By MyFM's Jake Archer - Raise your hand if you thought the Bruins and Lightning were going to have an epic showdown between two juggernauts! Okay, now raise your hand if Game 1 made you feel excited as a Bruins fan! Great, it looks like you all raised your hands for both of those things. I did too, and we all got blindsided by a terrible series that ultimately ended the B's season. Let's check out how Games 4 and 5 went down.
After going down 2 games to 1, I said that the B's had to show up in Game 4 on Friday night. That's not profound or anything, I'm just stating the fact that things were looking pretty desperate. Bruce Cassidy switched things up by getting Ryan Donato and Brian Gionta in on the action and scratching Danton Heinen and Riley Nash. It was a questionable move to say the least. Evidently the Bruins didn't get the memo about needing to win this one on time because they put themselves in another early hole. Just under five minutes into play, Brayden Point continued his great series with an unassisted goal to get Tampa Bay out in front. A little over five minutes later, it was Nikita Kucherov cashing in on the power-play with assists from Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos. The Lightning were in control early and the crowd in Boston was quiet.
Late in the period, David Pastrnak came up with a power-play goal on assists from Torey Krug and Brad Marchand to draw within one. Boston needed that because things were just not rolling their way. They took that little shot in the arm and tied it up early in the second. Patrice Bergeron scored on the power-play with an assist from Krug. They were alive again! The rest of the period stayed scoreless, but there was more action. Marchand pulled off his second licking stunt as he licked the neck of Tampa's Ryan Callahan. Personally, I think it's a hilarious tactic to get in someone's head but the Lightning weren't too fond of it. In fact there were many people overreacting about this silly moment and the NHL actually spoke to Brad following the game. Anyway, Boston would head into the third looking to push across at least one more and grab the win.
They did indeed score again as Bergeron came up with his second goal of the game, this time with the B's shorthanded. The assist went to Marchand and Boston just had to hold the lead to tie the series. Unfortunately, a costly Bruins turnover allowed Stamkos to flick a shot by Tuukka Rask in net to knot it back up. JT Miller was credited with the assist. That wasn't the only piece of bad news for the Bruins in the third though, as Torey Krug had a pretty gruesome injury and would not return to the game. He was seen afterwards in a walking boot and with crutches. Anyway, the teams skated into overtime. Three and a half minutes into the extra period, Tampa Bay got the bounce. Dan Girardi's shot ended up in the net after he took a pass that actually bounced off Gionta's skate (not a great look) and the Lightning had taken a 3-1 series lead. The assists went to Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde.
Boston's crowd was stunned and dejected. The B's had actually outshot Tampa in the game and it felt like one they should have won. Getting down early wasn't ideal, but they fought back and came up short in the end. The officiating wasn't great but the Bruins hadn't played aggressively enough, and their defense was lacking. With the 4-3 loss, they had gotten beat twice at home and now had to go on the road for Game 5 to save their season.
On Sunday, things were not feeling great. Even pregame, you could just tell all of the magic of this Bruins season was gone. They weren’t the same team at this point and honestly, it was confusing. All year when they had their backs against the wall I had faith that they’d somehow wiggle out of trouble. Not this time. The good karma had run out. Boston was without Krug, and was going with Donato over Heinen again. Cassidy sat Gionta for Riley Nash this time.
The first period was odd. Neither team was really separating themselves but Tampa did look better. They were just more aggressive while the B’s remained tentative on offense. Late in the period, the Bruins ended up going on a 5-on-3. It’s crazy, but there still wasn’t a lot of confidence in them putting a puck in net. They were sloppy, and the 5-on-3 was wasted. Another man came back on the ice and finally, David Krejci fired a shot that went over the head of Vasilevskiy in goal and bar down. Boston has scored another power play goal and taken the lead. The assists went to Charlie McAvoy and Bergeron. Even though the B’s went up and were leading 1-0 at the first intermission, there still wasn’t a whole lot of excitement.
In the second, Tampa answered back. Point scored on an unassisted goal about halfway through the period to tie the game. Just a few minutes later, JT Miller scored on the power-play to send the crowd into a frenzy. The assists went to Kucherov and Stamkos. Boston was officially in real danger. They couldn’t get anything to go in the second and then only had one period left to make things happen. David Backes had taken a hard hit (Tampa delivered a lot of those) and left the ice. He never returned. In the third, they showed some urgency and made sure to get some chances. As it’s been most of the series, the B’s couldn’t score. With the clock running down, they pulled Rask (who had played pretty well in this game) from the net to get an extra man on the ice. Sadly, Tampa’s Anton Stralman tracked down the puck and fired it down the ice for the empty-netter to make it 3-1 and pretty much kill the Bruins.
The script had been flipped on the Bruins. They faced the best team in the East and got worked for four straight games. Blame will be thrown around by the fans and the media but the best way to put it is that the Lightning were better and the Bruins had run out of gas in the playoffs. Even in their first round win, they looked pretty crappy at times. It was a stark contrast from the regular season and after handling Tampa during most of the year, they were shown up.
You can’t place blame on the refs (even though they were bad) or really even Tuukka Rask. I’m not Rask defender but he wasn’t the biggest problem for Boston. They didn’t score even strength goals and they weren’t playing with the type of intensity or confidence that they had for most of the year. Sure, it was a fun season and most of us were pleasantly surprised by how good they were, but it still stings. You never know how hockey is going to go and though the future looks bright, it’s tougher to say that and be sure of it than in other sports. The ending stunk and the elimination was honestly kind of embarrassing. Now they move on to the offseason and Tampa goes back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four years. Where do we go from here? I’m not sure yet.