BOSTON (CBS) — Maybe they overachieved. Maybe they really shouldn’t have been here. Maybe that lack of consistent scoring depth was always going to sink them, and maybe that nine-game stretch against New York and Pittsburgh was just an aberration.
Maybe all of that was true, or maybe just some of it, but none of it makes losing in the Stanley Cup Final any easier to swallow for the Boston Bruins.
The final score is all that every matters, and four games to two tells you that the Blackhawks were the better team. While that is the case, the Bruins still had their chances, brief seconds in the 435 minutes of this series that will haunt various players to varying degrees in the coming months and years. There was Kaspars Daugavins’ missed opportunity to deposit a puck into an empty net in triple overtime of Game 1. There was Chris Kelly’s redirect from inside the crease which somehow trickled over the post and out of the net in Game 4. There was Game 5’s absent offense, David Krejci’s inability to finish a redirect into an empty net in the first period of Game 6, and so on.
The Bruins not only felt like they had done enough to earn a trip to Game 7, but they probably are left feeling like they should have won the whole thing. It’s not a fun feeling, but that’s how sports tend to work most of the time.
With the season now over, let’s run through the leftover thoughts one last time.
–Johnny Boychuk summed things up tidily when asked how long the loss will stick with him.
“Forever,” Boychuk said. “I mean, you are going to remember forever. You remember winning it but I think you remember losing it a little bit more, now that we have had that happen.”
–It was funny how in just a few seconds, everything you’re thinking can change. While most realistic people inside the TD Garden and watching on TV in the final minutes of the game were aware of the possibility of the Blackhawks scoring the tying goal, I don’t think anyone was ready for the one-two combo to knock out the Bruins. In just 17 seconds, thoughts shifted from Game 7 story lines to a car crash of an ending to the Bruins’ season. Someone somewhere ran to the bathroom during the third period on Monday night with plans of seeing a Game 7, only to return to see the Cup had been won. All in 17 seconds.
–It’s easy all season long to sit around and yap about which players are underperforming or which moves by the coach were the wrong ones and so on and so forth. But being in the Bruins’ locker room and seeing a devastated David Krejci sitting shell-shocked at his locker stall, still in his full equipment about 30 minutes after the game ended was a reminder that even though these guys make millions and occasionally look to be indifferent, they still care. A lot.
–One of the more disappointing effects of the loss is that Patrice Bergeron’s game-tying and game-winning goals in Game 7 against Toronto won’t go down in history quite as high as it would have if the Bruins were to have won the Stanley Cup. That was the most insane sporting event I’ve ever witnessed, and it may hold the title for decades to come. Had it led to a championship, it would probably have lived on forever in not just Bruins history, but sports history. As it is, it can serve as the 2013 Bruins version of Carlton Fisk, I guess.
–I’ve used space in this column to compare the postseason stats of Tuukka Rask in 2013 to Tim Thomas in 2011, not because it provides any sort of value but because there are legions of fans who still believe Rask is not the same caliber goalie as Tim Thomas. So, here we go:
Tuukka Rask in 2013: 14-8, .940 save percentage, 1.88 GAA
Tim Thomas in 2011: 16-9, .940 save percentage, 1.98 GAA
That Rask allowed fewer goals per game than Thomas doesn’t prove anything, other than the fact that a goalie cannot single-handedly win or lose a Stanley Cup. So perhaps holding a lack of a Cup against Rask will die down a bit going forward. The Bruins know with full confidence that they have a goaltender who is capable of winning a championship. That this year’s run ended short of that finish doesn’t change their feelings.
–The injury round-up won’t be completed for days, but here’s what we got after the game.
broken rib, torn cartilage, separated shoulder, possible nose injury
disc injury that pinched a nerve and caused numbness in right foot
Nathan Hortonseparated shoulder
broken wrist, torn MCL
an unknown issue he said he’s dealt with his entire life but nevertheless requires a visit to the doctors
And that’s just what we learned in the hours after the series ended. Expect more to come out in the coming days. These guys know pain and, more specifically, how to ignore it.
–This also probably didn’t tickle for Zdeno Chara.
–After an ending like that to the game and to the Bruins’ season, the exact particulars of the game seem to take less importance. Still, I thought the referee’s decision to blow a play dead after Corey Crawford’s strap came undone in the middle of a Boston power play was wrong. If the goalie’s mask falls off, you have to blow the play dead, because this is not the Colosseum in 100 AD. But that mask was still on Crawford’s head, and the Bruins were robbed of a power-play possession.
As the rule states, “When a goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or face mask and his team has possession of the puck, the play shall be stopped immediately to allow the goalkeeper the opportunity to regain his helmet and/or face mask. When the opposing team has possession of the puck, play shall only be stopped if there is no immediate and impending scoring opportunity.”
It also would have been wrong for the refs to blow the play dead after Shawn Thornton’s shot hit Andrew Shaw in the side of his face, but Shaw looked like he was unconscious at the time, and as I just mentioned, this isn’t the Colosseum.
–However, if you asked any hockey player if he’d be willing to take a puck off the face if it meant he’d get to have this picture in his house for the rest of his life, he’d say yes in an instant.
–It seemed like Rask almost felt guilty after this Game 6 for what the Bruins did to the Maple Leafs a month and a half ago: “I just said to somebody that we did it to Toronto, so I guess we get a taste of our own medicine here. It sucks.”
–“I’m Johnny ‘The Boogie Man’ Oduya, and I’m coming to tickle you!”
–Personally, one thing I appreciated during this series was the lack of nonsense, both on and off the ice. The series against Vancouver was so exhausting, with the games occasionally taking a backseat to the barbs, complaints and whines made through the media. Any series against Montreal tends to take on that aspect, too. (Hell, a regular-season game against Montreal was like that this season.) So while some folks may enjoy letting that distaste for an opponent add fuel to the fire of an already-intense matchup, I felt compelled to thank Chicago for playing an honest game, with solid media coverage and no Internet tough guy fans threatening to assault everyone from Boston for two weeks. It was a nice change of pace.
–Plus, how could you be mad after looking at this picture?
–I saw Duncan Keith’s baby up close on the ice. I can confirm that Duncan Keith’s baby hates the Stanley Cup.
–That’s three straight American-born Conn Smythe winners, if you’re keeping track. Look out, world. America is ready for Sochi.
–The fans in the building at TD Garden handled the stunning turn of events very well. I saw two yellow towels fly down from the balcony, but that was it. They cheered loudly to say goodbye and thank you to the team, and in following great hockey tradition, they booed louder than they had ever booed when Gary Bettman took the ice to present the Cup to the Blackhawks.
–The best part of all of this? Thanks to the lockout, it’s pretty much July. It’s almost hockey season again!