The 2017 playoffs aren’t unfolding the way the Boston Bruins would have liked. After four games, the team is trailing 3-1 to the systematic Ottawa Senators. It’s been a tough series and both teams have had their chances. At the end of the day, however, the Bruins are now facing elimination heading into game five.
There have been many things to look at this series. Whether it’s a lack of defensive depth, some of the best offensive talents on the Bruins not performing, or Erik Karlsson shining, the storylines have been prominent. The latter may be the biggest obstacle the Bruins have to overcome, however, as Karlsson has dominated the series from the first puck drop.
Containing Erik Karlsson
There’s no way around it. Karlsson has been the best player in the entire series. With five points in four games, Karlsson has been phenomenal. His ability to take over a game from the blueline is second-to-none, and the Bruins simply don’t have an answer for him. It’s discouraging, but it’s also exactly what makes him so good. Demoralizing a team in a game is one thing – doing it in four consecutive games really takes a toll on players.
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The worst part about Karlsson on the other side of the ice isn’t even his defense. His tape-to-tape passes and strong decision-making set him apart from the pack. It’s debatable, but there likely isn’t a player who has impacted a team’s series as significantly as Karlsson has for the Senators. The 26-year-old isn’t perfect, but he’s far from a liability in the grand scheme of things.
If the Bruins can somehow find a way to limit Karlsson’s space in game five, they could have a chance to slowly rectify the series. It won’t be easy. If it was, the team would have done so by now. If it was, the rest of the league would have done so by now. Put simply, it isn’t easy. It also isn’t impossible, however, and the Bruins will need to do whatever it takes to shut the Senators’ captain down and put together a full 60-minute effort.
No Reinforcements Coming in Game 5
Still down Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Adam McQuaid, the Bruins aren’t expected to get any reinforcements in game five. When Bruins’ head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked about any defenders coming back, the answer was a simple “no.”
For the Bruins, this likely means the defensive pairings will remain the same:
Zdeno Chara-Charlie McAvoy
Joe Morrow-Kevan Miller
John-Michael Liles-Colin Miller
It isn’t ideal, but it’s what the Bruins are being forced to work with.
An important thing to remember, however, is the Bruins have kept each game close. They took game won 2-1 after being outplayed for most of the game. Game two saw a collapse due to lack of defensive depth and the Bruins lost 4-3 in overtime. Game three saw more of the same with a 4-3 loss due to a controversial call. The Bruins most recent loss was a 1-0 loss. The Bruins haven’t been blown out in any game this series. To make it seem like this team is much worse than the Senators would be an overstatement.
Game five will start the same way game four did in terms of the Bruins lineup, at least from a defensive personnel perspective. After keeping the Senators close in the previous four games, it’s time for the Bruins to finally break out with a definitive victory.