Now you see?
The Bruins defense should not have collapsed by just losing one player, but that’s exactly what happened the moment they lost Brandon Carlo. Boston’s No. 2 right-shot defenseman was shutting down the Islanders’ Mathew Barzal, snuffing out any and all opportunities around the net. Carlo isn’t the most physical player for his size, but his 6-foot-5 frame and long stick make it tough on smaller skill players to find space to operate.
As soon as Carlo went down, Barzal became a different player and practically took over the series. When you’re suddenly dealing with defensemen the same size as you, it’s much easier to find the net and score.
Teams that go deep in the playoffs and win Stanley Cups have more Brandon Carlos than Matt Grzelcyks. And it’s time for Bruins GM Don Sweeney to realize this and make major changes on the back end, ideally by getting bigger and stronger and more sound in their own end.
How many years in a row can Boston endure this without demanding change?
Enough with looking like headless chickens in front of their goalie. Enough with the parade of 5-foot-10 blue liners getting hemmed in their own end and pushed around by 5-foot-11 forwards like Kyle Palmieri. Enough.
Grzelcyk is a solid NHL defenseman who fits well with Charlie McAvoy. But the Bruins aren’t winning anything with him playing 25-plus minutes on the top defensive pairing. Mike Reilly gave them a little more size at 6-foot-1, but he’s another one who’s best suited on the third pair. Ditto Jeremy Lauzon, who could maybe develop into a second-pair defensive defenseman in a few years, but he’s not ready for the roles he was thrust into this year.
On the right side, Connor Clifton (5-foot-11) brings good speed and energy, but should never have to play any more than a 6th-7th defenseman role. He could be a target of the Seattle Kraken in the Expansion Draft anyway. And their only big, strong defensemen on the right side – Carlo and Kevan Miller – can’t stay healthy for a full season.
Contrast their group with the Islanders, who throw big defensemen at you in waves. Scott Mayfield, 6-foot-5. Noah Dobson, 6-foot-4. Adam Pelech, 6-foot-3. Ryan Pulock, 6-foot-2. It’s the same story with the Lightning and the Blues and other teams to smother the Bruins in recent playoff runs. And it’s not just a coincidence or an isolated bad matchup. It’s what wins in the playoffs.
When will the Bruins front office recognize this? If they want to continue to contend in the playoffs and go for a Stanley Cup, major upgrades are needed back there. They aren’t getting out of the second round with McAvoy and a bunch of fifth and six D-men. Either make significant additions, or rebuild. Because the middle ground is what you witnessed Wednesday night.
Options aren’t going to be plentiful in free agency this summer. David Savard (6-foot-2, 233 pounds) would be a good option as an all-around defenseman who may be able to, you know, defend the front of the net. If they want to make a good-old-fashioned hockey trade, Seth Jones (6-foot-4, 209 pounds) wants out of Columbus and Noah Hanifin (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) is starting to round out his game. Nabbing him as a make-good for the 2015 draft would transform the team’s future outlook on defense.
Just don’t tell me they’re going to bring this same group back in 2021-22. That would be the definition of insanity. The Bruins need to add size, depth, and legitimate talent on the back end, or else we’re going to watch the same movie yet again. And the sequels keep getting worse.
Bruins Postgame Podcast: What Went Wrong?
Well, that sucked. The Bruins’ season is over after losing 6-2 to the New York Islanders in Game 6, and Matt Dolloff and Ty Anderson of 98.5 The Sports Hub are here to break it all down in their final Bruins postgame podcast of 2020-21.
Among the topics discussed: a near-total no-show for the Bruins, outside of a pair of goals by Brad Marchand; Boston’s continued lack of size and depth on defense killing them in the end; a lack of finish and reliability in the forward group; Tuukka Rask’s bad performance and whether it’s the final game of his career; and the kinds of changes that the Bruins need to make on the roster in what will be a huge offseason.
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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.