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Murphy: Is Montgomery Nervous About Another First Round Exit?



Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery was, to put it nicely, out of character in his final postgame press conference of the 2023-24 regular season after a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

The usually affable, insightful, and talkative bench boss seemed understandably frustrated with either his team, who sleepwalked through almost all of their final two regular season games, and/or the media, who wanted to know why they couldn’t clinch the Atlantic Division with a win in one of those two games against the Washington Capitals on Monday night or the Senators on Tuesday.

“Ummm. …I don’t know. Disappointed in it, but I do like the fact that we got better every period. Our third period was a good brand of hockey, something to be confident about going into our preparation for playoffs,” a seemingly stern and frustrated Montgomery replied when asked what he thought of his team’s performance on Tuesday night.

A win over the Washington Capitals on Monday night would’ve seen the Boston Bruins clinch the Atlantic Division for a second straight season under Montgomery’s watch. The Bruins didn’t seem too interested in that, though, as they were out-shot 7-4 in the first period, 15-4 in the second period, and wound up being out-shot 25-16 in a 2-0 loss to the Capitals on Monday night.

It was rinse, wash, repeat for the first half of the game against the Senators on Tuesday night at TD Garden. The Bruins were out-shot 11-3 in the first period, but thanks to goalie Linus Ullmark, they went into the first intermission in a scoreless tie. The Bruins had a better second period but trailed 2-0 heading into the third period. Bruins forward Pavel Zacha cut the lead to 2-1 with a power play goal 12:44 into the final frame. However, Ottawa Senators defenseman Artem Zub took advantage of a brutal turnover by Bruins star winger David Pastrnak and cemented the Bruins into a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division with a shorthanded empty-net goal with just 1:48 left in regulation.

Montgomery was asked by yours truly if maybe the Boston Bruins were just trying to get to the postseason healthy and if that was the explanation for their consecutive lackluster efforts.

“If you play not to get hurt and you play safe, that’s usually when you do get hurt,” Montgomery pointed out. “So, I don’t think I saw that from our group. We had a great stretch there; we played high-caliber teams, we had a lot of success. I think we’re confident in who we are and how we have to get there, and I just think. …didn’t Carolina lose to Columbus, too? You know, you look around at the scores around the league [Tuesday] with teams that have clinched and teams that are out of it, you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

When asked about playing the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Montgomery wouldn’t comment since that matchup had not yet been made official but did say this:

“We’re prepared to play Toronto or Tampa Bay.”

This, however, was when things got a bit strange. A reporter asked the Bruins head coach about Pastrnak’s costly turnover that led to the Zub goal.

“The goal against . . . the empty net?” Montgomery replied. “I didn’t see it as Pasta.”

“Didn’t Pastrnak fire the cross-ice pass? the same reporter asked.

“No . . . wasn’t him,” said Montgomery. “Unless I saw it wrong.”

The 2023 Jack Adams Award winner definitely ‘saw it wrong’



Montgomery then got up, and the press conference was suddenly over.

I’ve been known to look too deep into things and have made plenty of mistakes, but having dealt with Montgomery for two seasons now, that did not look like a coach that is confident that his team is where they need to be heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Maybe the rest of the week will prove this puck scribe wrong, but if it doesn’t, the Toronto Maple Leafs could finally break their playoff jinx against and beat the Bruins in a playoff series for the first time since 1959.




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