While there were some well-chronicled problems with the Game 5 officiating that led to Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy going on a perfectly understandable “New York Saints” rant afterward, it’s not the reason ultimately that the B’s lost on Monday night.
The simple truth is that the vaunted Boston Bruins penalty kill let them down in a 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders in a pivotal Game 5 where they went down 3-to-2 in the best of seven series. There’s also Tuukka Rask allowing four goals on 16 shots in a particularly average performance in a big game for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins penalty faltering while allowing three PP goals in four PP chances for the Islanders was the story behind the loss.
The story-behind-the-story was the continued absences of top penalty killers Brandon Carlo (upper body) and Kevan Miller (upper body), a pair of big-bodied warriors that the Bruins absolutely missed on Monday night. On the last couple of Isles PP goals, Connor Clifton couldn’t handle clearing a puck that bounced off his skate to Kyle Palmieri for a tap-in and Charlie McAvoy wasn’t able to block a Jordan Eberle blast from the face-off dot.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) June 7, 2021
Those are the kinds of plays that get gobbled up by the injured shutdown warriors that are usually manning the right side on the penalty kill.
“We’ve got to fix some things, obviously the PK. Carlo and Miller eat up a lot of those minutes and we miss them. We had some breakdowns back there that we need to correct,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Guys don’t have their abilities on it, so we need to coach them up and make sure they were better. I thought 5-on-5 we were dominant, but the PK let us down and we need to be better on it.”
On an even bigger score, the decision to go away from Zdeno Chara last offseason also loomed like a massive 6-foot-9 shadow as the Boston Bruins struggled in the one department where a 44-year-old Chara could have helped them tremendously. By and large the Bruins have not missed their former captain this season, but the war of attrition in the playoffs have exposed some depth issues on the back end for the Black and Gold.
Clearly there was some bad luck as well with the final Islanders PP goal happening after Jarred Tinordi broke a stick that rendered him ineffective against an Isles special teams unit clearly clicking. And the opening PP goal for the Islanders at the end of the first period was as much about the soft slashing penalty called on Sean Kuraly as it was about Mat Barzal sniping a pinpoint perfect shot through the B’s penalty kill.
“We just need to keep plugging away. I think everybody is stepping up and we’re trying to work together as a group to pick up for those guys,” said Charlie McAvoy, who was on the ice for all three Islanders power play goals scored in the game. “That’s what we’re trying to do. Everybody is trying to pull on the rope. That’s all we can do.
“The fourth one is the hardest one to win. We’re going to New York to win a game and that’s all that’s on our mind. We want to put our best foot forward and win a hockey game. That’s it. That’s all we’re thinking about right now. This thing isn’t over.”
Considering that the Islanders power play had been scoring at an 18 percent clip in these playoffs prior to Game 5, the complete breakdown by a normally well-coached Bruins penalty kill at a pivotal postseason moment is notable. It’s also something that needs to be fixed immediately if the Bruins are going to win playoff games in a row and keep their postseason lives going beyond this second round matchup.