BOSTON (CBS) – By now it has to have sunk in.

If not, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final Monday night between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers should once and for all solidify it in your mind – the Bruins greatly underachieved this season.

Maybe after the loss to Washington in Game 7 you took a hiatus from watching hockey. Don’t worry, you missed little during the conference semifinals. But now it’s time to tune back in and watch the league’s final four, the truly elite teams of the NHL, do battle. Game 1 in the Western Conference between Los Angeles and Phoenix didn’t disappoint Sunday night, and that series is sure to be a battle. New York-New Jersey should be even more heated than the Kings and Coyotes.

Read: More From Matt Kalman

In addition to being great hockey, there are several reasons for Bruins fans to put their bitterness over Boston’s loss on the backburner and watch some hockey until the Stanley Cup is hoisted. Here they are:

Potential UFAs

Could there be a future Bruins player or two skating on these final four teams? Well, Bruins fans can dream about New Jersey star forward Zach Parise pulling on a black-and-gold sweater this summer should he hit the market as an unrestricted free agent and pick the Bruins over what figures to be no less than a dozen and a half suitors. It’ll take a ton of cap space, and probably the type of long-term commitment the Bruins have characteristically been shy to make, in order to secure the services of a guy who’ll turn just 28 later this summer. It’s a long shot, but like I said, you can dream.

There are plenty of other potential UFAs to scout in addition to Parise. Ray Whitney is an aged, but still productive, sniper with Cup-championship experience. Rumors of his arrival in Boston were outnumbered only by murmurs about Tomas Kaberle over the last several seasons. Should the Bruins lose Chris Kelly, maybe Los Angeles’ Jarret Stoll would fit the bill as a faceoff-winning third-line center. New Jersey’s Bryce Salvador and Phoenix’s Michal Roszival might make solid bottom-pair replacements should Boston go through any type of back-end makeover. And if general manager Peter Chiarelli pulls the trigger and deals one of his goaltenders, New York’s Marty Biron and the Devils’ Johan Hedberg would be of interest as a No. 2 to the remaining Boston puck-stopper.

Devils power

New Jersey has scored at a 20-percent clip (9-for-43) through nine postseason games so far. I’m sure Bruins brass has been watching the games, but maybe fans could observe as well and then send in some tips from the Devils’ success to management and the coaches in order to save the Bruins’ inept man-advantage.

Deserving ex-Bruins

Phoenix’s Derek Morris wasn’t in Boston long enough to leave an impression. So there’s little reason to root for him. But his teammate, Milton, Mass., native Keith Yandle, is worth rooting for. Rob Scuderi of Los Angeles went to Boston College, as did Rangers Brian Boyle and Chris Kreider. But if you’re going to pull for the Blueshirts, assistant coach Mike Sullivan, who got something of a raw deal when Chiarelli took over the Bruins and has been unfairly neglected as a hire since the Bruins canned him, is more than deserving of finally getting a chance to hoist the Cup.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for He and also contributes coverage to and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.


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