Nick Goss

Bruins' lack of offense, not refs, is main reason they trail Panthers 3-1

The B's have scored two or fewer goals in six of their last seven games.

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BOSTON -- The officiating was awful in Game 4 of the Bruins-Panthers second-round playoff series on Sunday night. The Panthers have had six power plays in each of the last three games. Boston's frustration over some of these calls is warranted.

But make no mistake: The referees are not the primary reason why the Bruins have been pushed to the brink of elimination after a 3-2 loss in Game 4 at TD Garden.

It's because they can't generate enough offense. Plain and simple.

The Panthers controlled play for much of Game 4. Sure, getting six power plays is a huge boost, and Florida did cash in on one of them -- albeit in controversial fashion. But the 5-on-5 stats show the Panthers tilted the ice in their favor by a fairly substantial margin.

Via Natural Stat Trick:

  • Shot attempts: 79-42 Panthers (54-31 at 5-on-5)
  • Shots on net: 41-18 Panthers (28-13 at 5-on-5)
  • Scoring chances: 45-18 Panthers (26-14 at 5-on-5)
  • High-danger chances: 18-11 Panthers (11-9 Bruins at 5-on-5)
  • Expected goals: 4.59 to 2.15 in favor of Panthers (2.25-1.79 at 5-on-5)

When the opponent has more than twice as many shots at 5-on-5 and is plus-12 in 5-on-5 scoring chances, you're in trouble. The Bruins generated just two shots in the third period. They did spend 6:57 on the penalty kill during the frame, but that's an abysmal amount of offense created in the most important period of the season so far.

The Bruins haven't registered above 18 shots in three straight games. The Panthers, as a result, are just the fourth team since 1995 to hold an opponent at 18 shots or below in three or more consecutive playoff games.

"We have to spend more time in the o-zone," Bruins forward David Pastrnak said. "Credit to them, they're doing a good job. But we need to be better and create space for each other."

It's not like the Bruins didn't have quality looks at the net. Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen all had a partial or full breakaway opportunity in the second period. A goal on any one of those chances pushes the Bruins' lead to 3-0 or 3-1 (the Panthers got on the board at 14:48 of the period), and maybe the final outcome is different as a result.

Boston's lack of offense is not just a Game 4 problem, though. It's been an issue for this team for a couple weeks. The B's have scored two or fewer goals in six of their last seven games, including three of four matchups in this series. That's nowhere near good enough against a high-powered Panthers offense that has scored three-plus goals in eight of its nine playoff games.

Brad Marchand's absence -- he missed Game 4 due to an upper body injury -- is a tough setback for the Bruins in their ability to score goals consistently. The veteran left wing ranked second on the Bruins in scoring with 67 points in the regular season, and he still leads the team in playoff scoring with 10 points (three goals, seven assists). Pastrnak drove the majority of Boston's offense in the regular season, leading the team in goals (47), assists (63) and points (110). He scored Boston's first goal in Game 4 on the power play and has tallied a point in three of four games versus Florida.

The rest of the group hasn't really shown up.

Pavel Zacha has zero goals in 22 career playoff games. Charlie Coyle has one goal and two even-strength points over 11 games this postseason. Trent Frederic hasn't scored a goal in the last six games. James van Riemsdyk has zero goals over the last seven games. Morgan Geekie has zero points in the last three games despite getting top-six minutes.

Neither of the Bruins' top-two defensemen, Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm, have tallied a single point in the second round. McAvoy has been held without a point for seven consecutive games.

Jake DeBrusk, with four points (two goals, two assists) in four games, is one of the few Bruins players who has played pretty well offensively the whole series.

The Bruins' lack of scoring is especially disappointing when you consider how well Jeremy Swayman has played in net. He ranks No. 1 among playoff goalies with a .930 save percentage and 8.04 goals saved above expected. He played fantastic again in Game 4, making 12 high-danger saves. With a little more offense, the Bruins wouldn't have needed seven games to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, and they would likely be at least tied in this series against the Panthers.

But the Bruins don't have enough offensive talent to hang with teams like the Panthers. They have one elite forward in Pastrnak. The Panthers have three or four of those high-end players, plus better depth. Florida is just on another level roster-wise.

The No. 1 priority for the Bruins in the offseason needs to be adding another elite natural goal scorer or a legit top-six center who can create quality scoring chances for other players. And with around $21 million in salary cap space this summer, there's no excuse for the Bruins not to acquire that kind of offensive star.

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