BOSTON (CBS) — A championship run in the NHL is perhaps the hardest in all of sports, and the Bruins’ journey to the Stanley Cup last spring provided the perfect example. A deflected shot to win in overtime of Game 7 against Montreal, a diving stick save to hold a critical lead, a perfectly threaded pass to score the only goal of Game 7 of the conference finals — all moments that would have altered history had they not gone perfectly in the Bruins’ favor.
So this year, as the Boston Bruins deal with the reality of being eliminated in the first round at the hands of the Washington Capitals, they know why their season is over: They didn’t get the bounces.
Sure, the power play was a disappointment, and the offense as a whole seemed to be lacking, but the Bruins were matched up against a well-coached team full of very talented players. The play, as evidenced by all seven games being determined by one goal, was a wash. In a series that tight, the difference between a win and a loss was often one simple bounce of a puck.
“To win, you need some breaks, and it seemed those were the things that maybe we were missing [this year] from last year,” captain Zdeno Chara said after Boston’s 2-1 overtime loss in Game 7 on Wednesday night. “Every game was decided by one goal. They played well, so it doesn’t mean we played bad. It’s just one of those things that one bounce goes their way and decides the game.”
It was a common refrain around an otherwise quiet Bruins dressing room.
“Definitely disappointing and like I said, we just couldn’t get that one bounce to give us the win,” Milan Lucic said.
“Last year, we got the bounces, we got them our way. It wasn’t the case tonight,” said Patrice Bergeron, who battled through an undisclosed injury and was clearly affected in Games 6 and 7.
Tyler Seguin, who scored the Bruins’ lone goal after netting the overtime game-winner on Sunday, echoed the bad bounce sentiment.
“Sometimes, that’s how it goes,” said Seguin, who scored twice this series after leading the team with 29 goals during the regular season. “You don’t get bounces or the goalie just stands on his head and makes great saves at great times. I thought we worked pretty hard tonight and I don’t see anybody walking away with any regrets.”
If it sounds as if the Bruins are making excuses for their first-round exit, it shouldn’t. Their comments come from experience, so they know that it takes more than hard work and good coaching to win a playoff series. They know it also requires a bit of good fortune.
“We got the bounces and went all the way and won [last year], and tonight they got the bounce in the end and now they’re moving on,” Johnny Boychuk said.
“That’s the way it is. That’s sport,” Chara added. “It’s always a disappointment [to lose] but I think this team has overcome a lot of different obstacles this season, and we should keep our heads high. … Again, it’s sport. … That’s the way it is.”
If it was the Bruins’ lacking that one bounce, it was the Capitals taking advantage of every fortunate break they got. Midway through the first period, Lucic appeared poised to carry the puck end to end, but the puck got stuck in some snow along the boards in the Bruins’ own end. Jason Chimera jumped on the loose puck and passed it to the John Carlson at the blue line. Carlson’s shot was deflected from the slot past Thomas for the game’s first goal.
In overtime, Benoit Pouliot fired a slap shot from the neutral zone in an attempted dump-in from the front of the Bruins’ bench. The shot didn’t go far, though, deflecting off a leg and leading Mike Knuble to a 2-on-1 with Joel Ward. Thomas stopped Knuble’s initial shot, but the rebound trickled right to Ward, who buried the game-winner and swiftly ended the Bruins’ season.
“Pouliot went to dump it in, and he hit one of their players with the puck, and it just bounced out,” coach Claude Julien said after the game. “That puck gets in deep, we’re making a line change, and we’re making a good line change, but when it hit their player and bounced out, that’s when things kind of turned sour on us, and we weren’t able to recover.”
In losing, the Bruins become the 12th straight defending champion to fail at winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. They’ve been through the gauntlet that comes with receiving every team’s best effort from October through April, and though they suffered a postseason series loss to end the year, they’ll begin next season as one of 30 teams.
LISTEN: Zdeno Chara Discusses Disappointment
While many players referred to next year, they all admitted it will take a while before they can move past what took place in Game 7.
“It’s such a weird feeling. You play hard, it’s a tight game and suddenly a bounce goes against you and suddenly the season’s over,” said Dennis Seidenberg, who worked alongside Zdeno Chara to largely neutralize superstar Alex Ovechkin throughout the series. “For the first few minutes, and even right now, you’re wondering what time practice is tomorrow, but there is no practice. I mean it’s going to be a long summer and we have to get ready for next year again.”
Bergeron, at his locker, struggled to find words to answer most questions asked of him.
“It’s tough right now to swallow and realize that it’s over, so I need a couple of days to think to answer anything,” Bergeron said. “It’s really hard right now to think about anything else than what just happened.”