As the realization of the Bruins’ season comes to a close, the talk of the future of the team will start to take shape. In the moment, however, things are a little tough to swallow.
In a game that began with the Bruins fighting through three delay of game penalties in the first period, and in an afternoon that was once again full of questionable officiating, the injury-riddled Bruins battled back and forced another overtime with the Senators in front of a raucous 17,565 at TD Garden.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, the self-inflicted wounds that were prevalent in the first period came back to haunt them at the worst time possible.
There’s no denying that David Pastrnak committed a holding penalty in a puck battle with Jean-Gabriel Pageau to give the Sens the golden opportunity to advance to the second round with their overtime power play. Pastrnak’s penalty came after Cody Ceci swiped the back of the leg of Tim Schaller that led to officials swallowing the whistle.
“It’s a tough question to start,” Pastrnak said about the penalty. “I had a feeling [Pageau] was holding me, but that was the call, you know. There’s been many [tough] calls in this series, but that was a bad penalty by me.”
The sting of Pastrnak’s penalty – three games after Riley Nash committed a roughing penalty that lead to Bobby Ryan’s game-winner in overtime – was fresh in the Bruins’ wound. Exactly 36 seconds after Pastrnak’s penalty, Clarke MacArthur delivered the dagger to Boston’s heart with the series clincher.
“Heartbreaking, you know,” a dejected Pastrnak said following the Game 6 overtime loss. “My first experience [in the playoffs], I ended up in the box on the last game of the season.”
A tough penalty for Pastrnak on a night where the Bruins battled to tie things up at 2-2 after Pastrnak’s fellow linemate Patrice Bergeron netted his second of the playoffs early in the third period.
An even tougher penalty on a night where the Bruins were without David Krejci after suffering a lower body injury following his knee on knee collision with Chris Wideman, which resulted in a non-call during their Game 5 double overtime winner in Ottawa.
“It was tough,” said another one of Pastrnak’s fellow linemates, Brad Marchand. “We fought hard to get back in it and it was tough to lose on a penalty in OT. A lot of calls could’ve gone either way, but we battled hard to get back in it. Just a tough loss.”
Even tougher? The fact that the penalty kill couldn’t get the job done again when it mattered the most, just like in Game 3 following the questionable roughing call on Nash.
The Bruins had to kill three of their five penalties in the first period. As the game progressed, the heavy minutes caught up to those players trusted upon by Bruce Cassidy, like Bergeron, during shorthanded situations.
“I thought we were a little bit more aggressive early on,” Bergeron said about the PK unit. “It was taxing on the penalty killers a lot as we had to kill many times. It seemed like they spread us out a little better by the end and they made some good plays.”
“The bottom line,” the Bruins assistant captain added, “is that we have to do the job on the penalty kill, but it seems like we’ve been killing a lot, especially tonight.”
As tough as the season-ending loss is to swallow – especially the way it ended with Pastrnak in the box – the Bruins still have a good amount of pride to take after overcoming adversity just to make the postseason. Whether it was the coaching change from Claude Julien to Cassidy or grinding through a tough series, the Bruins don’t need to hang their heads in a year where just getting to this stage seemed like a tall task in and of itself.
“I’m proud of the guys’ effort from February 9th on,” Cassidy summed about his two-plus months as interim coach. “We put ourselves in a position to be here in the first place, and I think we played well enough to have the opportunity to advance, but they made a few more plays than us.”