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Bean: Don't blame the pandemic; the B's just weren't good enough

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Going from the Presidents' Trophy to out after the second round is no fun. If you're a Cup contender, the expectation should be a title and anything else should be a failure.

But while the Bruins did fail in some respects, this wasn't a team that was going to win a title -- not unless you truly believed they were on such a revenge tour that they could be powered purely by vengeance. So I can't blame the stoppage of play due to the pandemic or the bubble format for the fact that their season is now over.

The fact that a team with a lot of the same players was in the Cup Final last season, then had the best record this season was reason enough to think the Bruins deserved a title. That's a bit deceiving, though, as the Bruins weren't nearly as deep offensively as they were a year ago. Plus, we've certainly seen flawed teams win the Presidents' Trophy before.

Which brings us to where the Bruins did fail, which was the trade deadline. Last year, the Bruins lacked secondary scoring, so they went out and got both Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson. Without those acquisitions, the Bruins wouldn't have made the run they did.

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So, when considering that the road wasn't going to be as easy (all the No. 1 seeds lost in the first round last year, giving the Bruins an easy road to the Final against an inferior Blues team) and that Johansson was gone, the Bruins needed to add at least one wing who could put the puck in the net.

 

They got Ondrej Kase as part of the David Backes salary dump -- that made for a body at wing, but not a sure thing -- then traded Danton Heinen for Nick Ritchie. I've written multiple times since the trade deadline about how that wasn't enough, so I'll save us all some time and not explain it again. Plus, you could see for yourself. It wasn't enough.

Struck by Lightning

After winning Game 1 against the Lightning in both 2018 & 2020, the Bruins lost Games 2-5 each year, with Tampa Bay more than doubling the B's overall score in those eight losses.
32-14

Skating mostly on the second line, Kase went without a goal in his first postseason as a Bruin. Ritchie scored one, but was ultimately a detriment with his play and penalties. Coyle didn't have consistent linemates the whole way, and in the end, the Bruins could have absolutely used Heinen over the guy they got for him. Ritchie has one more year on his contract but is a logical candidate to be moved given how disastrous his time as a Bruin has been so far.

The Bruins, with their incredible top line, Vezina finalist and balanced blue line, were a very good team this season. They just weren't the best, and projecting them to win a seven-game series against a deeper team with more high-end skill like the Lightning just didn't seem realistic.

In the end, it wasn't.

The bubble hurt the Bruins in two major ways. One, they came back a bit out of sync. Zdeno Chara was slower than usual and had some rough moments in what could have been his final games as a Bruin. It also meant they would have to play without Tuukka Rask, who opted out two games into the first round and went home.

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But would the Bruins have beaten the Lightning if Chara was, say, what he was last postseason? And if they had Rask? I say no. Truth is, had the Lightning not lost their minds and just beaten the Blue Jackets in the first round last year, they probably would have beaten the Bruins, too.

Boston's run to the Cup last year, coupled by a Presidents' Trophy regular season, made it easy to see this Bruins team as something it wasn't.

Now, with a murky view of the future -- Chara and Torey Krug could be gone, Krejci and Rask are entering walk years and Jake DeBrusk is due for his second contract -- the Bruins have to figure out how to turn a team mistaken for a Cup winner into an actual Cup winner.