Bruins

Brad Marchand laments not 'being the guy that's a difference-maker' in Game 7

Brad Marchand laments not 'being the guy that's a difference-maker' in Game 7

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s no secret to say that the Bruins best players were simply not that when it came to winning and losing time in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Not only was the Perfection Line, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, held off the scoreboard in the 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in the decisive game of the Cup Final, but a key mistake by Marchand led to the backbreaking goal. Marchand opted to head to the ice for a line change with 10 seconds left on the clock in the second period, and in doing so allowed the Blues an odd-man rush where Jaden Schwartz fed Alex Pietrangelo for the game-winning goal.

“The more you think about it, I think it just gets harder,” said Marchand. “You start to pick apart everything that you’d like to change. You start thinking about the ‘What ifs.’ It just makes it tough. This is going to hurt forever. You’re never going to get over it.

“There are a few things there [on the play]. A little more awareness to know there was only seven seconds left. I just would have been more aware of the guys coming up the ice because I thought [Jaden Schwartz] was all by himself. I thought the play was dead, but it obviously wasn’t. It was a bad read and I could have read the situation a little differently. That was the difference. One play can really change the outcome of a game. Unfortunately it was costly.”

So not only did the B’s top line not create any productive offense, but a glaring mistake proved to be the breaking point for the Black and Gold.

A couple of days later Marchand lamented the mistakes made in Game 7, and the inability to bring the same game to the postseason that allowed him to be a 100-point scorer during the regular season. Unfortunately for Marchand his Cup Final performance was about turnovers, bad decisions at both ends of the ice and an unwillingness at times to shoot the puck, and that’s not who No. 63 was for pretty much all of the regular season.  

“It’s definitely something you think about. Part of why we’re such a good group is that we all expect to be good in the big moments and we all expect to come through,” said Marchand, who had just a single 5-on-5 assist in the seven game series versus the Blues with two goals and five points overall to go along with a minus-2 rating. “I think personally I definitely have that thought where I would have liked to have been the guy that would be a difference-maker…be better in that situation. That’s how it plays out sometimes.”

Marchand admitted following the series that he was dealing with groin, oblique and hand injuries during the Stanley Cup Final, but it doesn’t sound like any of those things are going to require surgery. So there are no injury excuses here and instead Marchand and his linemates simply didn’t get it done against a big, strong and heavy St. Louis Blues defensemen core.

The question now becomes whether it was simply a bad stretch for Boston’s top line, or if there is a change that needs to come for Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak. It sure felt like by the end of the Cup Final that the trio simply didn’t have enough size and strength to get to the front of the net, and needed at least one member of their line that could win more battles with oversized D-men in the scoring areas.

The Bruins top line had the same issues with the big, strong Lightning defensemen corps a year ago as well, and a playbook is certainly there against Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak given the right kind of personnel on the back end.

That will be a story for the offseason for the Black and Gold, however. The story this week was about Boston’s best players not being able to get it done when it mattered most, and that most definitely includes Marchand. 

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Report: Bruins, Bruce Cassidy are discussing contract extension

Report: Bruins, Bruce Cassidy are discussing contract extension

"I don’t anticipate us having any problems with Butch."

That's what Bruins president Cam Neely had to say about Bruce Cassidy's contract situation when he sat down for an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Boston's Joe Haggerty earlier this month.

Now the team is reportedly doing something about it. According to The Athletic's Joe McDonald, the Bruins have begun contract negotations with their head coach, who is entering the final year of his contract.

Locking Cassidy up is a no-brainer for the Bruins, as the 54-year-old has led the team to a 117-52-22 record in two-plus seasons behind the bench. He needed just 166 games to win 100 games with the Bruins, the second-fastest coach in team history to reach that mark, behind only Tom Johnson's 138 games.

Cassidy has also taken the Bruins deeper into the postseason in each successive year, losing in the first round in 2017, the second round in 2018, and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final this past season. And despite coming within one game of hoisting the Cup in June, Neely has said that the playoffs are a growth opportunity for Cassidy.

"Coming in when he did and getting us to the playoffs and then almost having two back-to-back, 50-win seasons is pretty impressive," Neely said in June. "You know, learn from our playoff losses and how to maybe coach a little bit differently in the playoffs. You know, it’s kind of a tale of two seasons, to get into the playoffs, and then once you’re in the playoffs, how do you adjust for a seven-game series. I think Butch [Cassidy] has done a really good job in managing the regular season and learning from playoff hockey."

The Bruins' roster hasn't changed much since last season, so Cassidy will once again be very familiar with his players this coming season. While Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari departed in free agency, the team added other lower-impact free agents like Brett Ritchie and Par Lindholm.

The biggest item on Boston's to-do list before the season begins (outside of Cassidy's contract) is locking down defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, both of whom are restricted free agents. If the team can figure out deals for McAvoy, Carlo, and Cassidy, it would be a good first step in trying to get back to the Stanley Cup Final and winning one more game this time around.

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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask 'still getting flashbacks' to Game 7 Stanley Cup loss

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask 'still getting flashbacks' to Game 7 Stanley Cup loss

Losing in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues will forever be a painful memory for the Boston Bruins, and goaltender Tuukka Rask still hasn't stopped thinking about it.

“I don’t think you ever get over that, still getting flashbacks," Rask said on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" on Tuesday. "But you know, you got to realize it’s only sports, and it is what it is."

Rask was brilliant in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, posting a .934 save percentage and a 2.02 goals against average over 24 games. Unfortunately for Rask and the Bruins, Game 7 against the Blues at TD Garden was not one of his better performances of the spring. Rask allowed four goals on 20 shots as the Blues secured their first ever Stanley Cup championship.

One challenge Rask and the rest of the Bruins have dealt with this offseason is a shorter period of recovery time. Obviously, you'd rather have a shorter offseason because it means your team made a deep playoff run, but it does make preparing for the next season a bit tougher.

“I think the mental aspect is the biggest thing, especially if it’s a disappointing loss like that," Rask said. "You have to just kind of unwind and try to forget about hockey as much as you can. But then again, you only have 2-and-a-half, three months until the next season starts, so you’ve got to take a month for your body to recover. It’s a really small window to kind of recover and then try to get back in shape. I think if you can just kind of do something and stay somewhat in shape and keep skating, that’ll help you start the new season because you only have a couple months between the games. But I think mentally, it’s just such a grind, hockey season, you know you play 82 games plus 25, possibly, so mentally it’s very draining. And the fresher mentally you can be, the better off you are, I think.”

The Bruins did a nice job keeping Rask fresh last season. A huge part of that was signing veteran goalie Jaroslav Halak to serve as the backup. Rask played 46 games and started 45 of them -- his lowest totals for a non-lockout season since 2012. It paid off, too, because he looked fresh and ready to go come playoff time.

Employing a similar strategy during the 2019-20 season will be crucial in allowing Rask to recover from a long playoff run. Halak proved last season that he's more than capable of shouldering the load, evidenced by his 22-11-4 record with a .922 save percentage in 40 appearances.

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