The Boston Bruins find themselves in a three games to two hole in the first round of the NHL Playoffs. The home team has dominated the series as Carolina has won all three games in Raleigh and the Bruins won Games 3 and 4 in Boston. Last change has been a factor in having the right matchups for the home team, and special teams have been a key in helping the victors as well. But one glaring difference between the two teams has the advantage in favor of the Hurricanes regardless of venue.
The Bruins have struggled to compete with a faster, tight forechecking Hurricanes team while playing five-on-five hockey. Boston was seventh in the NHL in even-strength play in the regular season. In years past, the Perfection Line has dominated in five-on-five play. But in this series, Carolina has a decided advantage over the Bruins. The Hurricanes have outscored the Bruins 12-6 when the teams are playing five-on-five hockey. The Perfection Line has held its own with a 22-10 shot advantage. However, the other three lines are not bringing much pressure on the Canes’ goaltenders.
Secondary scoring is not a new problem for the Bruins. The last couple of seasons have seen a Bruins team that relies heavily on their top line. This season, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy finally put David Pastrnak on the second line, and the move paid dividends. But in this series, Cassidy has gone back to the trio of Pastrnak with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. The move paid off in Game 4, and the line has been the team’s best by far since. At some point, however, the Bruins need more attack zone time from the other lines.
Some of the issues stem from being without defenseman Hampus Lindholm for the past three games. Defensive zone breakouts have not been clean. The forwards have had to take on more of a defensive responsibility as well. And then there is the finish. Boston has been able to put shots on the net for the most part, but not nearly as many high-danger chances. For the Bruins to win the last two games of this series, Boston will need more shots and bodies to the net.
A major concern coming into the postseason was the second-line center position. Erik Haula was able to temper some of that concern by leading the team in points since the trade deadline. However, Haula is a -4 during five-on-five play. Charlie Coyle is as well. Taylor Hall is a team-worst -6 at full strength. The potential downfall of the Bruins could be a lack of forward depth and secondary scoring, particularly against a strong defensive team in Carolina.
Game 6 is Thursday night in Boston. The Bruins have won both home games in this series. Carolina has scored the first goal in all five games thus far. The Bruins will need to find a way to be the better five-on-five team throughout the lineup if they are to advance to round two.