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  • Takeaways: Bruins transitional season ends with another Panther heartbreak

    Tim Rosenthal May 18, 2024

    For the second straight year, the Florida Panthers ended the Boston Bruins’ season on TD Garden ice

    Jeremy Swayman stood tall again, keeping the Bruins afloat with multiple timely stops. Swayman’s teammates, facing another night of sloppy puck possession, turnover trouble and too many men issues, generated a handful of quality looks and gained a lead late in the opening frame on Pavel Zacha’s breakaway tally.

    Yet, the Bruins couldn’t net another timely goal from their offense. They struggled to clear pucks out of their defensive end, with the Panthers pouncing on one of those chances on an Anton Lundell secondary bid during the middle frame.


    Amid a back-and-forth final 20, the Panthers capitalized with Gustav Forsling burying Lundell’s rebound on the short side post past Swayman for the series-clinching tally with 1:33 remaining in regulation.


    Here’s what we learned as Boston’s centennial campaign concludes with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in Game 6.

    Boston’s offense hit a wall following Game 1 victory.

    The Bruins rode an emotional high from their Game 7 win over the Maple Leafs into their series opener with the Panthers. By the end of the second period of Game 2, however, they began looking outmatched against Florida’s aggressive forecheck.

    Eventually, the Bruins began finding seams behind the Panthers’ defensive structure. And while they passed up multiple quality scoring bids in Game 6, they still generated enough quality shots against Vezina Trophy finalist Sergei Bobrovsky over the last few games.

    “We had the opportunities right, and we had five odd-man rushes after two periods tonight,” Montgomery said after the Bruins generated 16 high-danger chances Friday night. “And then Game 4, we had three breakaways. “Their goalie was good, and we didn’t beat them.”

    The Bruins also had a quality netminder. But aside from Game 1 they hardly provided him with enough offensive support from the latter half of the Toronto series onward.

    “I didn’t sense frustration [not finishing Grade A’s], but the lack of our ability to score in the playoffs in general,” Montgomery added. “You can’t win every game 2-1.”

    Swayman showcased immense growth during breakthrough postseason.

    For the better part of three seasons, Swayman and Linus Ullmark formed one of the league’s top goalie tandems. Without the duo’s success, this year’s transitional Bruins squad likely would’ve entered fringe playoff territory during the regular season.

    Given that development, Montgomery and goalie coach Bob Essenssa had every reason to continue rotating their starts to begin their 2024 postseason. After his Game 3 win over Toronto, however, the Bruins also had every reason to continue riding Swayman.

    After they inserted Swayman into playoff duty well too late last year, Montgomery didn’t waste any time in staying the course. In turn, Swayman delivered a breakthrough playoff, finishing his 2024 postseason with an impressive .933 save percentage and 2.15 goals against average. 

    “I think the whole year was an incredible year for growth, not only for myself but for everyone on this team. And that’s what I’m most proud of is these guys not taking no for an answer. We were doubted from the beginning, losing all these huge pieces, and everyone was stepping up and making a name for themselves. I would be a part of that 1,000 times over if I could.”

    Even as he showcased growth, Swayman would likely want another 1,000 chances at stopping Forsling’s series-clincher.

    In a rare and brief lapse, Swayman couldn’t secure the short side post after allowing a rebound on Lundell’s initial shot. The Bruins couldn’t pick up Swayman in the final 1:33 to extend their season into overtime.

    The rough ending didn’t prevent Bruins fans from chanting his name during the postgame handshake line. Afterward, an emotional Swayman took every moment of this transitional season in stride.

    “Tears, tears. I couldn’t be more grateful to have a city and a home base that’s as supportive as Boston,” Swayman said of the fan support. “They mean so much more than just fans for me. It’s truly a home for me now, and to hear that was above and beyond. I’m just so grateful for all that support, and we wouldn’t be here without them. So, that was an incredible moment to be a part of.”

    The Bruins made the most of their transitional season.

    Don Sweeney entered last off-season needing to shed salary. As a result, the cap-strapped Bruins began off-loading significant pieces from a deep roster in 2022-23.

    The overhaul began when Sweeney traded Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno to Chicago. Trade deadline rentals Tyler Bertuzzi, Dmitri Orlov and Garnet Hathaway found new homes on the open market. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retired.

    In turn, the Bruins added stopgaps like James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Geekie, Jesper Boqvist and training camp invitee Danton Heinen (to name a few). The quartet encountered various degrees of success during the season, with Heinen’s re-emergence standing out among the group.

    Despite the roster turnover, the Bruins exceeded some expectations. 

    Brad Marchand grew into his captaincy role. Pastrnak and McAvoy showcased significant growth as leaders and encountered signature playoff moments even with their production dropoff from the regular season. Brandon Carlo and Charlie Coyle provided a healthy supporting role among the leadership core, while Mason Lohrei emerged as a potential first or second-pairing option during his rookie campaign.

    The Bruins still have plenty of areas to address in the off-season, mainly top-end forward and defensive depth. But the strides and growth during a transitional season provided more than their share of encouraging signs heading into the summer.

    “I really can’t put into words how proud I am of this group,” Marchand said. “From where we started, the expectation to start the season…everyone wrote us off and said we wouldn’t be a playoff team. We were one of the best teams in the league. We had a lot of new guys and a lot of new roles, and guys came in and we built something special. It started in the room and carried on the ice. We had some hiccups along the way, but from where we started to where we finished, I couldn’t be more proud of the guys…”

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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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