By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — When the Bruins were eliminated in five games by the Tampa Bay Lightning, there was a general sense in Boston that the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team underachieved.
That may or may not be fair, but now at least the Bruins know that they lost at the hands of the best hockey team in the world.
The Tampa Bay Lightning made that official on Monday night, when they beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 to win the second Stanley Cup in franchise history.
The Lightning atoned for their historic flop a year prior, when they were swept out of the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets after turning in one of the most dominant regular seasons in NHL history.
This year, it was the Bruins who registered the best regular season in the NHL, which was mighty impressive, considering the emotional letdown they all felt after losing in the Stanley Cup Final last year.
But of course, the pandemic put a swift end to that, and clearly, the balance of power shifted drastically once play resumed in the bubble.
The Bruins appeared to have shaken off their rust and disinterest for their seeding games when they swiftly eliminated the Hurricanes in five games in the first round, and they had to have been feeling good about themselves after taking Game 1 against Tampa in the second round.
But the Lightning rattled off four straight wins, including a 7-1 thumping in Game 3 that made it clear how potent that Tampa team could be.
That bubble exit left the entire Bruins organization feeling a bit empty, no doubt. But it’s perhaps somewhat heartening that nobody else fared much better against the Lightning from that point forward.
The Lightning eliminated the upstart Islanders in six games, setting a tone with an 8-2 win in Game 1.
Then in the Cup Final, the Lightning extinguished the underdog hopes of the Dallas Stars with suffocating defense and opportunistic offense, winning that series in six games as well.
Obviously, after a dominant regular season, the Bruins wanted to win. That much doesn’t change — and they’d certainly want to last more than five games in any series. But at the very least, the Bruins can know that their premature exit came at the hands of the champs.