As the New York Islanders continue their playoff showdown with defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay, realities have emerged about the Boston Bruins.
The Lightning maintains a cleaner, crisper version of what the Bruins could muster only in spurts against the hardy Islanders. It’s no wonder that after Brad Marchand’s overtime laser stole Game 3, Boston passed out to a stronger opponent ironically mimicking the 2011 Bruins.
Until the 2021 playoffs, the Bruins had given us reason to believe there were more miles left at that time. But the next time they play, the seventh game of the 2019 Stanley Cup will be three seasons ago. And that game took place eight years after winning the Cup in Vancouver.
We’re all getting older, and the Bruins’ second-round loss to the Islanders sounded like a franchise referendum, top to bottom.
Is this the end of the era? And if not, should it be?
During their end-of-season press conferences on June 15, general manager Don Sweeney and team chairman Cam Neely said they had not lost sight of their accomplishments in recent years, but that they were not satisfied.
“I think we have to keep building the group,” Sweeney said. “I don’t think you can expect to get the group together if they haven’t been able to accomplish and reach the ultimate goal in the past two years.”
While the Bruins can bring back free agents Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, Taylor Hall, Kevan Miller and Mike Reilly (if not Jaroslav Halak and Sean Kuraly), how does that bring them closer to the second championship in Patrice Bergeron’s career? ?
Management can’t afford to be wowed by the 2019 playoff race or Montreal’s formidable scramble through a dysfunctional Canadian division in the Cup semi-finals into thinking the Bruins are good enough to put together the group and hope the story ends differently.
Sweeney alluded to several free agents facing individual circumstances but didn’t raise a hand of any.
Conventional wisdom may order the Bruins to give Jeremy Swayman a full season in the AHL like those of Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas, but these aren’t preseason games that Swayman has handled with so much poise.
Since Marc Savard’s career derailed in 2010 with head injuries, Krejci has completed Bergeron as the Bruins’ second spinal cord vertebra. But in the Islanders series, Brock Nelson and Matt Barzal were collectively better. Is it time to find out what Jack Studnicka can do or, dare we think of disgruntled Sabers star Jack Eichel?
In the handshake line after the Bruins’ elimination, Islanders coach Barry Trotz pounced on Charlie McAvoy as a boxer hugged his opponent after spending 12 rounds trying to destroy him.
McAvoy is a future Norris Trophy contender, but he’s also proving that a key player doesn’t define his team’s DNA. His 19 teammates do.
Boston defensemen suffered eight concussions during the playoffs, and now that the blue line of succession is built around McAvoy, a lack of experience on the left side left vacant by Zdeno Chara has been exposed.
“We need to take a close look at our roster this summer. It’s a year older and that’s something we’re looking at. What do we need to do for this next wave here? It’s something we need to work on this offseason. “Said team president Cam Neely.” I can tell you this, I know March and Bergy would naturally like us to do another race. If we get the pieces we’d like to sign, I think it’s worth a last try here. “
Mick Colageo writes about hockey for The Standard-Times. Follow on Twitter @MickColageo.