The Boston Bruins entered the Stanley Cup playoffs with plenty of optimism and sky-high expectations for what they hoped would be another deep postseason run. That wasn’t in the cards, however, and the focus soon will shift to building next year’s version of the Black and Gold.
The B’s saw their season come to a disappointing end Wednesday night, with a Game 7 loss to the hated Montreal Canadiens adding some salt to the fresh wound. That same wound is far from healed, but if there is a silver lining in losing in the second round, it’s that the Bruins have more time to lay out their offseason plans.
These Bruins don’t need be blown up, and they don’t need a major shake-up. What was clear against Montreal, though, is that the Bruins need tinkering. The game is always changing, and those who don’t adapt will be passed.
Here are three areas the Bruins can improve in before the puck drops on next season.
1. Get faster
The Bruins’ system has had success. The B’s won the Stanley Cup in 2011, reached a Cup Final in 2013 and won the Presidents’ Trophy this season. They did so with a big, strong and tough team that could pound on smaller, less disciplined teams. Problems arise, though, when the Bruins meet faster teams, specifically teams with speed through the neutral zone. Montreal is one of those teams, and that’s a big reason the Bruins’ season is over. The Canadiens aren’t going anywhere, and the B’s will need to address their lack of speed in order to keep up with Montreal.
That can be accomplished in a couple of ways. The most obvious is to add faster players either through free agency, trades or internal promotion. The Bruins also could do so by upgrading the back end with a defenseman who can move the puck. The Bruins looked especially slow against Montreal when they struggled to break out of their own zone, and a puck-moving D-man could help.
2. Add some scoring touch
The Bruins hit 13 posts or crossbars in their seven-game series with the Canadiens. Thirteen. Some of that is poorly timed bad luck, but it’s also indicative of a team that struggles with finishing around the net. The Bruins lamented the fact that they couldn’t get a bounce the entire series, but there’s something to be said for the personnel, too.
In the regular season, Boston generates a lot of its offense by simply crashing the net and outworking opponents around the cage. That’s not nearly as easy in the playoffs, which is where high-end offensive talent becomes more important. The B’s probably could use an upgrade there, even if it’s at the expense of some of their rugged, defensive-minded style of play.
3. Shore up the bottom six
Boston’s top two lines should be all set, assuming there are no surprising changes and assuming Jarome Iginla is re-signed. If one or neither of those doesn’t happen, there will be many more changes to make. However, the Bruins’ depth has been a strength for a long time, and now would be a good time to reinforce that depth on the third and fourth lines. The third line, thanks to in large part to injuries, was a revolving door all season. There’s a decision to be made on Chris Kelly, who carries a $3 million cap hit for two more seasons. Boston could ultimately decide to buy him out and try a younger player on the third line.
The same decision might need to be made surrounding Shawn Thornton. The veteran winger is an unrestricted free agent whose future could be up in the air. Either way, the Merlot Line was less than impressive in the playoffs, and it might be in the Bruins’ best interests to finally make some changes on that fourth line.