At some point, the Bruins’ hockey ops people will need to get back to the board room — probably today — to figure out this waste of a season.
And when they do meet, here’s a little help for them: The Bruins’ offices are located at TD Garden, 100 Legends Way, Boston, Mass.
Why supply the address? Easy: The Bruins have lost their way. Yes, they have great stars who compete for famous awards. Yes, they had the best record during the regular season, earning the booby-prize Presidents’ Trophy. Yes, they have all that tradition. Yes, they have fans who play the game, understand the game, bleed the game, and who pack the joint every game.
But in the end, which arrived with a resounding thump Wednesday night at the Garden as the Montreal Canadiens emerged with a relatively easy 3-1 Game 7 victory over their hated rivals, the hometown skaters hit posts and crossbars but seldom did they hit twine. They complained about officiating. Their coach, Claude Julien, expressed the belief they were being treated as “the bad guys.”
Julien was still exploring the bad-guy theme after Wednesday night’s loss, going so far as to defend the whole chest-pounding thing that rankled some folks up north.
“They talk about disrespect and I don’t think we disrespected them,” he said. “There’s a rivalry here. We don’t like each other, because it’s a rivalry.
“At the same time, the pounding of the chest, people who have been here have seen us do that all year because it’s related to Boston Strong. Our guys have taken some pride in what’s happened with Boston Strong. Everything we did seemed to be seen as disrespect in Montreal.
“We heard a lot of that whining throughout the series, but it had nothing to do with disrespect.”
Had Julien’s players been that defensive, we’d be breaking down the Bruins-Rangers matchups this very moment.
Oh, and Shawn Thornton squirted P.K. Subban with water at the end of Game 5, which history will record was the last game the Bruins won this season.
Is that what you were expecting to see from the Bruins in the Stanley Cup tourney? Whining about officials and using a water bottle to go after the other team’s star player? Gooning it up in the last seconds of Game 6?
True, there was all kinds of basic hockey reasons the Bruins lost. Julien spoke of inexperienced defensemen, and he’s right about that. Tuukka Rask was not consistent in this series. David Krejci was an offensive no-show in the postseason, and somberly told reporters after the game that “. . . people can talk, guys can talk about whatever they want, but as a top centerman if you don’t put the puck in the net in two rounds, then you don’t give the team a chance to win the series.”
But the Bruins came out preposterously flat Wednesday night. All it took was Matt Bartkowski not covering the guy in front of the net, and that guy, Dale Weise, put a shot past Rask to give the Habs a 1-0 lead. That was just two minutes and change into the first period, and that was that for the Bruins.
“I don’t know if it was nerves,” said Patrice Bergeron, “but it definitely was not the start that we needed and that goal took the energy out of us.”
This one is going to sting for a while. It’s not as big of a postseason letdown as the undefeated-in-the-regular season Patriots losing to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, but it’s in that company in this respect: The Pats were the best team in football that season, just as the Bruins were the best team in hockey this season.
To make matters worse for the Bruins and their fans, the series ended with Subban standing in the winner’s circle, having kept a promise he’d made to Pierre McGuire of NBC Sports.
“I hope the crowd is louder than in (the Bell Centre),” he said. “I hope it gets nasty. I hope it gets dirty. At the end of the game, when you’re shaking hands, whoever wins, that’s what the feeling is all about. Knowing that you battled, knowing that you went through a war. You know what? We’re gonna be there at the end standing tall.”
OK, so he was only half right about that. For when Weise tipped home that shot from in close to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead, that’s also when Bruins fans remembered a funky statistic that had been drummed into their noggins for two weeks: Through the first six games of this series, the team that scored first laughed last.
After that, it wasn’t nasty and it wasn’t dirty. It just kind of . . . was.
But Subban nailed this: When it was over, the Canadiens were standing tall.The Bruins, not so much.