Their 2013 loss in Game 6 to the Chicago Blackhawks left a shocking impact. Their seven-game series loss to the St. Louis Blues six years later — again on home ice — left a bitter and disappointing taste in their mouths.
The Boston Bruins peppered and rattled Jordan Binnington again. But they couldn’t take advantage of a susceptible netminder who settled into a groove after 15 first period saves.
Binnington’s teammates made the most of their chances in Game 7 with two first period backbreakers from Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo. They never looked back as their staunch defensive prowess kept the Bruins’ attack at bay when it mattered most.
“Whatever we say, it doesn’t matter,” Patrice Bergeron said inside a somber Bruins’ dressing room. “I’m proud of the guys, and proud of everyone. But we didn’t get the result and it’s hard to be standing up here answering questions.”
The Blues will parade through St. Louis with their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Bruins, despite making strides under Bruce Cassidy for the third straight year, will head back to the drawing this off-season board hoping to add some talent to put them over the top.
Here’s what we learned after the Blues completed the biggest mid-season turnaround in NHL history with their 4-1 triumph in Game 7.
Bruins’ frustrations turn into embarrassment
They had an uphill battle to climb once a bad defensive decision by Brad Marchand led to Pietrangelo’s breakaway goal on Tuukka Rask with 7.9 seconds left in the first period.
The Bruins, like the Blues, battled bad ice as a result of a warm, sunny mid-June day in Boston. That, combined with an aggressive St. Louis defense put the Black and Gold in a tough spot.
Their top-six struggled to find positioning against Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko and the rest of the St. Louis’ blueline. The defensemen at the point couldn’t get shots through traffic as the Blues disrupted the shooting lanes. And their lone power play attempt, while generating chances, looked jittery against Binnington.
Then the third period came, and the Bruins simply had nothing left in the tank. It turned ugly in a hurry.
Brayden Schenn deflated the TD Garden crowd for good midway through the third. Former Boston College product Zach Sanford made more fans head for the exits when he tallied his first of the playoffs.
Matt Grzelcyk, in his first game back since sustaining a concussion from Oscar Sundqvist’s hit in Game 2, notched his first career Stanley Cup goal to help the Bruins avoid the shutout. But the disappointed faces on the Bruins’ bench could only look on as the Blues celebrated their first Cup win on Garden ice.
“They did what they had to do to put the puck in the net, and we didn’t,” Cassidy said in his final postgame press conference of the season. “Any good defensive team holds on to that lead, and they did a good job of that in this series.
“I don’t think anyone was down in the first period. We just knew the task in hand was going to be a challenge, and that we had to play a certain way.”
It’s hard to play a certain way when the Bruins’ best players, like Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and others, were hardly at their best. Now they’ll have an off-season asking themselves ‘what could’ve been.’
Don’t blame Tuukka Rask
Did Rask have his worst game of the postseason — at least statistically? Yes. Is he to blame for this Game 7 loss? Absolutely, 100 percent no.
Yes, he didn’t make the timely saves aside from a third-period flurry, highlighted by his stop on Vladimir Tarasenko’s mini-breakaway. And yes he let his strong grip on the Conn Smythe Trophy slip away in Game 7 as O’Reilly, who became the first player since Wayne Gretzky to score in four straight Stanley Cup Final games, earned Playoff MVP honors.
Binnington, as shaky as he was at times, made the big stop when it mattered. Rask couldn’t bail the Bruins out following their defensive breakdowns.
An absolutely gut-wrenching loss for Rask and the Bruins will only give his detractors more ammo heading into next season. He’ll still have that label of not winning the big one as the Bruins’ primary netminder.
For all the ups and downs in his career, the Finn deserves better after backstopping the Bruins to two Cup Final appearances in 2013 and 2019. They wouldn’t be within striking distance of another ring without him during those two playoff runs.
“He was our best player,” Cassidy said about his starting goalie. “What can I say. He was terrific the whole playoffs.”
A loss for words
They had a favorable path in front of them after heavyweights like the Lightning and Capitals were knocked out in the first round. They made it to the Final with a favorable, but tough matchup against the Blues. Now they’re left speechless.
The Bruins postseason run went for naught with their bitter Game 7 defeat. There’s nothing they could’ve said to capture the moment after suffering the most heartbreaking loss of their hockey lives.
Instead of a Cup celebration, the tight-knit Bruins are asking themselves if this opportunity will ever come again.
“It’s tough. We had all the makings of a special group and we felt so special in here,” defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. “It was really special to be a part of something like this and then to not win, I feel really incomplete.”
“There wasn’t much to say,” Cassidy added. “There’s nothing that I can really say in this moment I believe, other than I was proud of them and they should walk out of here with their heads up. That’s it. There’s no long speech, there just isn’t. I’ll have an opportunity in the next little while, but right now they don’t want to hear anything from me.”
Their journey began in China during the preseason. A Winter Classic win, a trade deadline spark from Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle and another Game 7 triumph over the Maple Leafs brought the group closer together.
But the bitter taste of this Game 7 defeat trumps any prior accomplishment by the 2018-19 Bruins. They’re the first ones to tell you that in a few short words.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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