Bruins

Brad Marchand on Game 7 loss to Blues: 'They just took our dream from us'

Brad Marchand on Game 7 loss to Blues: 'They just took our dream from us'

BOSTON – Charlie McAvoy had one word to describe the emotion that he was going through after the Bruins' season had officially ended with a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“Devastating,” said McAvoy, without even a hint of an elaboration.

It was a tough scene in the TD Garden home dressing room on Wednesday night after the Bruins played a dud of a Game 7 in which they were outplayed during 5-on-5 play by a strong, determined St. Louis bunch and watched rookie upstart Jordan Binnington outplay goalie Tuukka Rask between the pipes.

Grizzled veterans like Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand were even on the verge of tears while discussing the final defeat, and Marchand admitted the Game 7 loss was the worst setback of his brilliant Bruins career. Second-year winger Jake DeBrusk sat dejected in the home dressing room with a towel on the back of his head and didn’t say word to anybody while the media was conducting interviews.

“It’s tough to describe that heartbreak, but you know, we worked hard. It just didn’t go our way,” said Marchand, who didn’t factor offensively and had a key mistake for the B’s when he left the ice for a line change just ahead of the Blues' second goal of the first period. “You never know when you’ll get that chance again. It could be the last one for all of us, but yeah, you know, when you’re that close and it doesn’t happen, it hurts.

“[There’s] disbelief that it didn't come together. That’s not how you plan it out. It’s heartbreak. It’s tough to describe. You know, they just took our dream, our lifetime dream from us, and everything we’ve worked for our entire lives. It was 60 minutes away from that. You can’t describe it.”

It was the lowest the Bruins' dressing room has been morale-wise since they lost four straight games in the second round of the 2010 playoffs to blow a 3-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Bruins were disappointed they lost the Stanley Cup Final in 2013 to the Chicago Blackhawks, to be sure, but it wasn’t the kind of shell-shocked, stunned and raw emotion that was on display after Wednesday night’s game.

The Bruins thought they were going to ultimately prevail against the Blues over the last few weeks, but instead they fell short in a Game 7 that several of the B’s termed the worst loss of their long, accomplished careers.

“We haven’t been in the Final in a long time. Felt like it was there for us. I believed in this group every single game,” said David Krejci. “I had a good feeling. Even after the first period I felt a comeback. So, yeah, that’s a really tough one. [It is] definitely the hardest loss in my career, for sure.”

Most of the Bruins admitted they were never going to get over the bitter taste of a Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Final on home ice, and that’s understandable given where players like Patrice Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci and Chara are at this point in their career. The bright side is that the Bruins took a huge step forward following that 2010 series loss in the second round to the Flyers, and it played a major role in the Black and Gold winning the Cup in 2011.

Perhaps history can repeat itself as the Bruins look to parlay disappointment into success for the regular season next year, and use the loser’s motivation to take them higher and deeper into the postseason standings next season.

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Canadiens in the playoffs? Tony Marinaro calls that 'the stupidest thing I've ever heard'

Canadiens in the playoffs? Tony Marinaro calls that 'the stupidest thing I've ever heard'

The one clear benefit of the play-in round for this summer’s Stanley Cup playoff conclusion to the 2019-20 campaign is it gives new life to hockey clubs otherwise out of it with a month to go in the regular season.

The biggest beneficiary of that new postseason life is undoubtedly the Montreal Canadiens, who had the lowest point total (71) of any of the 24 teams that will qualify for the play-in round. The Habs were a bad team playing out the string that’s now been thrown a life preserver due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Montreal is scheduled to play the fifth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins once the postseason format begins and will face an uphill battle against a healthy, rested group that still features Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and is just a few seasons removed from back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. One would expect that Canadiens fans, media and anyone interested in the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge would be looking for reasons to justify their newfangled postseason presence.

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But TSN 690 radio host Tony Marinaro wasn’t having any of that sunshine Habs talk during a recent NBC Sports Boston Zoom call with myself and Boston Sports Now’s James Murphy when asked about Montreal’s new life.

“The station I work for TSN 690 is the official partner of the Montreal Canadiens. We air Montreal Canadiens on our radio station. This is great for the Montreal Canadiens. It’s great for the fans. It’s great for the radio station that I work for. It’s great for me and it’s great for my show,” said an animated Marinaro. “Now, personally how do I feel about it? I think it’s stupid. [This is] a team that lost eight in a row at one point, and on another occasion lost another eight in a row. On another occasion lost five in a row.

“On another occasion lost three in a row and finished with 31 wins and 40 losses. [They] have a chance at a play-in to get into the actual playoffs? I think it’s the stupidest thing that I’ve ever heard in my life. These are exceptional times that call for exceptional measures. There are a lot of things that I don’t agree with. I think I speak for all of us that we all want hockey back and that the National Hockey League would want to have as many markets involved, in the mix, as possible to try and generate as much interest as possible, and to try and generate as much of the lost revenue as possible. I’m at a point where I just want sports back. As I much as I think it’s stupid, I want sports back more than I think it’s stupid if that makes sense.”

It certainly should make sense to anybody and everybody that loves, and right now misses, the NHL.

The hapless Canadiens were 10 points out of a playoff spot when the NHL regular season went on pause, haven’t made the postseason in back-to-back years, and will have not won a playoff series in five years when they eventually suit up against the Penguins this summer. Despite all of this, they might have a fighting chance with a rested, healthy Carey Price in a short series against a Penguins group coming off a long break.

A win by the Habs in the play-in could even eventually set up a playoff series between the Bruins and the Canadiens. Selfishly, who wouldn’t want to see Claude Julien and his Canadiens match up with the Black and Gold in a playoff series that could help rekindle a rivalry that’s been on life support over the last few seasons?

All that being said, it’s going to be tough to feel like low-seeded play-in teams like the Canadiens actually deserve a regular Stanley Cup playoff berth given so many critical voices viewing skepticism at the 24-team postseason format set up by the NHL.

This Week in Bruins Playoff History: The best B's game I've ever covered

This Week in Bruins Playoff History: The best B's game I've ever covered

After covering almost 20 years’ worth of NHL games with the Bruins and hundreds of Stanley Cup Playoff games, the Game 7 between the Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2011 Eastern Conference Final goes down as the single best game I’ve ever covered.

The 1-0 win for the Black and Gold that vaulted them to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final was played this week nine years ago -- May 27, 2011 -- at TD Garden with everything on the line for a Bruins core group at the height of its powers.

It was a perfectly-executed game between the Bruins and Lightning fine-tuned by a pair of long postseason runs. There wasn’t a single penalty called in the entire game by the referring crew of Dan O’Halloran and Stephen Walkom and just a miniscule 57 whistle stoppages. Both teams were locked into playing mistake-free hockey and did just that for the first two and a half periods of the do-or-die game with everything on the line. 

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“I have nothing really intelligent to say right now,” said legendary NBC play-by-play man Doc Emrick on the telecast at the beginning of the third period, “other than to say, ‘It’s been terrific.’ ”

The Bruins had the better of the chances with Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson forced to make 37 saves, while Tim Thomas had to stop just 24 shutouts in the eventual shutout performance. 

The Bruins had the better of the chances whether it was a Milan Lucic breakaway in the first period, or the 22 shots on net peppered by the top two forward lines of Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi throughout the game. 

But it was all about the entire Bruins team with top shutdown pair Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg both topping 26 minutes of ice time for the game and the B’s defense holding both Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos to just single shots on net.

It was the mild-mannered, powerful Seidenberg who drilled St. Louis with a big open ice hit in the first two minutes of the game and summarily made the announcement to the finesse Lightning bunch that that they were in for a tough night. 

For the Bruins it was about cracking the 1-3-1 trap employed by Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, and that opening finally presented itself midway through the third period. It took the perfectly-executed play to break their system and win the game, and that’s exactly what the Bruins pulled off. 

Andrew Ference carried the puck out of the defensive zone before hitting Krejci in a perfect spot in the neutral zone between two defenders. Krejci skated it quickly into the offensive zone and created a 2-on-1 with Horton moving without the puck to the net, and it was a perfect, slick dish from the playmaking center to Game 7 hero Horton that produced the game-winner.

 

Horton scored the Game 7 game-winner against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round as well, and those two goals cemented his massive status in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final run before a dirty Aaron Rome hit in the Stanley Cup Final took him out of that series. 

The game was finished off by Seidenberg blocking his eighth shot of the game in a warrior performance from the German defenseman, and featured Stamkos playing with his nose all stitched up and repaired after taking a heavy, deflected Johnny Boychuk slap shot right to his face. 

The game had toughness, playmaking and the ultimate compete level with none of the nonsense that can sometimes mar postseason affairs. 

There certainly have been Bruins playoff games with more nastiness and times when it took an amazing, iconic play to win a clinching game in a series. But from beginning-to-end there has never been anything quite as tense and well-played as a 0-0 game through the first 50 plus minutes of the game where it became clear that the first hockey team to crack was going to lose the game. 

It took a perfectly designed and executed play from the Black and Gold to put the finishing move on the Lightning, and that was only appropriate given the tenor of the game. Anybody who was at TD Garden on May 27, 2011, remembers the exact emotion in the aftermath as they left the building saying to themselves, “Damn, that was a good hockey game."