Not even 48 hours removed from their stunning first-round elimination at the hands of the Florida Panthers, the Boston Bruins packed their bags at Warrior Ice Arena on Tuesday much earlier than anticipated.
And now the questions about the team’s futures begin to loom, including potential retirements for Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. A handful of other important roster decisions await the front office as they attempt to navigate through a tight salary cap.
As the dust still settles from Sunday night’s heartbreaking loss, let’s look at some of the biggest takeaways from breakup day.
Multiple Bruins mull uncertain futures.
Aside from Bergeron and Krejci, the Bruins will have a decision to make on six other unrestricted free agents. Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, Connor Clifton, along with trade deadline acquisitions Tyler Bertuzzi, Garnet Hathaway and Dmitry Orlov, are all poised to hit the open market.
After a healthy, bounce-back campaign, the 35-year-old Foligno expressed the utmost desire to stay in Boston.
“I would love to stay,” Foligno said. “I think there’s a mutual respect to what I bring and what I can bring to this group…just to know that there’s a mutual interest is good.”
Two of the Bruins’ expensive deadline acquisitions, Bertuzzi and Orlov, will command a hefty sum when free agency begins. The Bruins would have to move other pieces out just to match Orlov and Bertuzzi’s salary demands.
After a stellar first-round performance, Bertuzzi would love another chance at a deep playoff run following his initial stint in Boston.
“Honestly, we had such a blast,” Bertuzzi said. “We were in the North End eating pasta every day…we had a lot of fun, and we enjoyed it here. We could definitely see [staying long-term].”
Despite his postseason struggles, Clifton is due for a raise following a career year during the regular season. But Clifton’s next contract will likely exceed what the Bruins are willing to pay a depth defenseman.
“I was hoping to do [contract negotiations] late June,” Clifton said. “With the early departure, there’s a lot more time for that in the coming weeks. But no, I haven’t thought too much about it yet.”
Linus Ullmark declines to address injury.
Throughout the playoffs, Ullmark visibly dealt with some sort of nagging injury.
But the severity of Ullmark’s injury came into question on Monday following Kevin Weekes’ report.
A day after Weekes’ tweet, Ullmark declined to address the extent of his injury or whether he had one at all.
“We all go through things when it comes to be playoff time,” Ullmark said. “We all have our stuff, we all want to be out there to help the team to the best of our capabilities. It’s pretty evident that I didn’t play the way that I wanted to. I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be, unfortunately, at the worst time possible. And that’s something I have to live with.”
After a stellar regular season, the Bruins didn’t use their goaltending depth to their advantage in Round 1. Ullmark started in six straight games before Jim Montgomery and goalie coach Bob Essenssa inserted Jeremy Swayman into the lineup for Game 7.
Two days after the heartbreaking end to Boston’s season, Ullmark wasn’t keen to address the situation.
“Something that everybody does when things aren’t going the way they want is to find scapegoats. Right now, everybody’s going in different directions…that’s not what we are,” Ullmark said. “We lose as a team; we win as a team.”
The Bruins may provide further clarification on Ullmark’s injury when Montgomery, general manager Don Sweeney, President Cam Neely, CEO Charlie Jacobs and Team Owner Jeremy Jacobs hold their year-end press conference.
The Bruins labeled the Panthers as “opportunistic.”
Simply put, the Bruins beat themselves.
Playoff hockey is a game of inches. Mistakes ring much louder than in the regular season. The Panthers repeatedly punished the Bruins following Boston’s uncharacteristic turnover-filled losses in the last three games of the series.
“Just didn’t execute,” said Foligno, a healthy scratch in Game 7. “Look at the difference of our turnovers to their success and scoring goals off some of our plays, and they made us pay and we didn’t. You’re up 3-1 in a series. You’ve got to find a way to put the nail in the coffin.”
On the other side, the Panthers limited their mistakes. With the ultimate series margin being so small, it’s safe to say that just a few fewer turnovers and the Bruins would be gearing up for the second round.
Florida sat and waited for Boston to play into their hand. The Bruins obliged.
“They were determined,” Marchand said. “They were living off the fact that they wanted to be the team to knock us off and end our historic season. When you can latch on to something like that, it can get dangerous.”
The Panthers continued their momentum from their come-from-behind win in Boston over into Round 2, defeating the Maple Leafs in Toronto during their series opener on Tuesday night.
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