TAMPA, Fla. -- While it was most certainly a bitter loss on Sunday afternoon for every member of the Bruins, and an especially tough one for the veteran players who only have so many kicks left at the can, they know they'll be back this way again.
Some -- like Rick Nash, Riley Nash and Nick Holden -- might be moving on as unrestricted free agents. But the B's have waves of young talent bursting through to the NHL level, with a core group of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci that will remain intact for next season and beyond.
So for players like Chara, even at age 41, there's optimism for the future.
"When you look back at this season, there is a lot to be proud of and there's a lot that we can take as a positive," he said. "We went through some obstacles and challenges this season and we handled it really well . . . [There] is a lot to be looking forward to for next season."
Certainly there were moments in the playoffs that some youngsters can build upon. For Jake DeBrusk, it's his game-winning goal in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs and the way he was able to step up as a secondary offensive force. For Danton Heinen, it'll be his Game 7 goal against the Toronto and the motivation he drew upon after being a healthy scratch in the last couple of games. For Matt Grzelcyk, it will be getting through and surviving a tough turnover in the opening minutes of Game 4 against Tampa Bay. For Ryan Donato, it's the experience of those last few games against the Lightning after sitting out most of the playoffs. And for Charlie McAvoy, who was back up over 26 minutes of ice time, it was the knowledge that he got better and stronger as the playoffs went along.
As for the team itself, coach Bruce Cassidy hopes the Game 7 battle against Toronto will end up paying dividends down the line, even if it taxed the B's quite a bit with the Lightning lying in wait.
"Where we fatigued? Maybe a little bit," said Cassidy of his team's state in the second round against the Lightning. "But at the end of the day, I think those Game 7 experiences are going to be a benefit to this hockey club. You hoped it would be in this round, having gone through it."
That proved not to be the case. But this spring's experience could well bring bigger and better things in the next few years.