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Colageo: For Boston Bruins, Less Is More



Boston Bruins

The less-is-more Boston Bruins have something to say, and coach Jim Montgomery said it late last night after his team had vanquished the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Number one: Block out the noise.”

The noise said the Bruins are chokers.

The noise said the Bruins were about to become the only major professional sports franchise ever to blow a 3-1 series lead in consecutive years.

The noise said that Don Sweeney is a regular-season general manager and that Montgomery is a regular-season coach who fixes things that aren’t broken.

The noise said the Bruins have no powerplay and it will cancel their chances.

The noise said David Pastrnak is not a big-game player.

The noise said the Boston Bruins are soft.

That last one makes me squirm in my office chair just a little bit.

I’m on the record in print and podcast many times over the last several months declaring that the Boston Bruins are, in fact, not soft. But I’ve simultaneously pointed to a low ceiling and blamed it on the lack of a sturdier, nastier, left defenseman to ease Charlie McAvoy’s too-heavy, to-do list.

At the same time, I’ve openly petitioned management to cash in professional hockey’s greatest redundancy (Linus Ullmark, the 2022-23 Vezina Trophy winner whose own, modest $5 million cap hit will be rendered unfeasible once Jeremy Swayman gets his career contract this offseason), along with home rental Jake DeBrusk and whatever else it would take to get McAvoy that partner – Jakob Chychrun? – and a menacing forechecker who brings speed, muscle and skill to his puck-hunting expeditions.

For without enough of the right ingredients, what good is the rest of this effort?

My scenario seemed so reasonable, and watching the Maple Leafs take on the grinding team’s personality (doing an albeit poor imitation of the Florida Panthers) and forcing this series back to Boston for a Game 7 only buttressed my opinion.

If, as my longtime, season-ticket-holder pal Kevin Vautour suspects, the Boston Bruins are the Titanic and the Florida Panthers are a very large iceberg, then I will take no pleasure in watching the Bruins hit their centennial-year ceiling.

My choice is to celebrate what a find Hampus Lindholm has once again proven he is. I’m frankly thrilled for this guy that the best hockey of his career is the most important hockey of his career, played last night in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I’m thrilled that Monty got to talk about that and about what Pastrnak said to him in the wake of the coach’s desperate plea for his most talented player’s best with the season on the line.

I’m thrilled that the GM who had the savvy and scouting staff to acquire those players got to face the media today at Hanscom with a smile to go with the emerging wrinkles on his face.

I’m thrilled that Pat Maroon, the formerly villainous successor to beloved Bruins Nick Foligno and Milan Lucic, gets around just well enough to win pucks and make strong plays.

I’m thrilled that Mason Lohrei is a better Boston Bruin than he has been a Providence Bruin. Lohrei is here to stay – and play – with McAvoy.

I’m thrilled that James van Riemsdyk has escaped the familiar fate of many slowing hockey talents whose careers wind down in obscurity. I’m thrilled that he has made the most of the opportunity that Sweeney offered him. Same for Danton Heinen who, though injured and unavailable to help finish this series, has experienced a career resurgence that should pay off for him in July (if not sooner).

I’m thrilled that Pavel Zacha, a beautiful skater with easy speed but in a challenging position in his career, switched back to left wing so plumbing expert Morgan Geekie could take on the duties required of this particular series. Zacha has thrived back on wing, as the Boston Bruins remain relentless in their internal pursuit of a complete puzzle.

Where the elevator empties out onto Level 3 (event level) at TD Garden, one can easily hear through the walls the hooting, hollering, stomping and chanting of fans celebrating victory as they hop down the stairwells toward North Station and Causeway Street.

For that, I’m thrilled especially for Boston Bruins Captain Brad Marchand, who needed this conclusion. Naturally, he would speak modestly from the podium, noting that the Bruins haven’t won anything yet while also recognizing the Maple Leafs as worthy opponents.

As a young, developing player, Marchand experienced great successes. His career as a veteran leader of this group has been defined more by playoff disappointment, especially so emotionally in 2019 but perhaps even more so in recent years as his profile has risen to face-of-franchise status. Losing three consecutive Game 7s also isn’t a record anyone wants to hold, so there is no underrating what was accomplished last night.

One time I asked Marchand during a media scrum if he’d be better off not trying to do too much on the ice and go back to what originally made him a successful puck cycler, tiring out defensemen with his back and forth starts and stops until their wheels spin off, allowing him to make his decisive play.

The answer: “I’d say block out the noise.”

Yes, I was basically told I was, to him, a clanging symbol. Can’t say I blame the guy, and he’s been a joy to watch grow his game over the years, including (read: especially) as he’s smartly ignored my veiled advice and maintained a most-ambitious stance.

Several years later, Marchand and the less-is-more Boston Bruins are still blocking out the noise. That unwavering resolution is a skill, one of the many they’ve masterfully utilized to survive a tough challenge from the Toronto Maple Leafs and become the team flying off to Fort Lauderdale for a Monday night meeting with the Panthers.

BetOnline has just dropped the odds of the second-round series, announcing the Panthers as nearly a 2-to-1 favorite (65.5%).

I wouldn’t dare declare the less-is-more Boston Bruins a Stanley Cup contender, but the one prediction I can confidently make is the only Las Vegas line they care about will be in an on-ice matchup they hope to have to face in June. The rest, as the Bruins keep telling us, is noise.

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