There were several reasons why the Boston Bruins lost their second-round playoff series against the New York Islanders, and one of the biggest was a lack of depth on the blue line.
Injuries took a heavy toll on Bruins defensemen during the playoffs, with Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller and Jeremy Lauzon all missing multiple games.
Miller didn't play at all in Round 2 after suffering a concussion in Game 4 of the first round versus the Washington Capitals. Carlo took a hard hit in Game 3 against the Islanders and didn't return to the series.
The absences of Carlo and Miller were too much for the B's to overcome. Without these two veterans, lesser-talented players such as Lauzon, Connor Clifton and Jarred Tinordi had to play more minutes and larger roles than they would in an ideal world. Boston's penalty kill also suffered immensely without Carlo and Miller.
So, it wasn't a surprise that Bruins president Cam Neely identified a top-four left-shot defenseman as a primary roster need for the Bruins entering the offseason.
"The elusive left D we’ve been looking for who can chew up a lot of minutes, and maybe play on the second pairing with Carlo. That’d be more of a shutdown or some puck movement, some offensive blue line acumen," Neely said Tuesday during his season-ending media availability.
"As we saw, you can never have enough D and we never seem to have enough. For some reason or another, we get banged up. I think our D this year had maybe eight concussions, which is something I don’t know how to combat. But that position is something that we’ve been looking for, for a while. And hopefully we can do something to grab someone that’s going to help maybe play 20 minutes a game for us."
Where do the Bruins find a left-shot defenseman who can play 20-plus minutes next to Carlo?
The options on the free agent market aren't very good. The trade market is the best place to find this player. Nashville Predators star Mattias Ekholm would be a great fit on the B's blue line with his puck-moving talent, playmaking skill and ability to log heavy minutes. The issue for the Bruins is they don't have many high-quality trade assets because their prospect pool is so weak.
Neely is right, though, the Bruins absolutely need to beef up their blue line. It was a glaring weakness in the team's last four playoff exits, and if this area isn't properly address during the summer, the Bruins will be ill-equipped to make a deep run in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.