The situation has been painful and disappointing for the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs each of the the past two years.

Their season came to a halt for the second straight year at the hands of the Florida Panthers. A year ago, it was a complete shock because the Bruins had set records for points and wins in the regular season in gaining the Presidents Trophy. They built a 3-1 lead over the eighth-seeded Panthers in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but they were unable to finish the job. They lost the last three games of the series — two of them in overtime — and their season came to a painful end at the conclusion of the first round.

The Bruins exceeded expectations in the regular season again in 2023-24, battling the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes  and Panthers for Eastern Conference superiority. They would eventually finish second in the Atlantic Division and that set up a first-round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Once again the Bruins raced out to a 3-1 lead, but they dropped Games 5 and 6 to set-up a do or die Game 7. The Bruins couldn't shake the Leafs for 60 minutes, but David Pastrnak ended the battle early in overtime with a brilliant goal that left the Bruins overjoyed and sent the beleaguered Leafs home.

After win over Leafs, Bruins take on Panthers again

The Bruins were clear underdogs to the Panthers in the second round, and that suited the team well. They had beaten the Panthers in all four regular season games and the sting of the previous year's defeat was still front of mind.

This time the Panthers jumped out to a 3-1 lead and the Bruins would try to pull a reversal of form. When Boston survived Game 5 in Sunrise, Florida with a 2-1 victory, hope was alive. If the Bruins could win one home game against the Panthers they would have winner-take-all game against their hated rivals.

However, it was not to be. The Panthers were the more relentless team in Game 6 as they had been throughout the majority of the series. Gustav Forsling would score the winning goal with 1:33 to go in the third period as he slipped a shot past stellar goalie Jeremy Swayman  and the Bruins were unable to mount a last minute rally.

Key Bruins shortcomings led to defeat

Jim Montgomery has been a very successful regular-season coach, but that's not why the Bruins hired him to replace Bruce Cassidy two years ago. Team executives Don Sweeney and Cam Neely made the change at the coaching slot because they wanted to see a team that could score clutch goals in the postseason.

One of the main reasons the Bruins fell short in their six-game defeat at the hands of the Panthers was their inability to score timely goals. The power play got off to a great start against Toronto, but quickly fell asleep after 6 for 13 in the first four games of the postseason. The Bruins scored on just 1 of their last 20 power play chances, and their inability to either score or put significant pressure on the Panthers with the man advantage was disastrous.

Montgomery and his coaching staff made a slew of mistakes in deploying their lines and defense pairings. This manifested itself in the Bruins getting whistled seven times for too many men on the ice.

No team had ever taken that many penalties for that transgression in NHL postseason history. Montgomery is the head man in charge, and he has to take the blame for that problem.

Dependable veterans Charlie McAvoy and Charlie Coyle could not turn effort into production

While Pastrnak is the Bruins best and most talented player, McAvoy is not far behind. McAvoy is a hard-hitting defenseman who has fine offensive skills but his greatest assets are his ability to defend in his own zone, deliver bone-crushing hits and carry the puck out of trouble.

McAvoy struggled in most categories against the Panthers. While he was able to deliver some game-changing hits in the series, he made a series of mistakes. Some of those errors were brutal giveaways in the defensive zone that led to Panthers scoring chances. McAvoy finished the postseason with 1 goal and 5 assists, and that's simply not enough for a lead defenseman.

Nobody expects McAvoy to become another Cale Makar, but he should play at a similar level to Adam Fox of the Rangers or perhaps Miro Heiskanen of the Stars. That did not happen in the postseason.

McAvoy finished the postseason with a minus-4 rating and he was often sloppy in his passing. McAvoy scored the winning goal for the Bruins in Game 5, skating up the middle and beating Sergei Bobrovsky with a wicked wrister while looking away from the net.

One game later, the Bruins had a late power play in the third period and McAvoy once again waltzed up the middle. Instead of shooting, he tried to force feed Pastrnak for a one-timer. The Panthers saw McAvoy telegraph the move and that allowed them to block Pastrnak's attempt.

In addition to McAvoy's issues, the Bruins did not get enough from center Charlie Coyle. He had played brilliantly during the regular season as he scored 25 goals and 35 assists in rising to the role of one of the team's primary centers following the retirement of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.

However, his playoff performance was a major disappointment and Coyle was held to 1 goal and 4 assists. Coyle once again showed the ability to hold on to the puck in the offensive zone, but that puck possession rarely resulted in successful offensive thrusts

Youthful errors also cost the Bruins

Montgomery was depending on a number of young players throughout the playoffs. They included defensemen Parker Wotherspoon and Mason Lohrei along with forwards Johnny Beecher and Justin Brazeau.

All four of those players have talent, but none of them have mature or confident games. The Panthers had to know that frequent giveaways by a majority of that foursome would lead to a number of scoring opportunities for the Panthers.

Those players may become leaders in years to come, but they were quite shaky in a number of key games with the Bruins in the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs.