Those of you with an emotional tie to the Boston Bruins, either from the inside or the outside, better be done wallowing in your sorrows. Today is the seventh day since the disappointing Game 7 loss at TD Banknorth Garden to Carolina.
Boy, time really flies. And I totally understand if you felt that after finishing with the top record in the Eastern Conference and sweeping the Montreal Canadiens the Bruins’ second-round loss to the Hurricanes was worthy of sitting shivah. But now it’s time to get off your rear and get back to life as usual. You should be thankful for what you have and optimistic about what lies ahead.
To me, the biggest reason to be optimistic — beyond the young talent that gained NHL experience, the youthful talent in the system that’s working its way to the big club, and the new heights some of the veterans scaled this season — is the way most of the current Bruins reacted to their seven-game flop. Once they were given a couple days to process what happened, they didn’t sugarcoat it and didn’t try to justify it. They all admitted that a lot was accomplished this season but that this was no time to revel in it. Even given the opportunity to use some major injuries as an excuse for the team’s downfall, no one took the bait.
“It’s good to have a sour taste in your mouth. We got through the seven-game series with Montreal last year, I think there was a level of satisfaction. We got to the playoffs, we hadn’t been in the playoffs in a while, we took them to seven games with the No. 1 seed. Where this year there’s a different approach to the finality. Now we’re looking at a bitter pill to swallow when you have the potential and you don’t exercise it,” said defenseman Aaron Ward, a three-time Stanley Cup winner before coming to the Hub.
Normally an upbeat tone-setter in the Bruins’ dressing room, winger Shawn Thornton was obviously down in the aftermath of the loss because he saw some of the ingredients that carried his 2007 Anaheim Ducks to the Cup in the Bruins’ mix.
“I think we really had a legitimate chance at taking a run. But we got away from what was making us successful for a couple games and it cost us,” he admitted.
The lessons learned were numerous for the Bruins in their ’09 playoff run. When the ’10 playoffs roll around, this club — which will probably be about 75 to 80 percent the same — will know better how not to take a lower-seeded opponent lightly, how to deal with quirks in the schedule (long layoffs or back-to-back games), and why there can never be an off night (let alone three straight) in the midst of a best-of-seven series. If the first step to correcting a problem is admitting it exists, than the Bruins players’ heartfelt admittances were an excellent first step.
Just two years ago, the Bruins were coming off a second straight playoff-less season. The star players looked overrated and overpaid, the journeyman goaltender might’ve turned out to be a flash in the pan and, although they looked great on paper, the prospects were big-time question marks. Now here the Bruins on the verge of becoming a reliable contender year in and year out, a Detroit or New Jersey for the new decade.
Those who know me, or read this blog semi-regularly, know I’m not all about sunshine and rainbows. The New Yorker in me keeps me cynical and, sometimes, downright negative. But even with general manager Peter Chiarelli’s salary-cap challenges ahead, and the injuries that are going to slow Phil Kessel and David Krejci at the outset of next season, I see no reason for the Bruins nor their fans to look forward with a glow in their eyes.