The Bruins lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Blues in Game 7 Wednesday by a score of 4-1.
The Blues scored twice on only four shots in the first period and held a tight grip on that lead for the game’s final forty minutes, leaving the Bruins without many chances to capitalize. At the end of the night, it was Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo hoisting the Cup on TD Garden’s ice, not Zdeno Chara.
As the city recovers from a lost chance at another championship, here is what experts around the Bruins are saying:
Dan Shaughnessy, The Boston Globe: “Remember eight years ago when the heavy-hitting Bruins beat the finesse Canucks, 4-0, in Game 7 in Vancouver? This was the mirror image of that.”
Boston fans have become used to winning, Shaughnessy writes. So used to winning that it felt like an assumption the Bruins would win in Game 7. But the way they lost made it feel more like a missed opportunity than a hard-fought loss with Jordan Binnington and the Blues’ defense stifling Boston at nearly every opportunity.
Shaughnessy likens Binnington and Blues coach Craig Berube to Super Bowl XLII villains David Tyree and Eli Manning. Both pairings destroyed historic opportunities. The Giants denied the Patriots of a perfect season. The Blues’ win prevents Boston from holding three championship titles at once.
“How can you lose a series in which you win road games by scores of 7-2 and 5-1?” Shaughnessy asks. “Imagine losing to a team that had the worst record in all of hockey in early January. Imagine losing to a team that gooned it up and attempted to take out your best players with heavy hits? Imagine losing Game 7 on home ice to a 25-year-old rookie goalie?
Fluto Shinzawa, The Athletic: “The equation that has almost always held true for the Bruins is 63 + 37 = 100. There are few who would doubt that Marchand and Patrice Bergeron form the most exquisite 200-foot partnership in the league. Yet in the games the Bruins needed them the most, 63 + 37 = zero five-on-five goals. It was a metric the Bruins could not overcome.”
Bergeron and Marchand are rarely bested at even strength, Shinzawa writes. Especially not in the seven most important games of a season. It’s simple: the Bruins did not get enough from their top forwards. Linemate David Pastrnak only added two more, and only one was during even strength play.
Shinzawa writes that initially, Game 7 looked like it may have been different for the Bruins. They put plenty shots on Jordan Binnington early on, but once the Blues’ goalie found his confidence – and the Blues found the back of the net twice on only four first-period shots – a loss seemed inevitable.
“By the time the Blues’ pitched their gear toward the sky, all the Bruins could manage was the universal sign of hockey defeat: bodies slumped over, sticks on legs, heads bowed low,” Shinzawa writes. “As St. Louis’ celebration continued, the Bruins remaining on the ice took a knee to watch the unspeakable sight.”
DJ Bean, NBC Sports Boston: “It’s the last thing anyone in Boston wants to hear or think right now, but unfortunately it’s as simple as this: The Bruins, were the best remaining team a week into the playoffs. They had home ice in the Stanley Cup Final against a slower team with an exploitable goalie. Then, with the Cup in their building waiting to be presented to them, the Bruins suffered their greatest margin of defeat since Game 1 of the first round.”
DJ Bean gives one ugly word to the Bruins’ loss: choke.
They didn’t lose Game 7 because they could not handle the Blues’ physicality or because the referees blew calls. They lost because they just did not play well. Breakdowns at the end of the first period gave the Bruins a hole to dig themselves out of, and on the one rare occasion this postseason in which Tuukka Rask did not save the game, his teammates could not score.
When the Lightning were swept in the first round of the playoffs, Bean writes, the door was opened wide for the Bruins. They were the best team remaining and they played like it against the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes. They should have been better than the Blues.
“Instead, the Bruins took the ice for Game 7 as the better team on paper with little reason to believe they had it in them to squander such an opportunity,” Bean writes. “They didn’t, and a city synonymous with championships is going to have to fix its mouth to use that other word.”
Matt Kalman, WEEI: “You don’t have to control the entire game, but how about a little of it? Or how about not getting pushed around physically the way the Bruins were for most of the series. Noel Acciari is the personification of Bruins toughness, but when he gets blown up going for a loose puck by Sammy Blais, you know the Bruins are no longer big and bad.”
Other pundits chime in on the failures of Bergeron and Marchand, but Kalman extends that invitation to include Pastrnak, David Krejci, and Jake DeBrusk. The Bruins’ top five forwards played disappointing hockey in the Cup Final and it did not help that Krejci and DeBrusk still played without a legitimate second-line right wing in the postseason.
Kalman points out that even when Bergeron and Marchand have not been at their best offensively, they have still maximized effectiveness by shutting down other team’s top players. That was not the case in this series; the Bruins had few answers for the likes of Ryan O’Reilly as did, well, what Patrice Bergeron usually does.
“It wasn’t just one day, it was more than two weeks of nights that weren’t theirs,” Kalman writes. “The Bruins’ top five has a lot of reflecting to do this offseason, and Sweeney has a lot of things to consider when building his top six for next season.”
Matt Dolloff, 98.5 The Sports Hub: “If Wednesday night boiled down to a single mistake, it’s the mind-numbingly poor decision by Brad Marchand that proved to put the game out of reach.”
Dollof dishes out criticism toward Marchand for his line change with just seconds remaining in the first period. His decision to come off as the Blues entered Boston’s defensive zone may well have cost the Bruins a goal. The open ice Pietrangelo found to deke out Rask and score may have stayed closed if Marchand had stayed out an extra few seconds.
The entire night’s blame cannot be put on Marchand’s exit, Dollof acknowledges. But once the Blues took that 2-0 lead, their defensive structure tightened up and it felt as if the Bruins were placed at the bottom of an impossible hill to climb.
“Marchand is, unfortunately, going to have to live with that,” Dollof writes. “He’s absolutely still one of the most dynamic wingers in the NHL and scored as such over the totality of this playoff run. But that’s not how he’s going to be remembered this season. He’ll be remembered for an inexcusable error on the biggest stage in hockey.”