Tomase: Five reasons to be infuriated about Bruins-Panthers series

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There’s a lot to be angry about with the Bruins in a 3-1 series hole vs. the Panthers and clearly outclassed everywhere except in net.

The B’s can’t clear their own zone, mount any kind of sustained offensive attack, or match Florida’s battle-tested physicality. The Panthers are the bigger, stronger, better, more confident team and the Bruins know it.

Their season almost certainly is going to end Tuesday in Florida, but before then, let’s lay out the most infuriating aspects of this series.

1. Wasting Swayman’s brilliance

This is the killer. The numbers won’t reflect it because the Panthers have spent half the series in his end, and half of that time on the power play, but Swayman has played well enough to backbone a Stanley Cup run.

He’s just under constant assault. The Panthers blitzed him with 41 shots in Sunday’s 3-2 loss and Swayman stood tall. He’s been good for anywhere from five to 10 primo saves per game. Had Sam Bennett (more on him later) not been allowed to cross-check Charlie Coyle onto Swayman’s head, the Panthers may never have tied the game.

Then again, they probably would have, because the Bruins can’t get out of their own way, or end.

2. Talent or tactics?

Since the Leafs began their comeback in Game 5, the Bruins have been unable to escape their own zone or maintain possession in the opposing end. It was agonizing enough to watch Toronto with a diminished William Nylander and without Auston Matthews dominate the forecheck, but the dazzling Panthers are just embarrassing them.

How many times do we need to see Florida work the puck behind the net before finding Matthew Tkachuk on the short right boards while Carter Verhaeghe goes backdoor and Brandon Montour is free to blast one from the point and Vladimir Tarasenko loads up from the left circle and it’s just options everywhere?

How many times must we watch the Bruins dump and chase, only to finish checks a split second too late as the Panthers play tic-tac-toe out of the back? How many times can the B’s send a puck to the point only for it to be unmanned? And don’t even get me started on all of the limp-wristed clearing attempts.

It would be easy to attribute the zone dominance to Florida’s massive talent advantage, except the Leafs — no one’s idea of a defensive force — strangled the Bruins in the neutral zone, too. I’ll leave it to the hockey experts to answer a fair question: How much is this a Jim Montgomery thing?

3. Pucks on net!

The chant start in the waning moments of Game 4, with the Bruins on the power play, after Charlie McAvoy passed up a couple of wide-open attempts from the point: “Shoot the puck! Shoot the puck!”

Bruins fans know what they’re watching, and it’s frustrating as hell. Those of us raised on Al Iafrate and Ray Bourque (or even Zdeno Chara) remember the value of blasting one from the point, but it’s a lost art in today’s NHL, with the slapshot effectively retired in favor of quicker and more precise wristers.

There may not be the shooting lanes or load times that existed when Planet Al was letting one rip at 105 mph, but the Bruins are acting like choosy beggars, and they don’t have the luxury of multiple passes in search of the perfect shot. Florida is just too smothering.

Better to test the relatively shaky Sergei Bobrovsky more than 18 times, which is all the shots they could muster on Sunday.

4. Fake tough guys

There are right ways and wrong ways to mix it up with Florida. The right way was McAvoy’s bone-crunching and stick-snapping hit on Sam Reinhart to open Game 4. The wrong way is Pat Maroon lamely giving the come-hither motion to the Florida bench.

When David Pastrnak unwisely drops his gloves with Tkachuk (that kid’s got Medford blood, come on), or the B’s try to engage the Panthers during warmups, or there are constant post-whistle scrums, Boston is just playing into Florida’s hands.

It seems like everyone on the opposing roster is an instigator. And they’re better at it than you, especially now that Brad Marchand is sidelined after a dirty hit from Bennett.

The Panthers want to muck it up. They want Pastrnak more concerned with punching someone during a stoppage than making Florida pay on the other end. They want the Bruins taking stupid penalties, and it’s working.

Looking for someone to fight after getting housed on the scoreboard is the mark of a team packing its bags.

5. Villainous Sam Bennett

Most of us expected Tkachuk to the be the villain of this series, his leer with a dangling mouthpiece the definition of punchable. And while Tkachuk hasn’t disappointed, Bennett is the true bad guy.

First came the dirty hit on Marchand, a clandestine little hook to the head as he finished an otherwise benign-looking check in Game 3. Marchand crumpled to the ice and sat out Game 4. Coming just a year after another Bennett hit left Toronto’s Knies concussed, there’s a pattern with this guy.

The Bruins wanted his head, and instead they got another sucker punch. Bennett’s sneaky cross-check created what sure looked like goalie interference on the tying tally, but the Bruins lost the challenge and the Panthers won the game.

The Bruins undoubtedly will seek revenge in Game 5, but see item No. 4 on this list. Ham-fistedly forcing their attempts at retribution will only lead to more Florida power plays and a quick exit.

That said, it would be nice to see someone light him up. (Legally, I guess).

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