Bruins

NHL Playoffs: David Pastrnak's absence exposed huge issue for Bruins

Bruins

The Boston Bruins experienced something scary Thursday: They had to play a game without a star player. 

That sound you hear is absolutely nobody shedding any tears for the Bruins, especially around the NHL. The Tampa Bay Lightning sure would like to have Steven Stamkos, but they're plugging along. 

Yet the Bruins being without David Pastrnak in Game 2 against the Hurricanes served as a reminder of a major problem with Boston's roster: Their depth on the wing is nonexistent. 

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In looking at what might sink the Bruins this postseason, my biggest guess was production from wingers outside of Brad Marchand and Pastrnak. Aside from the Bergeron line, there Boston doesn't have a single line with two set-it-and-forget-it wingers. Ondrej Kase has been OK so far with David Krejci, but he'll need to be better. Jake DeBrusk is a good player who has struggled to finish.

What should really illustrate the issue is that Nick Ritchie is not only in the lineup, but on Boston's third line. 

So when Pastrnak was deemed unfit to play in Game 2, there was a domino effect that Boston didn't really have the pieces to withstand in a 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes. Anders Bjork jumped up to Pastrnak's spot and Karson Kuhlman played on the third line. 

 

The Bergeron line was still good for Boston, the second line allowed a pair of goals and the third line rarely had the puck. There were other reasons for this -- most notably Carolina needing to come out and carry the play -- but all it took was one injury to significantly weaken the Bruins. 

That's where you just can't help but still dwell on how the Bruins approached the trade deadline. Last year, they needed help on the wing and Don Sweeney made a smart move for Marcus Johansson. This year, the focus at the deadline was creating cap space. They did this by paying the Anaheim Ducks a first-round pick and a prospect (Axel Andersson) to take 75 percent of David Backes' contract and throw in Kase. They then downgraded from Danton Heinen to Ritchie, which saved them over $1.3 million. 

Those moves would have been good if it meant they used all that money they saved to get a sure-thing forward they could play at the wing. New Jersey Devils right wing Kyle Palmieri, an annual 25-goal scorer, was available for the right price. Tyler Toffoli was rumored to be on the Bruins' radar, but went to the Vancoucver Canucks for a player, a prospect and picks. 

So while the cash-strapped Bruins managed to create space at the deadline, they opted against using that space to improve a team that was on its way to the Presidents' Trophy. Meanwhile, the Lightning were adding real pieces like Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman. 

Kase has been good so far. If he can continue to get better playing alongside Krejci, that checks a major box. Ritchie is what he is. The Bruins would have been better off keeping Heinen, as that trade just created another hole. 

The Bruins need more on the wing, and they don't really have it. If Pastrnak's injury is serious, Sweeney's trade deadline oversight could be even more costly.