With all seven games in the series decided by one goal, it would be dishonest to pick apart the Bruins shortly after their Game 7 loss to the Capitals. The Bruins certainly could have won the series, and a bounce of the puck — whether squarely onto Patrice Bergeron’s stick or deftly away from Mike Knuble — could have given the Bruins the win. But there are some reasons why the Bruins, the defending Stanley Cup champions and the conference’s No. 2 seed, never took control of the series. Here’s a glance at what went wrong, and some things the Bruins might be able to improve in the offseason.
1. The Capitals:
Give Washington credit. They didn’t play like a No. 7 seed. The Bruins knew the Capitals were going to throw top-line talent at them, and for the most part they held Alexander Ovechkin (2 goals, 3 assists) in check. Where Washington excelled was making it difficult for the Bruins to get quality shots. You can blame the Bruins for not getting more chances in front of the net, but the Capitals had a lot to do with it.
2. Tim Thomas wasn’t perfect:
Expecting Thomas to replicate his 1.98 goals against average and .940 save percentage from last postseason was unrealistic, but some Bruins fans probably still expected Thomas to bail them out. The Bruins goalie let in some “bad” shots during this seven-game series, something we didn’t see last year. Thomas wasn’t bad (.923, 2.14), but he didn’t steal any games, either.
3. The power play:
This again? The Bruins were 0 for 3 on the power play Wednesday night, including one at the end of regulation that should have given them a chance to win. Instead, the Bruins proved what many fans were thinking: they’d rather see the team go 5 on 5. The Bruins went 2 for 23 on the power play in the series, a dismal 8.7 percent.
“Somehow it doesn’t seem good enough,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of his power play. “There’s a lot of things that have to be worked out.”
4. Bergeron’s injury:
Bergeron didn’t get a good stick on the puck in the first scoring chance of overtime, and the Bruins gave up the winning goal a short time later. Bergeron usually makes that play. He also usually takes faceoffs, but he wasn’t able to with his undisclosed injury. The Bruins won 46 percent of faceoffs without Bergeron in Game 7.
5. The Stanley Cup hangover:
Throw out the theories about the Bruins playing so many games last season and having tired legs this year. They had plenty of time to get healthy physically. But the mental toll of winning the Stanley Cup — and three Game 7s — was a factor this season.
“Even getting into these playoffs, it seems like just yesterday we’d gone through it,” said Julien. “The whole year has been a mental challenge for our guys.”
6. Losing on home ice:
This is a pretty simple one. The Bruins went 1-3 on their home ice in the series, which isn’t going to get it done against any opponent. They showed grit to win Game 6 on the road, but they could have avoided the stress of later in the series had they won more at home.
7. They needed more from their best players:
Tyler Seguin showed unbelievable grit with his goal in the second period of Game 7. Seguin did his best Trot Nixon impression, scuffing and scratching his way to the puck to put home a rebound through two defensemen. Seguin also won Game 6 with a goal. But the rest of the Bruins’ big guns came up short in the series. Bergeron’s injury was undoubtedly a factor. David Krejci and Milan Lucic finished with three points each in the series, while Brad Marchand finished with two. If your stars aren’t stars, it’s difficult to beat a good team.
Why do you think the Bruins fell short? Leave a comment.