Bruins let golden opportunity slip with lackluster effort
Entering Sunday’s season finale with the Florida Panthers, the Bruins had the opportunity they wanted in their hands. A win on Sunday would earn the Bruins the top seed in the Atlantic Division, as well as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
But the Bruins came out and played well for just 15 minutes, looking like a team that had zero interest in the conference’s top seed.
Instead of a first-round matchup with the wild card New Jersey Devils, the Bruins will host the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night as they kick off the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. A much more difficult series for sure, the Leafs enter the playoffs with the third most points in the East.
The Black and Gold can thank the league’s new playoff format and a lackluster effort on Sunday for that.
“Yeah, I mean, I don’t know,” David Pastrnak said. “Florida came up hard on us, you know. I guess, I don’t know if we weren’t ready for it or… I don’t know. I guess we weren’t ready for it, you know, and all of a sudden last 10 minutes we’re flying, you know.”
The Bruins are no strangers to giving up the first goal. Sunday was no different as Henrik Borgstrom’s first career National Hockey League goal put the Panthers up 1-0, just 1:22 into the contest.
“I think if we would have come out with that urgency and put our game on sooner, it maybe discourages them having life. Instead, we kind of wait and see like we’ve done a little bit as of late and they started on time,” said David Backes. “They score, we get it back to 1-1 and that should’ve been a wake-up call that ‘Hey we’ve got an opportunity here.’ They get one [goal] shortly thereafter, get the lead and we never got it back to even after that.”
The Bruins woke up a bit in the third period which led to Pastrnak’s power play goal to cut the Panthers lead to one, but it was as close as the Bruins would get. Their lack of effort for nearly two and a half periods proved to be the dagger.
Over the course of the last 10 games, the Bruins have looked like a tired bunch. A tough March stretch that saw the Bruins play 16 games in 31 days finally caught up to them. Sure, the injuries were no help, but the bottom line is the Bruins had their chances and failed to do so.
Sunday’s no-show is certainly frustrating for Brad Marchand and company.
“Yeah, I think so. It has been a long month and a half. We’ve played a lot of games, a lot of hard games too, not games that you can kind of coast through, everyone’s battling for playoff spots and trying to figure out positioning,” Marchand said. “So games are tough, um, not a whole lot of rest, but that’s not an excuse we messed up an opportunity to jump to a higher seed. But it is what it is and we’ll move forward.”
With the 2017-18 regular season in the books, the Bruins will turn their attention to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins will face a confident bunch in Toronto as the Leafs took three-of-four from the Bruins — all without star forward Auston Matthews — during the regular season.
“I’m looking forward to it. Two Original Six teams. They’re young. We feel – they’ve got some veteran guys – [Patrick] Marleau, [James] van Riemsdyk, certain guys that they expect to lean on. [Nazem] Kadri’s kind of in between,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We have some younger guys; we have some guys we’re going to lean on. We both exited in the first round last year, probably learned some lessons. They’ve got a great coach that I’ve always looked up to and tried to learn from.”
The Bruins and Maple Leafs will meet in the playoffs for the first time since 2013, a series won by the Bruins thanks to their epic come from behind Game 7 triumph.