as Tampa Bay outshot Boston 7-1 and started getting all the best chances while Jaroslav Halak was standing on his head. Halak ended up making 32 saves in the loss and had some very strong moments in his second-best game in the series, but he couldn’t stop a Victor Hedman blast through traffic with Patrick Maroon screening right in front of the net.
That’s where the game was eventually won by Tampa as they have eliminated both Columbus and Boston and earned their right in the Eastern Conference Final by beating Boston in five games for the second time in three postseasons.
HONORABLE MENTION: David Krejci left it all on the ice. After a very quiet previous three games, Krejci tied up the game in the final minutes of the third period to push it to overtime and gave Boston a chance to extend the series. It was a quick put-back after a Zdeno Chara shot from the point was deflected and it finished off a postseason where Krejci had four goals and 12 points in 13 games while finishing with two points in the loss.
Krejci also set up Boston’s other goal with a slap-pass from the point that set up a one-timer for David Pastrnak at the point on the power play. He finished with the two points, five hits and two blocked shots along with a 9-for-20 performance from the face-off circle in a whopping 32:37 of ice time.
BY THE NUMBERS: 8 – the number of hits for Karson Kuhlman, who played with a lot of heart and ended up skating right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand by the time things got to the overtime session.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It just kind of hit me after the game, the core group -- a few of us we have 1 or 2 years left -- and with the pandemic going on you never know what's going to happen. So it's a little sad right now.” –David Krejci, on the realization after dropping Game 5 that things are changing for a core group that’s been together for a long time in Boston.