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  • Can the Bruins learn from prior adversity entering Game 7?

    Tim Rosenthal May 3, 2024

    The Boston Bruins once again put themselves on the brink of another playoff collapse after dropping two straight to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    But this year’s Game 7 scenario is significantly different than last year’s matchup with the Florida Panthers.

    Jeremy Swayman remains steady in the Boston net. Swayman’s teammates, however, haven’t provided him any scoring support against an offensively gifted Leafs team that’s not known for their defensive or goaltending prowess.

    The Bruins had multiple chances to close out Games 5 and 6 against Florida, only to encounter defensive and goaltending lapses at the worst possible time. That trend continued in Game 7 after Swayman filled in for a fatigued Linus Ullmark, where the B’s failed to secure a third-period lead before falling in overtime.

    Up until that point, however, the Bruins faced little to no adversity during their record-breaking regular season. This year, with a transitional roster, Jim Montgomery’s squad faced its share of challenges during the first 82.

    The Bruins embarked on a 9-0-1 start in their first 10 games. Over the next several months, they encountered a handful of skids. The slumps before Christmas and the multiple ruts during their post-All-Star break slate highlighted the roughest stretches of Boston’s centennial season.

    Within those ruts came multiple instances of scoring slumps, ill-timed turnovers and third-period collapses. But they also showed they’re capable of bouncing back, turning their multiple slumps into productive runs in various instances.

    The bounce-back efforts and numerous overtime appearances allowed the Bruins to remain in the top two of the Atlantic Division. But they won’t have any standings points at stake on Saturday as their toughest battle with adversity awaits in a do-or-die Game 7.

    “It should give us confidence that as a team. We’ve had to overcome a lot this year to get to where we are and that does give you confidence,” Montgomery told reporters following Boston’s 2-1 loss in Game 6. “Now, the thing is, when you kept [playing] like that, and you overcome those challenges together, it gives you confidence. This is another step and another opportunity to do that and become a better playoff team.”

    The Bruins came out on the other side okay during the regular season. Now, they hope to overcome their latest self-infliction to avert a total disaster for a second consecutive year.

    A failure to secure a Round 1 win with a 3-1 series lead will undoubtedly fall on Montgomery’s shoulders. The slow starts over the last two games and the head-scratching lineup decisions ahead of Game 5 are easily attributed to the coaching staff.

    The Bruins absolutely have to come out flying following incredibly flat starts over the last two games. Aside from Swayman, they need a better outing from everyone in the lineup, particularly at the top.

    A passive David Pastrnak only has two goals to his credit. Pavel Zacha, Jake DeBrusk and a rotating cast of linemates haven’t provided much support on the rush or within their attacking zone setup.

    Captain Brad Marchand hasn’t replicated the energy and production after dragging the Bruins into battle in Games 3 and 4. 

    Charlie McAvoy, Boston’s top all-around blueliner, missed a net-front assignment on Matthew Knies’ Game 5 overtime winner — along with second-line center Charlie Coyle. An unforced icing led directly to William Nylander scoring off the faceoff, with the puck deflecting off McAvoy’s skate to give the Leafs the 1-0 lead late in the second period of Game 6.

    These sequences felt somewhat familiar during the regular season. They’re compounded 10-fold, however, upon the wear and tear of playoff hockey.

    In front of a rabid TD Garden fanbase that’s watched their team drop five of their last seven playoff home games, the Bruins have one chance to overcome their latest round of blunders.

    “We have to regroup and get excited for the next one,” Marchand said to the media. “You know, if someone told us to start the season that we’d have a Game 7 at home against Toronto, we take that all day. So it doesn’t matter how you get there. We’re there.”

    Their path to Game 7 and latest battle with adversity came as a result of six straight losses in series-clinching scenarios. A seventh setback — this time against a team that’s also known for historic playoff meltdowns — could ultimately affect a tight-knit culture that Marchand and countless others built over the last decade and a half and might also force Boston’s front office into making changes beyond the coaching department.

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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