It seems pretty clear that the Bruins are still putting together the pieces after falling well short of their Stanley Cup goal with a five-game dismissal at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.
Clearly there are issues offensively when the Bruins struggled to score during 5-on-5 play and managed just five even strength goals in five games against the Lightning. The same thing happened two postseasons ago when the Bolts eliminated the Bruins in five games in the exact same fashion that they did over the last couple of weeks.
Now the Bruins need to decide how they are going to go about generating more offense at even strength. Is it about getting bigger and stronger around the net while finding players with a little higher upside than beefy trade deadline acquisition Nick Ritchie? Is it about focusing on defensemen with a higher offensive upside at the cost of their generally steady play at the defensive end of the ice?
It seems that the Bruins are genuinely just in the beginning stages of these discussions and there aren’t any ready-made answers so freshly after the playoff defeat.
“I think every year you try to do that, adjust a little bit. I’ve seen some things already where we’re going to need to get better. I’ve talked about it. D-zone, we have one of the best defensive teams in the league this year, yet it wasn’t good enough against Tampa. We have to fix some of it without overthinking it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Offensively, we’ve said, five-on-five, how do we generate more offense? We need to get our D involved more. Does that sacrifice defense?
Clearly on defense there were issues with clearing Tampa Bay bodies from around the net where tips and redirections accounted for plenty of their offense, and there wasn’t nearly enough push offensively with Connor Clifton accounting for the only postseason goal from the B’s back end. It was a theme Cassidy touched on several times in the series against the Lightning and it sounds like something the B’s head coach will be much more hands on with next season.
“The offensive zone part, we’re going to look long and hard on [the defensemen group]. The discussion on job responsibilities. I think every year you change a little bit of it. That’s something we have to look at. That’s something I have to…it’s on me to make sure I get more involved in that next year,” said Cassidy. “I enjoy doing it but then you may have to pass on another part area of responsibility because some of that work is done after practice with the certain groups. Those are the things we’re going to discuss. It cost us I think in this playoffs series. It’s out there.
“We need to be better at it. Does that mean we change the personnel on the blue line to better do that? If we do, does it mean we lose something in our own end because some of the times when you do that, your group is smaller. So, those are all questions we have to look at. Do we want to sacrifice defense to gain a little more offense and how much? I think that is where we’re out right now with how we can be better five-on-five.”
Certainly the B’s could give up a little ground defensively after leading the NHL with 2.39 goals allowed during the regular season last year, but that number also jumped a bit to 3 goals per game during the playoffs, placing them 10th among the 24 playoff teams.
All of that is interesting when considering the futures of free agent D-men Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara when it comes to the Bruins next season and beyond.
To be fair, there was plenty of offensive underperformance to go around for the Black and Gold, and that applies to the Perfection Line and the rest of the forward group as well. The back end wasn’t pushing the envelope like Victor Hedman was with the Lightning to be sure, but everybody across the board needs to be better to get the kind of improvement offensively that the B’s are looking for at even strength.