The Boston Bruins certainly had their moments in the first round series against the Carolina Hurricanes, but in the end, they simply lost to a better hockey team in the seven-game series.
As was the case in each of the four games played in Carolina, the Boston Bruins lost the trench battles in front of both nets and simply didn’t have enough offensive thrust in a 3-2 loss to the Canes in Game 7 at PNC Arena.
When it was said and done, it wasn’t about the officiating or the goaltenders, or even about the special teams play that can sometimes win or lose a series. It was Boston’s inability to win a game on Carolina’s turf and the overall tough time they had scoring against Carolina’s stiff, unyielding defense that ultimately forced them into the offseason.
“It’s always hard to say it when you come up short, but there’s something to be proud of that we battled,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We started off slow this year and the series was kind of the same. We battled back and played the type of hockey we need to advance, but tonight we came up short and needed a little more.
“Obviously the road games hurt us in the long run. It was close. It’s a very good team we battled against, and we knew it was going to be a close series and a tough series. We needed to get one on the road and we couldn’t do that. Kudos to them, they played a great game and a great series and they’re advancing.”
“It stings and it’s not the feeling you want. But we did it together.” — Patrice Bergeron following the B’s Game 7 loss pic.twitter.com/BiFTcAV067
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 15, 2022
It led the Hurricanes to outscore the Boston Bruins 18-6 over the course of the four games in Carolina and it made the B’s look like they surprisingly lacked a lot of push when it mattered in Game 7. Until David Pastrnak scored in the final minute to make things interesting, Saturday afternoon’s playoff game had the same kind of lack of offensive oomph as just about every other Bruins game against Carolina this season.
“They’ve got the top defensive team numbers-wise and we had the fourth [during the regular season], so it wasn’t going to be easy for either team” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “That’s what happened in the series: Two good defensive teams that were committed to it.”
At this point, the Bruins have last seven of the 10 games played against Carolina this year and been outscored 21-6 at PNC Arena this season, a development that is not a coincidence or some kind of misleading result. Instead, it’s one team that’s demonstrably better than the other and it was borne out over an intense, physical and ultimately true-to-form postseason series. The Hurricanes were better where it mattered in front of both nets and that’s how you win in playoff hockey.
“We were down in the second period of Game 2 here, I think it was 4-1, and there was some messaging there: ‘This is a good group that’s gotten better as the season wore on and we need to start building our game soon.” Said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Even though we didn’t win that game, that was the beginning of us getting back into the series, getting home and playing better.
“Tonight, was going to be the end of that building and then on to the next round. That was our goal. I think everybody wanted to and that’s why they were disappointed. You have to execute, and we didn’t execute D-zone coverage well enough and that ends up being the difference in the game. Both teams want to win and both teams lay it out there. For the most time you’re trying to finish your check and block a shot. It wasn’t a lack of effort. We did execute what we needed to do to score some goals and we didn’t execute D-zone coverage. It’s disappointing because it’s something we drill every day, so going out that way [was difficult]. Another year older, different guys in the room will have different feelings about it.”
At least the Boston Bruins top line did manage to scratch out a goal while matched up head-to-head with the Jordan Staal line again in Game 7, something that wasn’t happening regularly in Carolina over the playoff series. But they couldn’t truly dominate the game flow like they did in Boston getting away from Staal’s shutdown group, and that’s a massive problem when you don’t have the home ice advantage need for last change in a series.
Great leader of men, even in defeat https://t.co/ENS7TS0ZAq
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) May 14, 2022
There’s also the issue with offensive balance as Craig Smith (zero points) never really showed up in the series, and Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk and Taylor Hall combined to be a minus-18 in the seven-game series. Once again Boston’s top guys were left with too much of the heavy lifting and couldn’t do it by themselves in Carolina.
Instead, the Boston Bruins were left to lament the handful of chances they couldn’t finish out in the early portions of the games in Carolina, and now play the waiting game to see what Patrice Bergeron is going to do for next season.
“Every year you go into the playoffs, and you hope you go on a long, deep run and that you get to fight for the Cup. We knew it was going to be a tough battle. They’ve been great all year long, very well-coached and disciplined in their system and they have a lot of depth,” said Brad Marchand. “We were hoping to beat them, but it always hurts, and it always will.
“We want him to come back, but whatever happens he’s earned the right to make the decision he wants and take whatever time that he needs. That’s why this one probably hurts more, the unknown for next year with him. He’s done so much for this group, and he’s sacrificed so much for this group, so this is disappointing.”
It would be more disappointing, quite honestly, if the Boston Bruins fumbled away an opportunity that was in their hands or didn’t live up to their potential. In this case the B’s lost to a Carolina Hurricanes team where it’s probably their turn to make a run with their core group and could very easily roll all the way to the Stanley Cup Final if they get the right bounces.
For the Boston Bruins, it’s about wondering what needs to be done to elevate this team’s ceiling after they could do no better than wild card playoff entry and first round playoff exit when it was all said and done.