Talking Points: Bruins battle, but come up short against Tampa

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Talking Points: Bruins battle, but come up short against Tampa

Talking points from the Bruins' 3-2 loss to the Lightning. . .

GOLD STAR: Brayden Point wasn’t quite as dominant in the second half of the game as he was in the first half against the Bruins, but the numbers were still solid for the Tampa Bay forward when it was all over. Point finished with a goal, a plus-1 rating, four shots on net and six overall shot attempts while generating all kinds of offense for Tampa Bay, and tying the game up in the first period after the Bruins stormed strongly out of the gate. It was Nikita Kucherov and Point that teamed up for that first goal amid some B’s defensive breakdowns, and kept Tampa from chasing the game until they could get their bearings a little bit. People focus on other star players with the Lightning given their talent level, but Point is a pretty special player in his own right.

BLACK EYE: It’s been a tough recent stretch for Jake DeBrusk, and once again on Thursday night it wasn’t good as the winger was a team-worst minus-2 and finished with just a single shot on net. DeBrusk hasn’t had even a single point in his last five games while putting up a combined minus-7 during those games, and his slump comes at a time when the Bruins could sorely use some additional goal-scoring. DeBrusk was at least getting shots on net and chances until he was quieted town against Tampa Bay aside from one good chance on a deflection an early Bruins power play. DeBrusk will be excused a little given that he went through an extended hot streak prior to this recent offensive slowdown, but he’s got to find a happy medium with consistency.  

TURNING POINT: It was undoubtedly the third period when things turned for the Bruins, and the Lightning scored a pair of goals in a span of 1:23 while Boston sagged a little after playing such a strong game up until that point. It was probably inevitable given how much of a struggle it is for the Bruins to simply score goals right now, but it was clear there was disappointment there after putting in a pretty solid effort for the first 40 minutes. The B’s hung in there and scored a goal with the goalie pulled to make it a one-goal game, but they just don’t have enough firepower to even score three or four goals in a game when it’s required for the two points.

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak was undoubtedly the best player on the ice for the Bruins. He scored in the first period on a nifty rebound play where he kicked the puck to his stick before flicking it into the net for his 20th goal of the season, and finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-1 rating in 19:33 of ice time to go along with eight shot attempts and a couple of takeaways. One of those takeaways turned into a breakaway opportunity for Pastrnak as well, but Louis Domingue was able to get a leg pad on his backhanded shot and thwart Pastrnak’s bid for another multi-goal game. It was good to see Pastrnak playing at a high level after looking a little frustrated in the Florida loss. That’s what the Bruins are going to need more of until they get all their bodies back.  

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 – the spot on the all-time Bruins scoring list that David Krejci pulled into a tie with Cam Neely after his third-period goal. Both Krejci and Neely have 590 career points in Black and Gold.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "What a win in and of itself to be back out there. We're a family and I missed these guys a heck of a lot while I was out. It was an unfortunate loss, but an encouraging effort at the end. Nobody said die." –Bruins second-year D-man Charlie McAvoy, on his return to the lineup after missing 20 games with a concussion.

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Are Bruins just one top-six power forward away from greatness?

Are Bruins just one top-six power forward away from greatness?

A little more than a year ago the Bruins fell in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in part because their forwards couldn’t fight through the big, strong Tampa Bay defensemen corps in a five-game playoff series.

The Perfection Line was held in check in 5-on-5 play and the Bruins forwards really didn’t do much of anything offensively after the opening game of the series.

This postseason, the B’s obviously pushed a lot further into the Stanley Cup playoffs while making it all the way to the Cup Final. Some of that was by the circumstance of the way the postseason played out with the early exits of many of the top seeds, of course, but some of it was also Boston’s ability to play different styles against Toronto, Columbus and Carolina.

Still, the Bruins again sealed their fate when their forwards couldn’t do enough 5-on-5 against a St. Louis Blues team that featured a massive, committed D-corps that didn’t let the B’s anywhere near the front of the net. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were banged up while combining for exactly zero even-strength goals in the series and David Pastrnak was battling a crisis of confidence that saw him finish with a team-worst minus-7 in the series.

Similarly, David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and whoever was manning the right wing for the B’s second line didn’t do much damage either against the Blues back-enders.

The Bruins had great depth all-around among their forwards this postseason and that helped them make it to the final round of the postseason. Again, it seemed as if the Bruins were short in the size and strength department among their top-six forwards when it came to net-front presence and getting to some of the rebounds left around the net by rookie goalie Jordan Binnington.

“It’s really a blend of your hockey club. We played sort of four different teams throughout the playoffs, and we matched up pretty well in all of them," Bruins GM Don Sweeney said this week at his end-of-the-season press conference. "When you come down to the margins that you have of losing a Game 7, I don’t know whether or not you necessarily say now did we score enough 5v5? No, but everybody would say that throughout our lineup, if we had just chipped in. To St. Louis’ credit, it wasn’t just the defensemen that were doing that. They make it hard on you, the same way that Tampa did.

“We had more depth this year to be able to withstand some of those things and take the matchups in other places in the lineup that I think helped our hockey club, and it showed. That’s why I think we went further. We gave ourselves a chance to win right until the very end. If you’re telling me there’s a perfect player to solve some of those, what every team would be looking for, yeah. Yeah, I’ll put that guy right in there, but sometimes you just have to allow other players to get better in their own right. We have players that will hopefully continue to do that.”

There may not be a perfect player out there for the Bruins unless they start putting more of a premium on drafting the next great, young power forward. Chris Kreider is an intriguing name that brings size, scoring and a little bit of nasty to the table.  He's coming off 28 goals and 52 points for the Rangers this past season.

Former fourth overall pick Jesse Puljujarvi is 6-foot-4, 211 pounds and wants out of Edmonton so badly he’s willing to play in Europe this season if the Oilers don’t move him. Forwards James Neal and Michael Frolik will be mentioned in trade talks around July 1 and hard-hitting, nasty winger Michael Ferland, a free agent, might be exactly what the Bruins are looking for.

Maybe it will be Charlie Coyle bumping up to the right wing on one of the top two lines, or perhaps a younger, big-bodied Peter Cehlarik or Trent Frederic can bring some of that power forward game internally.

“Does Charlie Coyle move up in the right side? Again, putting Charlie in a consistent spot is I think when he plays his best hockey,” wondered Sweeney aloud. “He referenced that when he was in Minnesota, a production role. He could slide up and play right wing if another player emerged from within.

“I could go through the guys. Trent Frederic would be the obvious [third-line center candidate] if he inserts himself, Sean [Kuraly] plays up, maybe you move Charlie to the right. For right now, I think the balance of our group, what Coyle presents is mismatch is at times for other teams gives us balance.”

Still, it was apparent this postseason as it was last postseason that the Bruins are in need of a power forward winger among their top-six forwards. The Perfection Line is just a little too much undersized when push comes to shove and spent too much time on the perimeter against the Blues.

What the Bruins could really use is a time machine to send 35-year-old David Backes back 10 years to the player he was in his prime with the Blues. That isn’t going to happen, so they need to go out and find the next best thing, whatever that may be.

Part of the problem seems to be that the Bruins aren’t identifying this as the biggest issue facing their forwards. Sure, Bruins President Cam Neely said they want to get another top-six forward, but it sounds as if he simply wants a player that’s going to shoot the puck with an itchy trigger finger.

“I mean, if they can skate,” said Neely with a smile when asked if the B’s top-six needs a little more size and snarl. “You have to be able to skate nowadays, as you know in this game. I thought that we could’ve put more pucks on the net to give their defensemen a turn, and look to where the pucks are as opposed to trying to beat guys one-on-one.

“I felt we should’ve shot the puck a little more to try to create, whether it’s rebound opportunities or at least get them scrambling around a little bit. Give [the Blues] credit. They played well. They kept us on the outside, but I felt like we passed on too many opportunities to put pucks on the net and then see what we could’ve done from there.”

Certainly, that sounds like an indictment of Marchand and Pastrnak passing up clean looks to shoot in the Stanley Cup Final. It also wasn’t a ringing endorsement of a search mission for the next great power forward, but there’s no getting around it as the element that’s feels missing when you look at the strengths and weaknesses among the B's top six.

A dynamic big body that can get to the front of the net, bang home loose pucks and win battles against big boy D-men was sorely lacking against the Blues. 

It feels funny to have to make the case to a former player such as Neely that the Bruins are one top-six power forward away from greatness, but here we are with the Black and Gold after falling a little short in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

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Blues' Ryan O'Reilly beats out Bruins' Patrice Bergeron for Selke Trophy

Blues' Ryan O'Reilly beats out Bruins' Patrice Bergeron for Selke Trophy

Once again, the Blues get the better of the Bruins.

Blues center Ryan O'Reilly earned the Frank J. Selke Trophy over Patrice Bergeron at Wednesday night's NHL Awards. It was O'Reilly's first time winning the award in his career.

O'Reilly has had a month to remember, of course leading St. Louis to a Stanley Cup victory over Boston and earning the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process.

Bergeron finished third in the voting behind O'Reilly and Vegas Golden Knights winger Mark Stone.

On the bright side, B's fans did earn one victory over St. Louis on Wednesday night as general manager Don Sweeney earned NHL GM of the Year honors over Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

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