With the disappointing effort shown in Game Four, it was easy to see just how much the Boston Bruins miss the depth and experience that Sean Kuraly provides in their bottom-six.
Following a 7-1 Game 3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, many were expecting the Boston Bruins to come out of the gates fired up for Game Four albeit missing Sean Kuraly.
Despite that expectation, the Bruins delivered one of their more lackluster performances of this bubble Stanley Cup Playoffs and now find themselves with their backs against the wall down three games to one in the series.
Sean Kuraly has been an integral part of the Boston Bruins success since he joined the team in 2017 and has shown that he can rise to the occasion when the lights shine the brightest, as his points per game in the post-season (.41 PPG) is almost double his regular season points per game (.26 PPG).
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Heading into the series with Tampa Bay, it was well understood that the Lightning had the edge in the depth department and that the Bruins would need the bottom-six guys like Kuraly to step up.
Unfortunately for the Boston Bruins, Sean Kuraly has been out of the lineup since Game Two with an undisclosed injury and it does not appear that he will be returning to the lineup prior to Game Five.
While Kuraly isn’t a point per game player or a heavy presence on the Bruins power play units, he has an uncanny ability to score timely goals and provide much needed secondary scoring that the Bruins so frequently lack.
In an elimination game in the 2017 playoffs against the Ottawa Senators, Kuraly scored two goals, including the overtime winner to extend the series to a sixth game. In the 2019 playoffs, Kuraly had a goal and an assist in Game Seven against the Toronto Maple Leafs to help the Bruins move on to the next round.
While the timely scoring has gone a long way, Sean Kuraly also provides some quality minutes, and even scoring opportunities, while the Bruins are shorthanded. In Game Three against the Carolina Hurricanes with the Canes on the power play, Kuraly changed the momentum in the game with a strong short handed shift that ended with his first goal of the playoffs.
Prior to Game Three against Tampa Bay, the Bruins power play had been killing penalties at 90% success rate and had held Tampa Bay at zero for five in the first two games thanks in part to the solid play of the penalty killing units involving Kuraly. Since the Kuraly injury, the Bruins penalty kill had allowed four goals and the success rate has dropped to 63% over the last two games.
With Sean Kuraly likely out of the lineup for Game Five against the Lightning, the Boston Bruins will need a strong effort across the board to keep their season and Stanley Cup hopes alive.
The ability of the bottom-six forwards to provide the secondary scoring, penalty killing, and quality minutes lost with Kuraly’s injury will be paramount to the Bruins extending this series to a sixth game.