Stop me if you've heard this before: A lack of secondary scoring is proving to be a fatal weakness for the Boston Bruins in a Stanley Cup Playoff series.
The Bruins' top three forwards -- Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak -- scored six of the team's nine goals in its Game 3 and Game 4 victories against the Carolina Hurricanes over the weekend.
Boston's top line played well again in Tuesday night's Game 5 loss at PNC Arena, a defeat that has pushed the Original Six franchise to the brink of elimination. Even though the Bruins didn't score in the 11:43 of 5-on-5 ice time that Bergeron and Marchand played, they did tally a 22-12 edge in shot attempts, a 13-5 advantage in shots on net and a 9-8 lead in scoring chances during those minutes.
The other three lines were awful. There are way too many passengers on the Bruins' second, third and fourth lines.
"I thought Bergeron's line dominated whoever they were against the first 10 minutes," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters after Game 5. "Marchand was all alone in front. Bergeron had a second chance. They were going.
"At the end of the day, you need the guys behind them following. That's what we're looking at, the middle of the order or whatever you want to call it. They can bring more offensively, and if not they've got to be tight defensively and get the job done at the other end.
"Some nights if it's your top guys and special teams and goaltending -- that was the story in Boston. As long as you're pulling on the rope and contributing in some shape or form, we're good with that. Obviously the guys who are used to scoring, they want to contribute in that manner, but help us win then, if the puck isn't following you. This isn't a middle of the year, 'Oh, we'll get through it.' This is a short series, and maybe the next one will be kinder to you in those regards. That's the ask right now of some of the guys in the middle of our lineup."
Which specific players outside of the first line need to step up in a major way to help the Bruins save their season?
Let's run down the list.
Hall played poorly in Game 5. He tallied just two shots and took a penalty that the Hurricanes capitalized on with a power-play goal in the third period. Hall also lost sight of Jaccob Slavin right before the Carolina defenseman opened the scoring in the first period.
The Bruins have been outscored 8-1 in the 58:51 of even-strength ice time Hall has played in this series. He has scored zero goals with one assist during 5-on-5 action over the last four games.
Hall is a legit top-six forward and a former Hart Trophy winner. There's no excuse for him to be such a non-factor offensively at even strength.
Nosek has been Boston's worst player in Round 1. Not only is he one of the four Bruins forwards who are scoreless through five games, he's tallied just four shots. Carolina has a plus-7 edge in scoring chances, a plus-4 advantage in shots on net and a 1-0 goal differential during Nosek's 41:54 of even-strength ice time.
Any offense from Nosek would be a major lift for the Bruins. He's been absolutely invisible in this series.
Haula didn't land a single shot on net in Game 5 and has tallied just five in the whole series. He did pick up an assist on Connor Clifton's goal Tuesday night, but it was only his second point of the series.
All of Haula's 18 goals during the regular season came in his 53 games played after Jan. 1. He did a tremendous job generating scoring chances for himself and his linemates (mostly Hall and Pastrnak) over that span. Haula hasn't made the same impact in this series -- not even close.
His struggles in Round 1 are making the Bruins' failure to upgrade at center before the trade deadline look like a big mistake.
Foligno was easily the worst offseason addition the Bruins made last summer. He scored only two goals in 64 regular season games and has been held without a point in the first round. He's also taken two penalties and drawn none.
There's no reason to think Foligno will make any sort of improvement in the next two games. Inserting a younger, faster and slightly more skilled forward like Trent Frederic or Anton Blidh into the lineup would give the fourth line a little more juice.
Smith is another of the four B's forwards with zero points in five games. He's attempted 22 shots and only 10 of them have been on net. The Hurricanes have outscored the Bruins 5-0 during Smith's 47:04 of even-strength ice time.
Smith has scored just nine goals in 67 career playoff games. He's found the back of the net only twice in 15 career postseason games with the Bruins.
Maybe the 32-year-old forward is battling an injury. He was less than 100 percent early in the season and posted his worst shooting percentage (7.6) in the last five years. But even if Smith is fighting something, he can't be a complete zero offensively. The Bruins signed him in 2020 free agency to be a top-six forward. He hasn't played anywhere near that level in this series.