Going into the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals match up against the Montreal Canadiens, we knew who the Montreal Canadiens were supposed to be. They were supposed to be the petulant, diving, cheap-shotting caricature we told ourselves they were.
The Bruins were supposed to be the hard-nosed blue collar workhorses. The grinders who knuckle up when the pressure is on. The disciplined squadron with a stingy back end. The Presidents Trophy winners who weren't going to buy into Montreal's shenanigans.
Game 7 showed layers of both teams that defy these myths. At least in 2014, and at least in this series.
Montreal's deciding-game effort was grunt-like and level-headed. They clogged up shooting lanes, blocking 14 shots and frustrating Bruins passers to the point of total ineffectiveness. They matched the Bruins' intensity, tying them with 35 hits, absorbing the body well en route to their 3-1 victory. They shied from the kindergarten antics and weren't plagued by penalties of frustration. Their goaltending - wow - composed and prohibitive.
Boston's play was feckless and petty. Danny Paille, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci were all selling contact for calls. Aside from a ramped-up and desperate third period, their physical presence was purposeless and easily countered. Players were out-hustled up and down the ice, losing races to open pucks, which was the root cause of Dale Weise's opening marker. Then there were the turnovers. Seven (!) in the first period alone, and 16 giveaways before the final whistle sounded. Ugly, undisciplined, and un-Bruin-ly.
They were out-battled. Out-competed. Outscored, and overall outplayed. The only stereotype the Black and Gold lived up to was the no-superstar clause.
Krejci did his best Joe Thornton impression on the scoresheet, and the lower-roster grinders didn't have the spark they were billed to provide. Meanwhile, Montreal's fourth liners counted for two goals, proving to be the true Energy Line in the contest, while their top guys pitched in when it counted. Torey Krug tried to reanimate the team's defensive scoring - a factor that had driven the Bruins to success before - but to no avail. Instead, they (namely Matt Bartkowski and Zdeno Chara) were the bane of the series.
Watching the once big, once bad Bruins flail in the opening two frames of Game 7 was an embarrassing ordeal. Though their closing 20 gave a glimmer of hope that the rock-'em-sock-'em archetype was coming back to life, it was too little, too late. An imitation of what the team was supposed to be.
The Canadiens didn't bother with such identity questions. Regardless of what the city of Boston thought of their game, the Habs came out the gate ready to play like winners. And, as we close the book on the Bruins' 2013-14 season, that's exactly what they are.