( Photo by Joel Auerbach / Getty Images )

By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @nathandrsn

The Bruins began their Stanley Cup Playoff run for the 2023 season almost two weeks ago. After a historic regular season, we all had extremely high hopes going into the games that matter most. So far, we have not seen the same type of dominance apart from solid performances in games three and four.

Before the series, I don’t think many people had unrealistic expectations. We weren’t expecting the Bruins to completely roll through the Panthers unscathed; they are, after all, just one season removed from their own Presidents’ trophy campaign, and they had to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs. I saw a lot of predictions for the Bruins to take the series in five or six games, but I don’t think I saw anyone thinking it would go all the way to seven.

Unfortunately, that’s where we find ourselves now. After throwing away a golden opportunity in game five and sleepwalking through much of game six, the Bruins have handed the Panthers a lifeline and will face a win-or-go-home situation. The last time the Bruins played a game seven at TD Garden, the St. Louis Blues left the ice with their franchise’s first Stanley Cup. Obviously, we all hope things go differently this time around. Regardless of the outcome though, could the Bruins have already cost themselves their crowning achievement?

If the Bruins are going to go all the way, they’ll have to win four best-of-seven-game series. They’ll have to beat the winner of the Toronto versus Tampa series and one of either the Hurricanes, Rangers, or Devils. There isn’t an easy opponent in that list of five. All the easy games are behind them now. Ideally, they would have closed out this first series in five games and given themselves time to rest before getting ready for the second round. Now, they’ve not only pushed it to an extra sixth game, but they’ll have to use all seven to get past what should be the easiest test.

Many people point to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship team that played in three-game sevens and essentially went to war with the Montreal Canadiens in the first round as a beacon of hope. If that’s what needs to be done to survive tomorrow’s battle as a fan, I won’t be the guy who tells anyone not to believe that. However, this team is in a very different situation than the 2011 team.

That team had veterans, yes, but the best players on the team were still in their prime. The veterans provided much-needed leadership and perspective, but the guys who drove the bus were young and dynamic. This year, there are young players contributing, like Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak, but the team is also being led by wily vets like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand. A lot of the team is closer to the end of their careers than the beginning.

Additionally, the guys are banged up. Linus Ullmark is not himself. After a save late in the first period in game two, he got up slowly and hasn’t been the same since. Krejci missed games due to injury in this series, as did Bergeron. There’s also been speculation that Matt Grzelcyk, who came in and made a difference in games three and four, is battling an injury of his own.

With the team battling injuries like they are, extra rest is priceless. If they are able to get through round one, they could run out of gas in the subsequent rounds because they have had to prepare and play two additional tough games and will have no extra rest before round two. Of course, this is a luxury problem to have. As long as the Bruins get through this series against the Panthers, all that will matter is that they got through. Any further matchups will be dealt with as they come, but it still remains frustrating to watch the Bruins fail to take advantage of a potential quick series when it was in their hands.