It's now been a full day and then some since the Bruins dropped Game 7 on home ice versus the Canadiens. It doesn't feel any better then it did on Wednesday night. It still sucks. It still stings.
|Bitter pill to swallow...still. The Game 7 loss will linger for quite a while (via ESPN.com)|
Since the dust has settled, we can now see the big picture, the entire series laid out in front of us as a whole, not individual games separated by nights in between.
And when we look at the finished product, culminating in the 3-1 defeat at the Garden, we see how it all went so wrong for the Black and Gold.
At the end of the line? A huge missed opportunity.
Without much more ado, here are seven reasons why the Bruins were eliminated by their ultimate rivals in seven games.
The unofficial count for posts and crossbars hit in the series for Boston was 13. Give or take one. 13 shots off the pipes. More pings off the metal than you'd ever hope to here in your entire life. But the B's hitting the iron was not a result of bad puck luck. They were a result of bad shots. Shots that missed their target. Shots that missed the net. Whether it was the specter of Carey Price exhuming an air of confidence that the Bruins felt that had to over-compensate when picking their corners, or just a simple lack of concentration, the Bruins' failure to convert the ridiculous number of chances they had throughout was the chief reason why they fell in, or even got to, seven games. If they had scored on half of the 13 shots, the series may have been over in six games, without question.
2. Big guns shooting blanks
Coupled with Boston's inability to finish was their lack of production from their most important players. David Krejci had his second-worst point producing playoffs in his eight year career, as the Bruins' top centerman recorded no goals and just four assists in the 12 games this postseason. Brad Marchand continued his playoff scoring drought, running his goalless streak to an even 20 games dating back to last year's Eastern Final versus the Penguins. The lasting images of Marchand from this postseason? A trio of missed shots: two on wide-open nets in Game 4 versus the Red Wings and again in Game 7 vs Montreal, when he was parked in front of Carey Price alone, before skying the puck over everything and off the glass. Jarome Iginla was the only Bruin to crack the five-goal mark. Milan Lucic and Reilly Smith finished with four goals. Patrice Bergeron with three. Torey Krug led the team in scoring with 10 points (two goals, eight assists). If you're 23-year-old third defenseman is leading your team in postseason scoring, there are some serious issues at hand.
3. Defensive deficiencies
General manger Peter Chiarelli didn't feel the need to address the blueline as much as others had hoped he would with both Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid on the shelf dealing with their respective injuries. The Bruins brass felt the young guys on the roster, coupled with the small additions of Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter could keep the defensive unit afloat on a run to the Cup. They were wrong. Dead wrong. This defensive core needed another stable body to plug next to Johnny Boychuk on the second pairing. I was one at the deadline saying the Chiarelli should have done all that he could to bring in another player for reinforcement. He decided to play it safe and it killed them. Matt Bartkowski and Andrej Meszaros emulated two black holes with their play, and when the games got tighter, the room for error got smaller. Corey Potter was a non-factor. The Bruins are built from their defense out, and choosing to roll with a young and depleted unit came back to bite them in the butt at the worst time possible.
4. Carey Price was better than Tuukka Rask
In a battle between the odds on favorite to take home the Vezina Trophy and someone who wasn't even a finalist, it would've been hard to convince the untrained eye as to who was who in the series. Carey Price, just a few months removed from carrying Team Canada to the Gold Medal in the Sochi Winter Games, added another feather to his cap by taking down the President's Trophy winning Bruins, outplaying his counterpart in Tuukka Rask along the way. Price was a vacuum cleaner, swallowing up any and all loose pucks around the crease. He was a brick wall, turning aside shot after shot as the Bruins failed to consistently put pucks past the 26-year-old netminder. Price played the way a goalie needs to play when his team has dreams of making the Stanley Cup Final. Rask did not. Rask again struggled to keep the Canadiens off the scoreboard, something he has done his entire career vs Montreal. Each goalie traded a shutout, and both players let up four goals twice in the series, yet in the end, Price was the more steady, more confident and simply the better goalie.
5. Lack of urgency
Save for Game 5, the Bruins somehow managed to miss the start times for these games. The Canadiens in practically every other game blitzed the B's in the first minutes of action and steamrolled the Black and Gold across the ice surface to set the tone early and forcefully. And in the most inexplicable of them all, Game 7 saw the Canadiens shot out of a cannon to take the 1-0 lead before the B's had even set their sticks down for the opening face-off. How could a team that's been through so many postseason games in the last six years be so consistently flat to start games? Boston lacked the effort to even show up in Game 6 and instead fell behind just two minutes into the game, again setting the tone early that Montreal would be the team to dictate how the night was going to go. Boston would go on to lose 4-0, setting the stage for another failure to launch in Game 7.
6. Falling behind early and often
The Canadiens held two-goal leads in five of the seven games played. In the case of Games 3 and 6, they were three and four goal leads, respectively. Boston held the lead for a grand total of 58 minutes and 17 seconds. Many of you can do the math off the top of your head right here: the final seven minutes and change of the Game 2 comeback and Saturday's Game 5 from Carl Soderberg's opening goal to the final horn. That's it. The Canadiens held the lead for 222 minutes and 42 seconds. Nearly quadruple the amount of time. The Canadiens perfected how they play best, while the Bruins failed to adjust their style. Montreal absorbed for minutes on end whatever pressure the B's could muster. They were just fine playing that way, they had Carey Price waiting behind them. When the lanes finally parted and the Bruins were caught out of position for a split-second, the Habs used their speed to catch the Bruins on the counterattack. Boston used so much energy just trying to establish traction in the offensive zone that when the puck was taken the other way, the bodies on the ice had to peel off for a line change, or worse, track down the speedy Canadiens and fight to earn it back.
7. The Habs bring out the worst in Boston
It's no secret how much these two teams dislike each other. The bad blood flows in every game, and in the series just played, the hate spilled into antics on the ice, and off it. Milan Lucic flexing at P.K. Subban. Shawn Thornton squirting Subban during the run of play. The media-driven spats between Coach Julien and Michel Therrien. The blown-out-of-proportion comments made by Doug Hamilton about Carey Price's alleged weakness in his style. Dale Weise somehow turning a goal celebration into a disrespectful taunt. The jousting and punching done in the dying seconds of Game 6. The threats from Lucic in the handshake line. Roll of all of it into one big pile of garbage and what you have is a toxic mess of waste that the Bruins could not mentally clear. The Canadiens used all of it as fuel to light their fire, to enhance their battle cry and to play with an edge that the Bruins couldn't contain. The Canadiens consistently make the Bruins play off their game, except this time, they did it differently. They didn't hit the ice to draw penalties. They didn't engage after the whistle and suddenly back off hoping to draw the retaliatory call. What they did was perfect the role of the underdog and smashed the Bruins in the mouth before they knew what hit them.
In a season that ended much too soon, the Bruins and their fans are left to sift through the wreckage and lament over what could have been.
Another trip to the Stanley Cup Final? That was certainly in the cards had the Bruins beat the Canadiens Wednesday night.
Instead, the conversation will rest on how the season was blown to pieces before turning to the off-season moves this team has to make to improve the club.
I'd much rather be breaking down another trip to the Eastern Finals.