Two games into their first-round playoff series against the Florida Panthers, some alarms were ringing for the Boston Bruins. They didn’t look great in the first two games to open the series, and were going to be without Patrice Bergeron for at least two more games as they traveled to Florida. But as this series shifts back to Boston, the Bruins have to feel like they are in a great spot.
After a dominant 4-2 victory in Game 3, the Bruins took a commanding 3-1 series lead in Game 4 with a 6-2 victory. Just as the Panthers did in Game 2, Boston completely dominated the play in the third period, and ran away with this game to push Florida to the brink. Even more encouraging is that they did this without Bergeron and David Krejci, who was forced to miss both away contests with an injury as well.
With Game 5 taking place at TD Garden, it feels like the Bruins have pushed the Panthers to the brink, and based on what we saw in Games 3 and 4, confidence is at an all-time high in this team. So with Game 4 officially in the books now, let’s take a look back at the action and pick out three big takeaways from what we saw.
3. Charlie McAvoy, Bruins defense leading from the back
Early in this series, the Bruins defense seemed to be playing rather nervous. They were glued to the blue-line when the puck was in the Panthers zone, and they were not on the same level from a physicality standpoint as Florida was. After an ugly, turnover-filled loss in Game 2, it was clear things were going to have to change moving forward.
Of course, that change was going to have to start with Charlie McAvoy, the team’s best all-around defender, and boy was he fantastic once again in Game 4. McAvoy was all over the ice, laying out big hit after big hit once again and creating opportunities on offense as well. McAvoy only has one point so far in this series, but he’s recorded at least four hits in every game, and is actually leading all players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 25 hits so far.
McAvoy’s mindset has been contagious, as Boston’s defense has really taken control of this series. Dmitry Orlov has registered at least one point in each game now, and Hampus Lindholm has looked more like himself after a slow start to the series. The B’s defense wasn’t making their typical impact early in this series, but they were fantastic in Game 4 with McAvoy leading the way.
2. David Pastrnak is slowing down in the playoffs again for the Bruins
Not everything is perfect for the Bruins, even as they are on the verge of ending the Panthers season. They obviously have to get healthy as we saw above, but their best player in David Pastrnak has continued to be fairly quiet early on in the playoffs. Florida is giving him a ton of attention, and it’s not exactly encouraging to see him putting together disappearing acts early on here.
Pastrnak has a pair of goals for the B’s through four games, but he had a pretty awful outing in Game 4. After taking seven shots on goal in Game 3, Pastrnak was ridiculously passive on Sunday afternoon, and while he took three shots on goal, he had opportunities for many more. He coughed up several one-on-one or odd-man rushes throughout, and his play was generally confusing, as he didn’t seem to take well to being targeted repeatedly by Florida in this one.
We’ve seen Pasta have big outings in the playoffs, but this also isn’t the first time that the increased intensity of the postseason has negatively impacted his game. The good thing for the Bruins is that their depth has come through with Pastrnak going cold, but at some point, the B’s are going to need him to step up in a way that he hasn’t really done early on in the playoffs if they want to raise the Cup this year.
1. Bruins are getting a huge boost from Taylor Hall
One player who has been supplying a massive boost in the absence of Pastrnak’s typical production is Taylor Hall. Boston has been getting contributions up and down their lineup throughout this series, but Game 4 was all about Hall, who was directly involved in four of Boston’s six goals on the day.
With two goals and two assists, Hall was simply dominant for the Bruins in this one. Hall picked up a secondary assist on both of Jake DeBrusk’s goals, but without his pass on either play DeBrusk likely doesn’t score. Hall also iced the game with a beautiful breakaway goal late in the third period, and then netted an empty-netter to cap off a remarkable outing.
Hall was the league’s MVP back in 2018, and it’s incredible that Boston is so deep that he’s leading their third-line on offense right now. But that simply doesn’t seem to matter to Hall, as he was still able to lead the Bruins to a huge victory here. If Hall and the rest of the Bruins depth can step up again in Game 5, the Bruins should be able to put the Panthers to rest on their home ice.
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