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  • Takeaways: Bruins face mix of questionable calls and self-infliction in Game 5 loss

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    Takeaways: Bruins face mix of questionable calls and self-infliction in Game 5 loss

    Tim Rosenthal May 12, 2024
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    There’s no sugarcoating the Bruins’ Game 4 loss.

    Without Brad Marchand, Jim Montgomery’s club came out with a productive physical and emotional response on the heels of Sam Bennett’s sucker punch to the Boston captain early in Game 3.

    Charlie McAvoy’s thunderous open ice hit on Sam Reinhart on the opening shift brought a spirited TD Garden crowd to its feet.

    https://twitter.com/BR_OpenIce/status/1789788339773526364

    The Bruins rode the energy from the Causeway faithful and carried a 2-0 lead into the first intermission off a David Pastrnak power-play blast and a Brandon Carlo seeing-eye shot through traffic.

    Yet, their sloppy puck handling, shot selection and loose net front coverage in front of Jeremy Swayman carried over into Game 4. By the end of the second, the Panthers pulled within striking distance after Anton Lundell’s shot snuck past the Boston netminder.

    https://twitter.com/Sportsnet/status/1789810760622743896

    The Bruins struggled to generate any rhythm in the final 20. And they were caught entirely off-guard after Bennett shoved Charlie Coyle into Swayman before capitalizing on the equalizer.

    Montogmery’s unsuccessful challenge continued a string of four consecutive penalties against the Bruins, including two head-scratching interference calls on Hampus Lindholm.

    Make no mistake, however. The Bruins simply look outmatched against Florida’s blend of skill and physicality.

    The Panthers held the Bruins to under 20 shots on goal for the third straight game. Even against a shaky Sergei Bobrovsky, the B’s failed to generate many high-danger looks with their two shots on net in the final 20 highlighting their offensive struggles.

    Following Aleksander Barkov’s go-ahead tally, the Bruins head back to Sunrise Tuesday with a commanding 3-1 series deficit. Here’s what we learned from Boston’s frustrating 3-2 setback in Game 4.

    Failed goalie interference challenge highlights latest errors in officiating judgment.

    The NHL Player Safety Department had a chance to review Bennett’s sneaky jab at Marchand after Game 3. Instead, they declined to assess any supplemental discipline to the Florida forward. 

    Bennett became the center of attention again in the third period of Game 4. But this time, the benefit of instant replay would’ve finally gone the Bruins’ way, right…

    …Right?

    It didn’t.

    The facts seemingly favored the Bruins heading into their challenge: Bennett clearly cross-checked Coyle into Swayman along the net front. By the time the puck touched his stick, Bennett pounced on an open net.

    But even in a textbook Rule 69 situation, the replay center in Toronto — and the on-ice officials — saw differently

    “The fact is Coyle was pushed into me, and I couldn’t play my position,” Swayman said of the sequence.

    “I can only stick to facts. I know our aren’t going to call a challenge unless it’s going to get reversed. So the fact is I couldn’t play my position.”

    Frankly, the Bruins didn’t play any position well enough after Game 1.

    It’s true they’re not receiving any benefit of the doubt as the Panthers continue to bait the Bruins into favorable calls, including two on Lindholm in the third. For a Bruins team that essentially needs every part of their game to click, the 25-11 power play disparity through the first four games isn’t helping matters.

    Yet, the Bruins aren’t helping their cause either.

    Boston’s low shot totals are alarming.

    https://twitter.com/Sportsnet/status/1789795790937804876

    The Bruins rode emotional highs in their Game 1 win. By the second period of Game 2, though, the Panthers started to find their stride and took complete control of their series.

    Florida’s aggressive forecheck once again forced the Bruins into turnover problems, puck mismanagement and limited looks in the attacking end. 

    The Panthers faced a 2-0 deficit in the first despite only allowing five shots on net. They kept pressuring Swayman with heavy traffic en route to 18 high-danger chances in Game 4. By the third, they worked their way into a 3-2 lead after Barkov, one of the three Selke finalists, weaved his way through traffic following a Boston defensive zone turnover.

    The Bruins had some decent looks in the second, including a Jake DeBrusk breakaway bid that just came up short. But they hardly sustained enough pressure against Bobrovsky and struggled to support Swayman amid another quality outing — despite allowing his first soft goal of the playoffs on Lundell’s second-period marker.

    “He just keeps coming in save after save keeps us in the game,” Coyle said of Swayman. “Even in the first when we were up, he made some tremendous saves, and that was huge for us.”

    The Bruins didn’t have their ‘A’ game, firing two shots on net in the third and 18 in total on Sunday. But they had potential momentum-shifting moments after their two alternate captains, Pastrnak and McAvoy, delivered opening shots.

    Instead, they’ll head back to South Florida needing improvements in almost every area after firing a mere 50 shots on goal over the last three games.

    The Bruins face a steep uphill climb in role reversal from last year.

    A year ago, the Bruins overcame injuries to Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to earn a 3-1 series lead against Florida.

    Bergeron and Krejci were on the cusp of returning. Coyle and Pavel Zacha emerged as potential top-six options for the post-Bergeron and Krejci era following arguably their best stretch of performances in a Bruins uniform through the first four games.

    Top to bottom, the Bruins looked like a deeper punch. Then, the Panthers found another gear and rode their momentum into an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

    This year, the Bruins don’t have such a luxury of riches. Their depth took a hit because of the cap and, as a result, entered a transitional season.

    The Panthers didn’t encounter much turnover from last year’s roster. They have all the tools to make it back to June and have just as good a chance as any of the eight remaining playoff teams to hoist the Cup.

    The Bruins didn’t showcase enough desperation in the last three games. Even with Swayman’s confidence, they’ll need a near-flawless outing in Game 5 if they want to extend the series for at least one more game.

    “It’s one game at a time, and we learn from our mistakes and we learn from our successes,” Swayman said. And what I’m so impressed by this group is the way that they keep composed, and we see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. And that team over there knows that and that’s what’s really exciting for us is that we know that we can put together a better game and that’s what we will do.”

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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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