What Went Wrong in the Boston Bruins Season Ender

The Boston Bruins’ season came to an end on an overtime heartbreaker of a goal by the Washington Capitals’ Joel Ward, wrapping up what is officially the tightest playoff series in league history: all seven games were decided by just one goal. This game went 2-1. The surprising Ward goal (some have argued there should have been a goaltender interference call on Mike Knuble, who was knotted up pretty intensely with Tim Thomas at the time, but there’s no use in it now) just topped off a game that, overall, wasn’t even that great. It seemed as though many of the Bruins didn’t even want to win, which makes this loss even more difficult to bear.

There was no passion, no fire, no hunger in this defending Cup champion team’s eyes. The first period was played with such a lack of emotion that it left many Bruins fans wondering if their team was too busy booking their tee times to think about playing the game in front of them.

When the opening stanza drew to a close, the Bruins squandering yet another power play (they’d have three chances to do that), there were actually some boos from the TD Garden crowd. I’m not one of those strict ‘never ever boo your team’ fans, but it really does seem indicative of how this game went that some people in a home crowd, which should be all fired up and ready to go in a big game like this, were that displeased.

In fact, a late third period power play gave the Bruins the chance to potentially end it all right then and there. They, of course, failed to do so, and coach Claude Julien acknowledged that that man advantage could have been all they needed. But the Bruins had been pretty bad on the power play throughout this whole series.

I believe it was a huge mistake to scratch Shawn Thornton again. It worked in game six, and to an extent it worked in game seven (weirdly, Tyler Seguin often scores in playoff games where Thornton is watching from the special suite they give to scratches in the postseason, and he scored again), but he helps provide a heartbeat for the team. They needed a defibrillator, especially when, as Douglas Flynn noted on Twitter, the Capitals’ goals came from a tough guy and a fourth-liner.

Speaking of Seguin, though, he and some of the other Bruins who should’ve shown up from game one just didn’t. Milan Lucic‘s performance in this game was just terrible–his mistakes led directly to Matt Hendricks‘ goal and for the rest of the game, he couldn’t quite shake that. I am still willing to give David Krejci a little leeway because I feel like that pane of glass probably hurt him more than the team was willing to admit. Patrice Bergeron gets a pass too because clearly something is ailing him. Without his stellar ability to win faceoffs, the team suffered from the draw because Bergeron’s at-the-dot substitute, Rich Peverley, just isn’t as good there.

Julien made sure to give Washington credit for how they played their game, and now I will too. Tight: pretty much everyone willing to chip in defensively around Braden Holtby to make sure he either didn’t see shots at all or generally only saw easy ones that are a piece of cake to save. Hungry: wanting the chance to possibly win it all for the first time in franchise history. Hard-hitting: the hit totals per game speak for themselves.

The Bruins simply weren’t able to solve the Capitals to the extent that they could have–and now they have a long, long summer to think about it.

During this offseason, there will still be things to cover: exit interviews, grading each player on his regular season and playoff performance, Bruins who choose to go to the World Championships, the draft, trades and so on. None of it is the same as getting to play for Lord Stanley again, of course, but it is something.

And hey, if you’re still feeling upset, Thomas wants you to try to smile:

http://youtu.be/CTuxLe7pGHg

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