When the Bruins came to an end in recent seasons, it wasn’t accompanied by much suspense.
When the Bruins were eliminated by the Islanders in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, the Fightin’ Potvins won the decisive sixth game, 6-2. The islands team scored the first goal of the match, three unanswered goals to break the tie in the second half, a pair of empty nets for a few unnecessary exclamation points.
When the Bruins rebounded from the bubble in five games by Lightning during the 2020 playoffs altered by the pandemic, it was the end of the second round of the thriller streak – a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay in double overtime. But had the Bruins won that game, they would have fallen behind the series, 3-2, and lost the previous two games to the Stanley Cup final champions by 10-2.
Then there’s the last time the Bruins faced a Game of 7 before Saturday, which just so happens to be the last time they’ve had a chance to achieve something that will be remembered forever. The Bruins had home ice for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against St. Louis, but right from the start, the wild blues treated TD Garden like it was a backyard skating rink. They scored the first four goals – the second shattering result of a Brad Marchand Fault at half-time – en route to a 4-1 win and the franchise’s first championship.
Of course, the stakes weren’t in that range on Saturday, but the Bruins’ performance in Game 7 of their first round match with the Carolina Hurricanes had the shadow of losing the Cup Final three seasons ago. The Bruins seemed to be skating uphill all day. The Hurricanes dominated play, and in the end, their fortunes in winning 3-2 were nowhere near the score.
The Hurricanes scored the first goal of the game 84 seconds before the break, then added a 3:14 second in the second half, just 12 seconds after the Bruins killed two 4-minute goals on Taylor Hall due to high sticking. . Jake Debrowsk cut out of the opening the Hurricanes advance to 2-1 at the 5:04 mark.
But the suspense was fleeting. The Hurricanes took a 3-1 lead over Max Domi’s second goal – also assisted in the first goal, by Teofu Teravainen – after Trent Frederick attempted to equalize at the post. Carolina stayed put, controlling the disc, which features the Bruins stars, judiciously using his advantage in depth quality, as the suspense left was confined to the last 30 seconds or so. David Pasternak scored once with 22.5 seconds left, and Bruins goalkeeper Jeremy Swayman fired home an extra attacker who left the visitors 3-2 behind.
The final seconds of the season contained two close scoring chances and endless chaos, but in the end all the Bruins were left with what to do in the summer.
It was impossible not to notice that this loss, the Bruins’ first first-round elimination since 2017, seemed like the end of something bigger. Patrice Bergeron, a snowboard warrior and one of the finest athletes this city has ever known, is not under contract for next season, and retirement rumors have been circulating for some time. It did not go unnoticed – that Not possible It goes unnoticed, as all eyes were drawn to the captain at the conclusion of what would have been his last game – that he took a moment to honor each teammate with a hug or a handshake as they left the ice for the last time this season. The suspense in the game may be minimal, but it will be plentiful this off-season until we know Bergeron’s condition. Add me to the vast majority – perhaps even unanimous among us – who are hoping to see him wearing that #37 jacket again, and for seasons to come.
It’s hard to believe the Bruins have been 11 seasons since they last lifted the Stanley Cup, with such an endless seven-game win over the Canucks. (This remains the only seventh game the series has ever won.) This team seemed to have endless possibilities, but they let the cup slip away in 2013 against the Black Hawks, losing their guerrilla war to the Blues. In ’19, he never managed to secure that second championship. Sure enough, it now looks like they’ll never do that. Their superstars have always been impressive, but overall, their rosters haven’t had the depth needed to navigate the NHL’s brutal post-season.
Much of the kernel has moved forward now. Zdeno Chara departed for the Capitals after the ’20 season. David Krejci returned to his native Czech Republic last summer. Tuukka Rask’s comeback in January was short-lived. The rest of the major remainder of 2011 is heading to the end of their careers – Marchand has just turned 34. Bergeron switched his jacket number in July.
The future of The Bruins will feature Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Hampus Lindstrom and Swayman, who stood tall for his five consecutive starts at the grid to complete the series. But they are not just the future. They are present. It remains to be seen who will stay and who will join them. The thrill begins now.
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