For the Bruins, the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs started when they returned from their California road trip, having dropped all three games (then two more at the Rangers and at home vs. Florida) and finding themselves in a dogfight for the final spot in the postseason.
Entering Game 82 of the regular season, needing a win, a loss by Detroit and a loss by Philadelphia over their last two games of the season, it may have well been Game 7 for the Bruins.
And they blew it. With a capital ‘B.’
Already without Dennis Seidenberg and losing Tuukka Rask to the stomach bug, the Bruins played 60 minutes of uninterested, uninspiring hockey, giving up four goals in the second and two short-handed empty-netters in a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the long-eliminated Ottawa Senators.
Oh, there were some bright spots. The B’s actually struck first at 5:04 when David Pastrnak skated a fly route and gloved down a high pass from Brad Marchand, stepped around a Senator defenseman and snapped it by Ottawa goalie Andrew Hammond. The Bruins also outshot the Senators 40-36 in the game.
Everything else was lackadaisical. Turnovers, tip-ins from the point, failing to make simple passes, failing to convert on the power-play, you name it. Anything that could go wrong for the Bruins went wrong. And now, coupled with the Flyers’ 3-1 home win over Pittsburgh, the Bruins will once again be watching the Stanley Cup playoffs at home for the second year in a row.
“We were very hesitant with our decision making and that’s what ended up costing us there in the second,” Claude Julien said after the game, “There were some bad turnovers in our own end and they took advantage of it.”
In the locker room, the players were as shocked, surprised and disappointed as the sold out crowd at TD Garden was.
“I wish I had an answer, I wish I had an explanation,” Zdeno Chara said of his team’s performance. “You’re trying to find something positive,”
“We took the time out in the second and we had many chances and you score one goal and try to add on to it and in the third period we had some good chances,” David Krejci noted To win hockey games, you have to score more than one goal.”
“We all have to take responsibility,” Julien added. “Our goal was to duplicate our effort against Detroit and with what happened today (Detroit losing in regulation to New York, thus all the Bruins need to do was force overtime to make the playoffs) it’s even more disappointing.
“We could have controlled our own fate and we weren’t able to do that. At times this year we weren’t able to do that in some of the big games. It’s about the mistakes that we made, puck management was a real problem for us. Now we have to cross our fingers and hope for a miracle.”
Outside of the possibility of missing the playoffs (at the time), the Bruins were very reluctant to address the other elephant in the room; will Julien be around next season.
“Let’s wait until the end of the season, there’s still hope,” Krejci said.
“I’m not answering that, sorry,” Torey Krug responded.
With the disappointing finish to another disappointing season for the Bruins, we now embark on an off-season of uncertainty and questions. It will be an offseason of who will be around next year, an offseason of debate what-ifs.
Will Julien be the coach of this team in 2016-17? Should Julien be the coach? Could Cam Neely’s job be in jeopardy? Will there be numerous blockbuster trades that we saw at the end of last season, and can they lure a top notch free agent to Boston? Can they bring in hometown kid and recent Hobey Baker Award winner Jimmy Vesey to the organization? Have Loui Eriksson and/or Brad Marchand played their final game in Bruins uniform?
We will certainly have our answers this offseason. Unfortunately for the Black and Gold (and their faithful), that offseason will start early yet again.