BOSTON (CBS) — When the Boston Bruins lost Game 7 to the Canadiens this week, it was Matt Bartkowski who blew an assignment in front of the net on Montreal’s first goal, and it was Bartkowski again who turned the puck over before Montreal scored a power-play goal late in the third to seal a victory.
Meanwhile, the Bruins’ trade deadline acquisition, Andrej Meszaros, watched the events from the press level, a healthy scratch for the final four games of the season.
Meszaros was never billed as a top pairing defenseman or anything close to the sort, but the fact that the team’s one glaring need was not remedied prior to the trade deadline will surely open up Peter Chiarelli to criticism.
On Friday, that criticism came from the general manager himself.
“We had a lot of chances,” Chiarelli said on Friday. “We made mistakes. We’ve got a young back line right now. I’m partially to blame if you guys want to assign blame. Maybe we didn’t get enough at the deadline. Maybe we overestimated the youth and where they were.”
It’s a far cry from Chiarelli’s comment on the day of the deadline, when he said, “It never seems that we’re an anointed winner of trade deadline day and I’m fine with that.” That answer came when he was asked for his thoughts on the Canadiens acquiring Thomas Vanek, a forward who scored four goals and had an assist in the seven-game series against Boston.
Despite the lack of an impact pickup at the deadline (the Bruins also acquired Corey Potter, who played sparingly), Chiarelli said there were positives to take from the play of young blue-liners like Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Bartkowski and Kevan Miller.
“They brought us to good spots,” Chiarelli said, “and I think you’ll see in the future that these players, these young defensemen, are going to be even better as a result of participating in this series.”
And despite the outcome, Chiarelli didn’t dislike the roster he had assembled.
“For me, it was a seven-game series. I felt we were the better team,” Chiarelli said. “It was a seven-game series, and they won on the margins, and we didn’t win. Disappointing — more disappointing because it’s a rivalry — but I thought we had a heck of a year in the regular season, and I thought we had a real good first round. But we’re here to win it all, so we’re disappointed.”
Chiarelli also did not believe that captain Zdeno Chara was tired or worn out by the end of the season and into the postseason, though he said he understands why it looked that way.
“If you’re asking me how do I think Z played, he looked tired,” Chiarelli said. “Z I thought is a world-class defender and he played a good series but not a great series. Was he tired? I didn’t think he was tired. He may have looked to you that he was tired but he’s a big, tall, long guy and those strides, when they get going, it doesn’t always look like he’s fast. Montreal, they have the smaller forwards that buzz around and I think all our defenseman had some difficulties.”
Chiarelli does not believe the backbone of the entire team is going to wear down, even as his continues to creep toward 40.
“He’s a terrifically conditioned athlete. He’s very serious. He works hard in the offseason,” Chiarelli said of Chara. “The way he can move with his size, it’s unparalleled. So it wouldn’t surprise me if he continues status quo for a little bit, a year or two years, three years. But just laws of physics and nature, the older you get, the less effective you’ll be. But he’s, as I said, an impact defender.”
Head coach Claude Julien agreed, and he bristled at suggestions that Chara was either playing too few or too many minutes at different points of the season and postseason.
“I’ll tell you what: Anybody who thinks he was tired at the end, you’re wrong,” Julien said. “He wasn’t tired, and he was fresh and we shouldn’t underestimate Zdeno because of his age, because he’s a real fine-tuned athlete and he’s capable of taking a lot.
“He’s far from being dead, guys,” Julien added. “He’s very much alive and in very good shape.”
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