Boston Bruins Playoffs: Who's To Blame For The Bruins Collapse In The First-Round

Published May 27, 2023 at 6:52

The Boston Bruins had an extraordinary journey during the 2022-23 regular season, filled with remarkable moments and accomplishments that truly captivated fans and set new records within the NHL. Their exceptional performance positioned them as strong contenders for playoff success. However, the team's dreams were abruptly shattered when they suffered an early elimination in the first round at the hands of the Florida Panthers, leaving disappointed fans searching for answers. While many critics have been quick to point fingers at General Manager Don Sweeney, it's important to closely examine the Bruins' season, their series loss, and Sweeney's actual role in the team's overall performance.

Throughout the 2022-23 regular season, the Boston Bruins embarked on an incredible journey that surpassed all expectations, breaking both organizational and league records along the way. They concluded the season as the NHL's top team, proudly hoisting the prestigious President's Trophy. The team's success can be attributed to the outstanding performances of key players who consistently rose to the occasion when it mattered most, as well as the guidance provided by their strong leadership core. The Bruins exhibited incredible depth and chemistry throughout the season, showcasing resilience and competitiveness from start to finish.

The 2022-23 campaign carried an air of urgency, reminiscent of a "last dance" scenario, as the Boston squad was determined to win for their esteemed veterans, particularly Captain Patrice Bergeron and center David Krejci. However, an unsettling feeling began to settle in as the team entered the 2023 postseason, following Bergeron's unfortunate herniated disk injury towards the end of the regular season. Even after an initial 3-1 victory in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, vulnerabilities began to surface, and the team's unwavering determination suddenly transformed into a sense of desperation during the first contest at TD Garden.

From that point onward, the path only grew more arduous, regardless of the Bruins' valiant efforts to extend their stay in the seven-game playoff series. As news emerged after their elimination, reports revealed the extent of injuries and players pushing through physical ailments. Such circumstances are far from ideal when it comes to achieving success, regardless of the opponent faced in the first round.

The First Round Series Loss to the Florida Panthers

Despite their regular-season dominance, the Bruins were unable to maintain that momentum in the playoffs. In a fiercely fought seven-game series, the Florida Panthers emerged victorious, eliminating the Bruins with a 4-3 scoreline. Unfortunately, the Bruins' struggle to find postseason success in the first round persisted, as the Panthers replicated what the Carolina Hurricanes had achieved the previous season by ousting the Bruins 4-3.

The last time Boston managed to advance beyond the opening round in the playoffs was in the spring of 2021, when the New York Islanders claimed a 4-2 victory in the second-round series. The Panthers proved to be formidable adversaries, exploiting weaknesses in the Bruins' game plan and capitalizing on their opportunities. Ultimately, the Bruins couldn't overcome the Panthers' relentless determination, resulting in an early end to their postseason run.

Don Sweeney's Performance as General Manager

Since assuming leadership of the Bruins organization in 2015, Don Sweeney has overseen a period of relative success for the team. His astute drafting, strategic trades, and impactful signings have all played pivotal roles in shaping the Bruins' roster and cultivating a highly competitive team. While not every move has been flawless, it's difficult to argue that Sweeney hasn't positioned the Bruins for success throughout his tenure.

The Impact of Don Sweeney on the Bruins' Season

Don Sweeney played a pivotal role in the Boston Bruins' success during the 2022-23 season. His contributions to the team's roster and the support provided to the coaching staff were key factors in their achievements. It would be unfair to solely blame Sweeney for the team's playoff exit, considering his integral role in their regular-season accomplishments, particularly his bold moves at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline.

Last summer, Sweeney orchestrated a significant trade, sending forward Erik Haula to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for veteran forward Paval Zacha, a first-round selection from 2015. Sweeney extended Zacha's contract in January of this year, solidifying his place within the team. The Bruins also made strategic decisions to bring back key players such as Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci on team-friendly one-year deals, despite incurring bonus penalties that would affect the upcoming season.

The Bruins made headlines with their deadline deals, which demonstrated their commitment to a championship run. Acquiring defenseman Dimitry Orlov, forward Garnett Hathaway, and forward Tyler Bertuzzi added depth to an already talented roster. It was evident to most observers that Boston was determined to go all-in for the Cup. Unfortunately, the team's regular-season expectations were dashed as they faced a troubling first-round exit. The future of several players, including the deadline acquisitions, remains uncertain.

The Real Culprits Behind the Bruins' Early Playoff Exit

While it may be tempting to place the blame solely on Don Sweeney for the Bruins' early exit from the playoffs, it is important to recognize the multiple factors that contributed to their downfall, many of which were beyond Sweeney's control. Injuries to key players, issues with team chemistry, and questionable coaching decisions all played a part in the Bruins' inability to progress beyond the first round.

It is crucial to remember that even with the best of plans, the unpredictable and high-pressure environment of the NHL playoffs can lead to unexpected outcomes. Sometimes, despite the best efforts of a general manager, a team falls short. In this case, it is important to distribute accountability for the team's failures to the coaching staff on the bench and the players on the ice.

During the Bruins' recent year-end press conference, Sweeney emphasized the collective accountability of the entire group, acknowledging that they had held candid discussions behind closed doors. The panel present at the press conference, consisting of Sweeney, Team President Cam Neely, Team Owner Charlie Jacobs, and Head Coach Jim Montgomery, expressed disappointment following a season that had held so much promise. They recognized the need for improved execution moving forward.

Head Coach Jim Montgomery, in particular, took responsibility for some questionable decisions made during the series against the Panthers. He acknowledged the team's shortcomings and expressed a commitment to reflect on the events of the season to prevent a recurrence in the future. Montgomery revealed plans to initiate discussions over the summer, focusing on developing a plan for the upcoming year, understanding that changes may occur within the coaching staff and team chemistry.

As the Bruins enter the offseason, both Sweeney and the coaching staff will have an opportunity to evaluate what went wrong and make the necessary adjustments. It will be a crucial period of reflection and planning to ensure that the team rebounds and avoids a similar disappointment in the future. The potential for significant changes in the coaching staff and team dynamics adds another layer of importance to this offseason.

Source: Blackngoldhockey
May 27   |   81 answers
Boston Bruins Playoffs: Who's To Blame For The Bruins Collapse In The First-Round

Is Jim Montgomery to blame?

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