BOSTON – There were times over the course of the regular season that the Bruins paid the price for having played 25 postseason games en route to their 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
But nowhere did the rigors of the title run exact a bigger toll on the Bruins than during their seven-game loss in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to Washington, who prevailed in Game 7 Wednesday, 2-1, in overtime on a goal by Joel Ward.
The Bruins looked very similar to the mediocre team that plodded through January, February and March with a record around .500 in scoring just 15 goals in seven games and failing to advance beyond the first round in their title defense.
Boston’s demise was typical of an overtime goal in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Benoit Pouliot’s attempt to hammer the puck deep into the Washington zone, so the Bruins could complete a change, hit Mike Knuble and sent the former Bruins forward off to the races. After Tim Thomas stopped Knuble’s initial shot, Ward swooped in and scored on the rebound.
“Well obviously you see Knuble coming down with the puck and coming to the net hard. He had himself in a position, he’s a big strong guy, where it looked like to me where he could cut across the net or he could go both ways,” Thomas said. “So I had to play him straight up, and when he got in closer to me it got stuck on his backhand there, so I was just trying to play him honest and wait for him to take the shot. I didn’t want to go down until after he … released the puck because I didn’t want him to be able to go up and over my pad. And then … he put it at the net backhand and his momentum continued into me. I’m not calling sour grapes, but it’s reality and it pushed me out of the way just enough to open up the net for Ward to put it in. I didn’t even see Ward put it in. I knew the rebound was going that way but I had guys … well my head was probably in about his stomach, right.”
The Bruins’ season has now ended in a Game 7 four of the last five years.
▪Thomas made 25 saves on 27 shots in Game 7 and finished the series with a .923 save percentage. His and the Bruins’ Game 7 shutout streak ended at 139:03 on a goal by Capitals forward Matt Hendricks.
▪Tyler Seguin scored the Bruins’ lone goal. He finished the series with 2-1-3 totals. His linemates were just as ineffective, as Milan Lucic finished at 0-3-3 and David Krejci at 1-2-3 in seven games.
▪Patrice Bergeron was again unable to take faceoffs. He beat Brooks Laich in his lone draw of the game, in overtime, but otherwise left the faceoffs on the right side of the ice to Krejci (5-for-15) and Rich Peverley (11-for-26). Peverley won just two of 10 faceoffs in the third period and overtime.
▪Capitals forward Jason Chimera tried to hand the Bruins the game when he hauled down defenseman Johnny Boychuk during a puck pursuit and was called for holding at 17:34 of the third period. However, the Bruins’ power play did what it has done most of the last several years – stalled. The Bruins were 0-for-3 on the power play in Game 7 and 2-for-23 in the series. It’ll be back to the market for a puck-moving defenseman for general manager Peter Chiarelli this summer.
“Well, we struggled on the power play in the beginning of the playoffs last year, too. I think the power play picked it up in the finals, and it took us a lot time, but that’s an ongoing issue,” said head coach Claude Julien. “We finished in the middle of the pack in the league this year and, you know, somehow it doesn’t seem good enough, and it shouldn’t be good enough. You always strive to make your power play better but, you know, we’ve got to start winning some battles on the power play. We’ve got to work our teams. There’s times where your skilled players have to make the skilled play. They also have to work to get that puck, and at the same time, they’ve got to get some shots through. There’s a lot of things that have to be worked out, but at the same time, you miss the guy like [Marc] Savard who was so good on the right-hand wall to control things, and we had different looks on our power play, so, you know, there’s some things we have to look at, and now is not the time to discuss all of this, but, again, your power play can win you hockey games, and tonight it didn’t.”