The Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes traded wins on their home ice through the first four games of their opening-round matchup.
That trend continued Tuesday night in Game 5, as the Bruins reverted back to their struggles earlier in the series.
Things looked up for the Bruins initially with Charlie McAvoy’s late arrival to Raleigh after clearing COVID-19 protocol. For the Bruins, though, that’s where the good news ended.
Much like the first two games, the Bruins couldn’t capitalize on some good chances early, only to see Carolina snatch a pair of quick tallies.
Jaccob Slavin fired a shot that just squeaked through Jeremy Swayman to open the scoring at 6:11 of the first period.
Later in the opening stanza, a post-whistle scrum in front of Swayman only led to one penalty on Derek Forbort, sending the Hurricanes to their second power-play of the period. Game 4 villain Tony DeAngelo blasted a shot past Swayman to put Carolina ahead 2-0.
The penalty trend continued for the Bruins in the middle stanza as they struggled to sustain any attacking zone rhythm.
Seth Jarvis picked up his second goal of the playoffs at 15:52 of the second period off of a fortuitous bounce. Jarvis later extended Carolina’s lead to 4-0 just 3:31 into the third period.
Connor Clifton got the Bruins on the board midway through the third, but the Hurricanes would ride out their three-goal lead, adding an empty netter for a 5-1 final.
Here’s what we learned with elimination starring the Bruins in the face following another rough outing at PNC Arena.
Officiating hurt, but it didn’t cost the Bruins.
Much was made about the officiating in the series through the first four games, especially after Rod Brind’Amour’s comments on Jake DeBrusk’s tying goal following Game 4.
“[Boston]’s too good of a team to just give them goals,” Brind’Amour said after Boston’s series-tying win on Sunday.
Once again, the officials didn’t help the Bruins out Tuesday night, as evident by Forbort’s first-period penalty. Nevertheless, they did not play nearly well enough to secure a pivotal win.
“Not surprised at all,” coach Bruce Cassidy said to the media about Forbort’s roughing minor that led to the Hurricanes’ second goal. “We knew what we were facing coming in here after the last game, and we’ve just got to do a better job on the penalty kill.”
Killing off multiple penalties didn’t help the Bruins in their transition game, struggling to generate quality scoring chances in front of Antti Raanta. There were limited, if any, stretches where the Bruins felt like they were due for a goal, though.
Secondary scoring is eluding the Bruins, again.
That should be a given in the playoffs though, right?
After four months of consistent middle-six production, Cassidy and the coaching staff have to find an answer before they run out of time.
“Not enough up and down the lineup,” Cassidy said of the secondary scoring issues. “We’re gonna need a little bit more…we need to get some guys going.”
Through five games, Charlie Coyle, Craig Smith, and Jake DeBrusk are all without a point during 5-on-5 play. Taylor Hall has a goal and an assist. Erik Haula has a pair of helpers.
Haula, Hall, and Smith were especially quiet in Game 4, combining for just four shots on net.
The Bruins moved David Pastrnak back up to the top line in Game 2. The move proved successful, especially back in Boston when the Bruins benefited from favorable matchups as the home team. Back in Carolina, though, the top line struggled to generate any traction against the Staal line.
On this night, the depth scoring couldn’t support the potent top trio of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak.
“At the end of the day, you need the guys behind them following,” Cassidy said. “They’ve got to bring more offensively, and if not, they’ve got to be real tight defensively.”
Who will start in Game 6?
Swayman hasn’t started four consecutive games in his NHL career. Right now, he’s on track to appear for the fourth straight game Thursday night.
Despite the four goals against, Swayman made some crucial stops to keep the Bruins in the game during the first two periods.
“Not as clean as he has been,” Cassidy said regarding Swayman’s Game 4 performance. “He gave us a chance after [the second goal]. There was a stretch where we weren’t very good in front of him.”
Swayman looked confident in front of the home comforts of TD Garden in Games 3 and 4. Cassidy wouldn’t confirm whether Swayman or Linus Ullmark would start in Game 6 with Boston’s season on the line. But he wouldn’t put the blame on his rookie netminder and doesn’t have many concerns following Swayman’s first three career playoff outings.
“Certainly not going to put this on Jeremy,” Cassidy said. “We’ll decide [who’s starting]. We’ll regroup here and make that call tomorrow or Thursday. I’m comfortable with his game.”
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