David Pastrnak

Bruins can't make the mistake of falling in love with this Cup Final team

Bruins can't make the mistake of falling in love with this Cup Final team

BRIGHTON, Mass – It would be foolish for the Bruins to allow themselves to think that they’ve figured something out in their interesting run to the Stanley Cup Final this spring.

Certainly, it was an entertaining, inspiring ride for Bruins fans as the B's came within one 60-minute effort of ratcheting up their legacy if they could have captured that second Stanley Cup in a 10-year span. Had the Bruins escaped victoriously in Game 7 over the St. Louis Blues, one could have mentioned them in the same breath as the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins as teams of the decade.

Certainly, another Stanley Cup would have burnished the Hall of Fame resumes of Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, and taken Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask to different strata within the NHL hierarchy as well.

But they fell short with a dud of a Game 7 effort in the 4-1 loss and the Bruins need to make sure they don't let their appearance in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final go to their heads. That won’t be a problem for most of the players, of course.

“That’s what makes it sting even more is how close everybody was on this team,” said Jake DeBrusk. “We just lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. It doesn’t get more sour than that. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

It was as much about the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins losing in the first round of the playoffs as it was about anything the Bruins did on their march to the Cup Final. They beat the Maple Leafs in seven games in a tough series to be sure, but they weren’t exactly facing the East’s iron with second- and third-round opponents in Columbus and Carolina.

It’s paramount that Bruins management doesn’t fall in love with this group of players just because of “the run.” Instead, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney should take heed of the way his forwards couldn’t fight through the big, brawny Blues defensemen corps and had little success getting to the loose pucks and rebounds left around the net by Jordan Binnington.

At this point, the Bruins should consider heavily the notion that the "Perfection Line" needs to be broken up with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak unable to get through the Blues defense while being stymied in the series. 
Sure, it sounds like Marchand and Bergeron were banged up and Pastrnak was fighting the mental battle with his confidence throughout the postseason.

Still, it’s also obvious that Marchand and Bergeron need a big power forward-type on their right wing who can fight his way to the net when No. 37 and No. 63 are subdued physically.

That should be the first order of business for the Bruins this offseason and it could go hand-in-hand with a couple of other things. One is the potential buyout of David Backes’ contract to open up a roster spot and clear out cap space for restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo as they’re due big raises this summer.

Another is a potential trade of defenseman Torey Krug, who is in the final season of a contract paying him just shy of $6 million for next season. Krug is coming off an excellent regular season and a tremendous playoff performance that would have had him in the discussion for the Conn Smythe Trophy had the B’s pulled off the Cup Final win. So, the value will be high for a player who's still in his 20’s (28), has been to a pair of Cup Finals and will be due a big raise of his own when his contract expires following next season.

Krug might just be the bait that could net the Bruins their desired top-six power forward, but they will need to think long and hard about trading a fierce competitor and ultra-competitive player.

There’s also the possibility that the Bruins could look to move David Krejci this summer. The playmaking center is coming off a strong 20-goal, 73-point regular season, but the 33-year-old was also a ghost in the Cup Final and faded badly in the postseason.

The Bruins could field some interest for Krejci at his peak value coming off a Cup Final and trading away his $7.25 million cap hit would go a long way toward solving some salary-cap complications.  

The bottom line for the Bruins: the worst thing they could do is stand pat and do nothing thinking the season was a success. Instead, they should see an aging core group with oncoming salary cap issues caused in part by their success drafting and developing. Still, it's a team that didn’t have enough to get over the hump when it mattered most.

It remains to be seen if this kind of situation will open up again for the Bruins anytime soon with the Lightning and Maple Leafs still talented and looming in their division every season. The B's need to make some changes if they want to be in the best position to take advantage if that golden playoff pathway opens up again in the near future.

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Pastrnak had thumb injury but his 'issues were more mental'

Pastrnak had thumb injury but his 'issues were more mental'

Add David Pastrnak to the list of Boston Bruins who dealt with injuries during their postseason run. During a physical postseason series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pastrnak apparently aggravated a thumb injury that kept him out of the lineup for five weeks during the regular season.

However, per our own Joe Haggerty, Pastrnak wasn't willing to blame the injury for his poor performance. Instead, he said that the "issues were more mental" and his confidence fluctuated as a result.

Even if a lack of confidence impacted Pastrnak, it's clear that his thumb injury did have an impact on him. In the Stanley Cup Final, he struggled to move the puck, likely as a result of the injury, and logged a dreadful minus-7 rating. He was still strong on the power play, but he wasn't his usual, dynamic self on offense.

Pastrnak will have a chance to heal this offseason and will regain his confidence during the regular season. He did have 81 points in just 66 games last year, so perhaps if he can stay healthy and confident, he will have better success in the postseason next year (should the Bruins qualify).

Pastrnak wasn't the only member of the Bruins' top line to deal with an injury. Patrice Bergeron was dealing with a groin injury (though he won't need surgery) while Brad Marchand had a trio of injuries including one that he aggravated in the Bruins' pre-Stanley Cup Final scrimmage.

Click here to see Haggerty's latest NHL Mock Draft>>>

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Unfortunately for the Bruins, this was a Stanley Cup choke

Unfortunately for the Bruins, this was a Stanley Cup choke

Losing the Stanley Cup is heartbreaking. It's guaranteed to leave a room of elite athletes so ruined the poor bastards can barely get the words out as they try to articulate how proud of their teammates they are. 

But some losses are worse than others. There's the Cinderella tale that just falls short. There's the world-beater that gets beaten down by injuries. Then there are the losses that aren't called losses at all. Rather, "loss" is swapped out for its ugliest replacement. 

Choke.

And the Bruins choked. 

It's the last thing anyone in Boston wants to hear or think right now, but unfortunately it's as simple as this: The Bruins, were the best remaining team a week into the playoffs. They had home ice in the Stanley Cup Final against a slower team with an exploitable goalie. Then, with the Cup in their building waiting to be presented to them, the Bruins suffered their greatest margin of defeat since Game 1 of the first round.

They didn't lose because they couldn't handle the toughness or because the refs were meanies. They lost because Game 106 of the season was unrecognizable.

The worst of the Bruins showed up in their forward stars once again doing nothing, but two of their strengths failed. For a team so famously composed and resilient, the Bruins sure let a frustrating end to a dominant first period drown them. Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, finally couldn't bail them out as he did throughout the spring. The latter will still yield a parade in Boston, as talk radio callers will undoubtedly bask in one of the dumbest narratives in sports staying alive. 

Chokes typically have goats attached to them. It realistically won't be Rask, even though Game 7 was statistically his worst night of the postseason. He'll get a pass for being the one who got them there, while Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak will probably lead the pack for following up brilliant regular seasons with uncharacteristically quiet performances in the Final.

Whether Patrice Bergeron gets a slice of that pie remains to be seen. The obvious guess in all three cases is that injuries were in play, as it remains unfathomable that the best line in hockey did not score a single goal in five-on-five play with all three of its members on the ice. 

Taking a step back, this wasn't the season-long nightmare experienced by the Celtics. Part of the fun of this Bruins team was that even in finishing tied for second in the NHL, they were the underdog. If you thought the Bruins were going to win the Cup, you were either really biased or just liked picking upsets, because the Lightning were waiting to eliminate them in the second round for the second straight year. 

But the circumstances changed, leaving the Bruins as the best team in the playoffs as a result. Once Tampa was gone and Rask was established as the postseason's best player, the expectation -- not that word, not "goal" -- was the Cup. It would take either worse play or some major injuries -- not a better opponent, because one didn't exist -- for the Bruins to fail to meet that expectation. 

For now, here's what we know about whatever injuries may or may not have plagued Boston's star forwards: They weren't significant enough to keep them out of the lineup. Plus, if a player was playing through significant injury and underachieving to the degree those players did, you'd think a coaching decision would have been made on it at some point (think Pastrnak in Round 2). 

Instead, the Bruins took the ice for Game 7 as the better team on paper with little reason to believe they had it in them to squander such an opportunity. They didn't, and a city synonymous with championships is going to have to fix its mouth to use that other word.

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