Three reasons why Bruins lost second-round playoff series vs. Panthers

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Three reasons why Bruins lost second-round playoff series vs. Panthers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON — The Bruins put up a strong fight against the Panthers in their Eastern Conference second-round playoff series, but Florida just had too much talent and too much depth.

The result?

A season-ending 2-1 loss for the Bruins in Game 6 at TD Garden on Friday night.

Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman posted a .917 save percentage through six games. The only netminder with a better save percentage in the second round is Igor Shesterkin (.924) of the New York Rangers. Swayman gave up two goals or fewer in three of the six games, including each of the last two. He did his job.

So, what ended up costing the Bruins in Round 2? Here are three key areas where they consistently failed.

Bad special teams

Special teams were one of the primary reasons why the Bruins eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. Boston‘s penalty kill gave up just one goal and its power play scored six times over seven games.

The Bruins were unable to maintain that level of success versus the Panthers. Not even close, actually.

The B’s scored just one power-play goal — a David Pastrnak tally in Game 4 — in 16 opportunities with the man advantage. The penalty kill also struggled and allowed six goals, including four in Game 3.

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It’s not just that the Bruins failed to score on the power play, they didn’t generate many great looks at the net, either. The B’s spent 26:19 on the power play and tallied just 14 shots on net over six games. The power play consistently failed to give the Bruins any momentum.

Another problem for the Bruins was staying out of the penalty box. Sure, the officiating was bad at times in this series, but Boston needed to be much more disciplined. You cannot give the Panthers 28 power plays in six games and expect to survive. Florida spent 49:37 on the power play in the series and generated 45 shots and 65 scoring chances, in addition to its six goals.

The Panthers used a four-minute power play in Game 3 to increase their lead from 1-0 to 3-0 in the span of a minute.

Special teams have the ability to swing a playoff series, and unfortunately for the Bruins, they were badly outplayed in this facet of the game in Round 2.

Even-strength goals were actually even at 12, but the Panthers had a 7-1 edge in special teams goals (six power play, one shorthanded). That’s pretty tough to overcome.

Lack of scoring

The Panthers are loaded with scoring depth and elite offensive talent. Aleksander Barkov, Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart are high-end forwards. Carter Verhaeghe and Sam Bennett are very good, too. Florida’s bottom-six, and its blue line, also are capable of scoring goals at a consistent rate.

The Panthers have scored three or more goals in eight of their 11 playoff games so far, including three of the six matchups in this series. The Bruins were unable to match that firepower.

The B’s scored two or fewer goals in each of the last five games. They failed to score more than two goals in eight of their last nine playoff games overall. Jeremy Swayman’s brilliance in net helped the Bruins overcome their offensive struggles against the Leafs in the first round. Duplicating that feat against a Panthers team that’s much better than the Leafs was always going to be a monumental task, even though Swayman gave a heck of an effort.

“The lack of our ability to score in the playoffs, in general — you can’t win every game 2-1,” Boston head coach Jim Montgomery said postgame. “We had the opportunities. We had five odd-man rushes after two periods (in Game 6). In Game 4, we had several breakaways. Their goalie was good, and we didn’t beat him.”

The Bruins had three breakaways in Game 4 — one each by Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk — and a goal on any of them could have changed the result, which ultimately was a 3-2 Panthers win.

The Panthers led the series in just about every shot and scoring chance metric except 5-on-5 high-danger chances. The ice was consistently tilted in Florida’s favor through six games.

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Only three players scored multiple goals for the Bruins in Round 2. Jake DeBrusk, Morgan Geekie and Brandon Carlo all found the back of the net twice. David Pastrnak, Pavel Zacha and Charlie McAvoy all scored once. James van Riemsdyk, John Beecher, Trent Frederic, Hampus Lindholm and Brad Marchand (four games) all failed to score a single goal.

The Bruins’ lack of scoring wasn’t just one or two guys. It was a total team failure. The B’s averaged 2.17 goals scored per game versus the Panthers, which was more than a full goal less than their regular season average of 3.21 per game.

Trouble finishing games

The Bruins played some pretty good first periods in this series. In fact, they had a lead after 20 minutes in four of the six games. That was again the case in Game 6 when Pavel Zacha scored with 52.8 seconds remaining in the first period.

Increasing these leads and finishing the game was a challenge for the Bruins. They had only one multi-goal lead after the series opener. It was a 2-0 lead after the first period in Game 4. They ended up losing 3-2.

The Panthers are a tough team to put away, and they deserve a lot of credit for withstanding the Bruins’ initial flurry early in games, making adjustments and then tilting the ice back in their favor over the final two periods.

Florida outscored Boston 17-3 in the second and third periods over the last five games of the series. Closing out games was an issue for the Bruins during the regular season, and this problem returned in Round 2.

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