BRIGHTON – While the Bruins players have now had a few days to process the end of their season via a second-round playoff demise against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it remains difficult for some of the veteran guys to process. Chalk it up to the 50-win season, or the 112-point regular season, or really setting the NHL place for a nearly four-month stretch in the middle of the regular season, but the Bruins players that previously have been to the mountaintop thought this season’s group potentially had the right stuff for a Stanley Cup.
Perhaps that changed a few games into the second round series against a Tampa Bay Lightning team that really controlled things against them, but it doesn’t change that feeling something special was going on with this year’s edition of the Black and Gold.
“We accomplished a lot of things this year. Obviously, it’s disappointing the way it ended because of the team that we had, you know,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I think there are years where you have a really good feeling and you have really good teammates, and it was one of those years for me. So [it’s] disappointing, for sure, but then you also have to look at it glass half full where you realize a lot of these guys are coming back. A lot of the guys are young and learning, and they’re going to keep getting better [with experience].”
Some of that difficulty with reconciling a second-round playoff exit probably has to do with the shortening window of competitive seasons when it comes to players like Bergeron, David Backes, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, and Brad Marchand. There are only so many more years where those experienced, older B’s veterans are going to be healthy and toward the top of their respective games, and this was absolutely one of them notwithstanding the injuries to Torey Krug and David Backes that knocked them out of the Tampa series.
“It still kind of feels like a missed opportunity,” admitted David Krejci, who had three goals and 10 points in 12 games during this spring’s playoff run. “[It] hasn’t really sunk in yet. I really thought this was the year that we could have done some great things, especially after the first round [win over the Leafs]. Having 50 wins in the season, then second round first game [is a 6-2 win], and then it just didn’t work out you know? So, it still hurts.
“It was a great experience for [the young B’s players], even in playoffs, but at the same time, the management made some moves to get Rick [Nash] and some signings, and other guys. So they felt like we have a team to go all the way this year, and so did we. Like I said, it still hurts. [It] felt like this was the year.”
It was all there for the current Bruins players to feel during long stretches of the regular season like they were onto something pretty unique and special: The won-loss record during the regular season, the dominance in most team statistical categories, the NHL’s top line in Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak and the kind of third period dominance that usually portends special things. Clearly, some of the team’s flaws and imperfections rose to the top once the Stanley Cup playoffs got underway, and the Black and Gold were far too one-dimensional relying on their top line and red-hot PP unit to provide nearly all of their offense against Tampa.
Those areas needing improvement ultimately conspired to seal Boston’s fate in the second round vs. Tampa, but it sure sounds like the Bruins' belief in their current group could just power them to a much deeper postseason run next season where Cup hopes should start to become a little more realistic for a young, experienced group. It will also be an Atlantic Division minefield in the playoffs moving forward with Tampa, Toronto, and Boston all boasting young, talented playoff-level squads that should be battling each other for the next 10 years.