Kalman: Bruins’ Biggest Stars Come Up Small In First-Round Playoff Exit
BOSTON – By the end, it was only the 20-year-old kid who actually turned his words to actions.
That 20-year-old, second-year NHLer, who spent a lot of the regular season and most of the first four-sevenths of the Bruins’ series with Washington avoiding getting his pretty nose dirty, paid the price.
Tyler Seguin scored the Bruins’ lone goal in Boston’s 2-1 overtime loss to Washington on Wednesday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. He also scored the Bruins’ prior goal, the overtime winner in Game 6 on Sunday.
You get the idea that had this been a best-of-nine or best-of-11 series, Seguin might’ve had to score all of the Bruins’ goals, because it didn’t look like too many of his teammates were ever going to pay the necessary price to light the lamp.
And that’s where the Bruins lost this series. Their star players were pedestrian, and that’s putting it kindly. Players that were once thought of as kings of clutch — Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and David Krejci — might have now reversed a great deal of their positive playoff reputations.
In seven games against the Capitals, the Bruins, who tied Philadelphia for the second-most goals in the NHL during the regular season (260), scored just 15 goals. Eight of those goals came from defensemen or players you’d consider bottom-six forwards. Rich Peverley, who played in Boston’s top six because of Nathan Horton’s injury, scored three goals.
Then there was the alleged cream of Boston’s crop. Seguin broke out of his scoreless drought with two goals and one assist over the final two games of the series. But after failing to register a point in Game 7, Lucic (0-3-3), Marchand (1-1-2), Patrice Bergeron (0-2-2) and David Krejci (1-2-3) let the Bruins down.
Bergeron was battling through an upper-body injury severe enough to keep him from taking faceoffs. What was the other guys’ excuse?
There’s no excuse. And now despite last year’s run to the Stanley Cup championship, you have to wonder about the mettle of some of Boston’s core forwards. Lucic admittedly was barely himself in registering just 12 points in 25 postseason games last season. He did nothing to make up for that this season.
Krejci has now put up 1-3-4 totals in 14 first-round games. And Marchand, one of the biggest heroes of the triumph over Vancouver, is now 1-for-2 in his brief NHL career in terms of rising to the occasion.
You have to grant Washington rookie goaltender Braden Holtby (.940 save percentage) his share of credit. Capitals head coach Dale Hunter’s game plan, which might not have worked had his team not been able to grab so many leads, might’ve created a blueprint for other teams to beat the Bruins (or for the Bruins to fix something within their system before next season). The rest of Washington’s players, in particular their top four defensemen of John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Mike Green and Roman Hamrlik, made sure Hunter’s plots worked, and it helped that everyone chipped in to block 139 shots.
But what might make the aftermath of the loss to the Capitals and the Bruins’ offseason all the more painful is that in the end, the Bruins didn’t play their best throughout the series. They didn’t test the Capitals the way they needed to be tested. And most of all, it was the guys who get paid the big pucks to produce the big performances that came up small.
There’s plenty of credit to go around for the Capitals’ win. And there’s plenty of blame for the Bruins’ loss. Most of the reasons for the Bruins’ demise can be found in the Bruins’ top six.