Maybe you haven't heard this yet, so don't shoot the messenger, but the Bruins are out of the playoffs.
Lots of reaction threads. Lots of people consoling themselves by saying they knew it was coming. The usual. A few good commentaries, like JMW's post suggesting that at least part of the problem is that they overachieved during the regular season, so expectations and confidence were probably too high. As NAS put it, they played, they weren't good enough, they lost. And because it was Montreal, and because they rarely led a game in the series, it feels like they got swept and so must surely be deeply flawed - so now it's all over but the blaming.
Here's the Bookboy version of the blame game. Rather than pick a scapegoat, here's how I'd allocate fault for the loss knowing that in this case "fault" means as much "what could XX have done differently?"
Chiarelli: I tend to think the team overachieved in the regular season. While there were some trouble spots, and a scary speed wobble when Seidenberg went down and they suddenly couldn't kill a penalty, they were consistent all year long and had a historic stretch of success that accounts for their huge points lead by the end of the year and the President's Trophy. I think we were all aware of how improbable it was that the team would do so well with so many inexperienced D and 4 of the top 9 fwds being new faces. The turning point for Chiarelli was between Seidenberg's injury and the deadline and the relationship between current performance and probability. The young D stepped up and played remarkably well down the stretch, especially Bartkowski and Miller. The team's record with them in the lineup was improbably good, and that certainly made it look like it was possible to ride them into the playoffs. But the longer they had to bear the load, the more probability suggested they would come back to earth, and they did at the worst time (well, maybe the Finals would ahve been worse?). It would have had to be a bold and risky move to address this, and the key may have been experience more than talent. I think you could argue that not many D available were clearly an upgrade in raw talent, but experience might have been more important than talent. Think of the role Hal Gill played for the Penguins. The right veteran D who blocks shots and makes the safe play off the glass might have made a world of difference. Fault: mis-read how far the young D could be pushed, balance of talent/experience on the back end.
Julien: I admit, I work a lot the way Julien does. Figure out the best solution with available resources and implement it. Stick to the plan and don't get distracted if everything doesn't work perfectly. Know your tolerances for "not perfect" and stay within them. For the Bruins, this means controlling the tempo with the system, particularly with the controlled breakouts. Rather than look for the fast break, the Bruins would rather let everyone get set up and then attack as a unit, get the cycle going etc. Montreal gameplanned for this. One guy went to the puck carrier, a second to the other D to take away the D to D pass, a third guy pinched on the winger at the half boards, and a fourth guy was on the blueline for that short chip from the winger to whoever would then look to carry the puck out. They were all in on that scheme for long stretches and it produced both turnovers and bad passes. This team dies when it loses the ability to pass. They're plenty fast enough, but if you can't pass you can't use speed. Julien's gameplan never waivered. It never changed. And why would it? They took a 3-2 series lead by not changing their gameplan. They were a few conversions away from feeling a lot better about the system - a few posts, a few missed open nets. They had two games to find their rhythm. They didn't. But if Julien had armed them with a plan B on that breakout, I think it would have made a significant difference in how the series played out. Fault: didn't take advantage of Montreal's aggressive forecheck in any systematic or planned way.
Players: It's a catch-all but as a group, the players simply didn't execute the fundamental things you need to do to win hockey games. Complete passes. Win puck battles. Convert high percentage scoring chances. I don't think there's one guy I would exempt from this. Not one. And the worst part of this is how it played right into Montreal's hands. When the Bruins are "off" on their passes, they manage the puck by putting it into spots and then retrieve it. Montreal was set up for it. They knew as well as the Bruins did where the puck would go if it was pushed into space. The answer: complete two or three passes in a row. When the Bruins did this, you saw the ice tilt in their favour - game 1 and game 2, third period for example.
They also misread their success in the regular season. They seemed confident that if they played the system, they'd win - great! - but were perhaps too confident in the system because they didn't have the focus or intensity they needed to make the system work.
Leadership was also an issue. Elvis is not Dr. Recchi. The fundamental difference between them is that Recchi came with the experience of multiple Cups, and Iginla came with a desire to finally win one. That's a difference between calming influence and the anxiety of a HoFer who doesn't want to have support group meetings with Marcel Dionne. Chara is a lead on the ice guy, but he was as off as any of them when it came to reads as well as passing. Offensively, he was a non-entity. Bergeron set the tone on a couple of occasions - fired pucks on net, blazed in on the forecheck and forced some turnovers for grade A chances - but he couldn't get the team to raise it's game, and particularly couldn't get Marchand on track. And finally...Fat. Fat got the jacket. Fat decided the logo thump was the signature for this run. Fat tried to lead them to play with that swagger he has when he's on his game. He wasn't on his game. When it was working, Krug picked it up and it looked like it was going to be that thing. When it stopped working because Fat wasn't executing, it was more fuel for the Scabs than the Bruins and became a way for the Scabs to get into the Bruins' kitchen. Lot of wrong notes there. A lot.
Faults: Level of execution, excess of confidence.
Fundamentally, they disproved Parcells's "You are what your record says you are." They might be a 100 point team because they have the Selke winner, the Vezina winner, and a Norris finalist, but everything beyond that was improbable, and had they acted like that 98 or 100 point team and not a President's Trophy winner, maybe it would have given them the urgency they needed.
It was a great regular season. It sets up another great year next year if they can manage the cap and if they don't overdo change.
Are you not entertained?!?!