The Boston Bruins are staring down a Game 6 elimination in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They haven’t lost in the first round of the playoffs since 2017, and given the up-and-down season they had in 2021-22 — and their first round matchup against the wickedly talented Carolina Hurricanes — the possibility of them losing in the first round has seemed higher than previous seasons.
But the Bruins certainly aren’t going down without a fight. After a poor performance in Games 1 and 2, they bounced back for Games 3 and 4 before putting up another poor performance in Game 5. Going into a possible elimination in Game 6, there are several guys that need to step up if the team hopes to force a Game 7.
Matt Grzelcyk has been a name tossed around a lot recently, and not in a good way. After the best season of his career in 2020-21 that saw him put up 20 points, including a career high five goals, in only 37 games, 2021-22 didn’t quite live up to expectations. While he was an impressive plus-22 (the highest plus-minus of his career) and played well on a pairing with Charlie McAvoy, he only contributed 24 points of offense in 73 games, and struggled to find the same chemistry with Brandon Carlo after being bumped down to the second pairing with the acquisition of Hampus Lindholm.
Going into the postseason, many thought that the performance of the Bruins defense, particularly outside of McAvoy and Lindholm, could make or break their playoff run. Through the first five games, Grzelcyk has been largely a non-factor, and could even potentially be scratched if Lindholm returns to the lineup for Game 6.
So far, he has zero points in five games and is a minus-six. While he’s had some good moments, Game 5 was particularly bad as he also took two penalties, one of which lead to a goal by Carolina.
If he plays in Game 6, and I would not be surprised if they take him over Mike Reilly, then he needs to step up. If he can play the way he did during last year’s regular season, it would go a long way to helping this team force a Game 7.
The depth scoring that the Bruins seemed to have figured out in the regular season has all but completely dried up in the postseason. Once again, it is the “perfection line” of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron almost single-handedly driving the offense of this team. It’s really not surprising, but this team played its best in the regular season when they were getting contributions from throughout the lineup.
Given how well he played in the second half of the season, Erik Haula’s performance so far this postseason has been particularly disappointing. He’s only contributed two assists and is a minus-five, and was even moved down to the third line in Game 5. He’s been a shell of the player that was garnering so much attention this Spring.
If the Bruins have any hope of, not only winning this series, but going far in the playoffs, Haula needs to step up. He needs to be the player who was on the ice this spring, not the guy who took 12 games to score his first goal of the season. If that is the guy that takes the ice in Game 6, it’ll be a very tall task to force a Game 7 against the talented Hurricanes.
While no one can deny that Nick Foligno is a great leader, shown by his recent nomination for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, the on ice performance was a disappointment in the 2021-22 regular season, and it has continued into the postseason. In 64 games, he only scored two goals and 13 total points and was a minus-13 while only averaging a little over 12 minutes of ice time a night. In five games so far, he has zero points.
The fourth line in general has struggled to have an impact this season. Tomas Nosek could also easily be on this list, but Foligno gets the nod as a former captain and impact player. He was brought onto this team to be a leader, and now is the time for him to step up. He won’t play major minutes in Game 6, but he needs to make the most of the time he has. The Hurricane’s fourth line could be considered one of their weak spots and it would go a long way for the Bruins to start winning some depth matchups, especially considering the top line was shut out in Game 5.
The best leaders are the ones who can make the big plays in the big moments. Foligno helped orchestrate one of the biggest upsets in recent memories in the NHL when his Columbus Blue Jackets swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2019 Playoffs. He knows what it means to be the underdog. Now is the time for him to step up and show why the Bruins signed him.
Top Guys Can’t Do it All
The Stanley Cup is often won on the backs of the depth players. Last season, the Lightning’s third line was a major difference maker. In 2019 when the Bruins made it to the Stanley Cup Final, they received contributions from up and down the lineup.
So far, the top guys are playing like the elite players they are. Sure, Marchand has had moments of losing his cool that have harmed the team, but for the most part, he’s played incredibly well. Bergeron continues to show that age is just a number. Pastrnak and McAvoy are also making big contributions each night. The goalies are doing their jobs.
It is the depth guys who need to step up in Game 6 if the Bruins have any hope of winning. As they demonstrated in Game 3 and Game 4, this team can compete with the Hurricanes and can even win this series. But, they won’t win if the top guys don’t get some help in Game 6.
I’m Hannah Garfield, a graduate of Elon University with degrees in Film and Media Analytics. Currently, I’m pursuing my MFA in Screenwriting at Boston University. I’m a lifelong, passionate Boston sports fan and love all things Bruins.