|04.11.15 at 10:17 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — The Bruins have missed the playoffs for the first time since Claude Julien took over as the team’s head coach in the 2007-08 season, as the Bruins fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Lightning in the season finale.
Boston’s fate was secured prior to the conclusion of its shootout loss to the Lightning Saturday, as the Penguins secured the wild card spot Boston sought by beating the the Sabres earlier in the night.
In addition to needing a victory over the Lightning, the Bruins needed the Penguins to lose in any manner (regulation, overtime or shootout) in order to make the playoffs. Boston was in control of its playoff destiny earlier this week, but regulation losses to the Capitals and Panthers allowed the Senators to leapfrog them. Ottawa secured its postseason spot on Saturday with a win over the Flyers.
The eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, in addition to the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers, are the Canadiens, Lightning, Senators, Capitals, Islanders, Red Wings and Penguins. The final order of the teams in each division was not yet decided at the time of Pittsburgh’s victory.
Nikita Nesterov broke a 1-1 5:12 into the third period to give the Lightning a lead. The Bruins were officially eliminated minutes later, though Brad Marchand scored late in the game to force overtime. Victor Hedman scored the shootout winner for Tampa.
With the Kings and Bruins both missing the playoffs, the last Stanley Cup champion from each conference will be absent from this postseason. The Bruins’ season proved to be colossal failure, their 96 points are the most an Eastern Conference team has had without making the playoffs since the Eastern and Western Conferences came into existence in the 1993-94 season.
Here are four more things we learned on the final day of the Bruins’ season:
BRUINS CARRY PLAY EARLY, DON’T SCORE
The Bruins had a lot of good first-periods late in the regular season. They were rarely as good as they needed to be, however.
For the second straight game, Boston outplayed its opposition in the first period only to hit the first intermission scoreless.
The Bruins were all over the puck early on, making aggressive plays in the offensive zone to stay in Tampa’s end. The Lightning, meanwhile, didn’t get their first shot on goal until 9:14 of the first.
After a furious first few shifts, the momentum for the Bruins was halted by their power play. Brad Marchand was held by Nesterov to put the B’s on the man advantage at 2:40, but the B’s managed no shots on goal and barely got set up during the power play.
The Bruins ended up outshooting Tampa, 10-6, in the first period while holding a 19-12 advantage in shot attempts.
|04.11.15 at 7:15 pm ET|
With the Senators’ win over the Flyers to get Ottawa into the playoffs Saturday afternoon, the Bruins must beat the Lightning and have the Penguins lose either in regulation, overtime or a shootout in order for Boston to make the playoffs.
The lineup is as follows, according to line rushes:
|04.11.15 at 1:47 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. – Chowder and playoff hockey: That’s what Boston does.
Perhaps until Saturday night, anyway. If the Bruins do not get the help they need from both other teams and then beat the Lightning, they will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Dave Lewis was the head coach, Zdeno Chara was in his first year with Boston and a 21-year-old Patrice Bergeron was the team’s bright spot. David Krejci (six games) was the only other current Bruin to play for that team.
That roster was terrible. This one isn’t.
Postseason hockey has become a given since Claude Julien arrived the following season. Brad Marchand, in his fifth full NHL season, has never realistically had to think about where to vacation in April. If Lady Luck spurns the B’s Saturday, he and his teammates will be cleaning out their lockers at TD Garden before the superior half of the league begins the playoffs on Wednesday.
Julien’s Bruins have set a higher standard. Though they’ve had a couple close calls over the years, none have been anything like this. Marchand said that while he figured there would be a time in his Bruins career that the team might fall off from the elite teams of the Eastern Conference, he never thought it would happen this quickly.
“I know teams go through times where they rebuild, especially in the cap era, but I don’t think we were expecting to be battling for a playoff spot like this for a few years to come,” Marchand said after Saturday’s morning skate.
Milan Lucic, a member of the 2009-10 team that finished with the seventh seed and blew a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Flyers, said Saturday morning that he would consider this the most disappointing season he has experienced if the Bruins missed the playoffs.
Lucic’s first season was in 2007-08, the start of Boston’s seven-year streak of reaching the postseason annually. That group didn’t secure its spot until the final days of the season, getting in as a No. 8 seed before taking the top-seeded Canadiens to seven games before being eliminated.
Compared to this, that season was triumphant. There is no feel-good story attached to the Bruins’ current situation and they know it.
“You compare this team to the ‘07-08 team,” Lucic said. “On paper, we’re so much better, and here we are with the situation we’re in. I guess I’ll have a better answer for you tonight.”
The Bruins built off that 2008 playoff berth. Missing out on one this season could signal organization changes and they know it.
Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien both deserve to keep their jobs. They are two of the best in the league at what they do, and with no guarantee that better options will be available, blowing things up could leave the Bruins where the Penguins currently stand: fighting for the playoffs on the last day themselves, with no first-round pick after the team hastily moved it in a desperate attempt to bolster its offense.
Yet Charlie Jacobs said what he said in January and he might feel required to hold someone accountable. That could mean changes, and a new leadership group would mean no current players are safe.
“Anything can happen if things go wrong,’ Marchand said, ‘but today isn’t really the time to talk about that. It’s more worrying about what we can control and playing a big game tonight.
“You know what? If we win tonight, then it’s possible that we’re still in. Hopefully that’s the case, but if not then we’ll worry about that in the next few days.”
|04.11.15 at 12:43 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — By all accounts, the Bruins treated Friday like a regular off-day: no big team-dinner, no major group outing, just a day to clear their heads.
When they awoke Saturday, some of the shock of their situation had subsided. Whether overcompensating or genuinely confident, Claude Julien sported his bravest face in the team’s morning skate as he and his players held on to the slightest bit of hope that they could still find a way into the playoffs. With the Penguins losing in regulation Friday, the Bruins are at least feeling a little better than they did following Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Panthers. No matter what happens with Ottawa or Pittsburgh Saturday, however, the Bruins must beat the Lightning Saturday in addition to getting help.
“It’s pretty obvious that you have an opportunity here tonight,” Julien said. “I don’t think you need to go back on the last game. I think our first period was the energy that we needed; we just couldn’t sustain it for three periods, so you end up with a loss. Do you keep going back to that or do you keep going to the excitement and the excitement that you have tonight. I think that’s what we’ve got to do here as a team.”
The Bruins did not do line rushes in Saturday’s morning skate. All that is known is that Tuukka Rask will start and the only six defensemen on the roster will play. How the forward lines look and who will be scratched up front is unknown.
On the other side, the Bruins may catch a bit of a break if Jonathan Drouin doesn’t play. The star rookie left wing was not at Saturday’s morning skate and is under the weather. His status for the game is unknown, but Tampa did recall Jonathan Marchessault on an emergency basis. Defensemen Braydon Coburn, Andrej Sustr and Jason Garrison, as well as forward Jason Killorn, are all out with injuries.
If the Penguins lose to the Sabres in regulation and the Bruins get any kind of win, Boston will get in over Pittsburgh. If the Penguins lose in overtime or a shootout, the Bruins could get in with a regulation or overtime win. The other scenario in which Boston could sneak into the playoffs would be with a regulation or overtime win and a Senators regulation loss to the Flyers.
Either scenario would result in the Bruins getting a wild card spot. Should they reach the playoffs, they will play either the Rangers or the Canadiens in the first round.
They know that is unlikely. In the meantime, they will try to earn a bit of luck with their best effort of the season.
“There is something to play for tonight. We have to take that mentality into the night that there’s still a lot on the line and we need to win a hockey game in order to hopefully end up in the playoff picture,” Milan Lucic said. “Obviously, some things have to happen. It’s not the situation that we want to be in. Again, some things can happen. It always seems like we always have to do things the hard way. Here’s one of those situations again.”
|04.11.15 at 11:23 am ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — To the surprise of no one, Zdeno Chara will play Saturday night as the Bruins make their final and unlikely bid to reach the postseason.
That much was made official Saturday morning when the team announced it had sent defenseman Joe Morrow to Providence.
Morrow had been recalled earlier in the week as Chara dealt with an injury in the left foot area. Chara missed Monday’s practice after blocking a shot with the foot a week ago against the Leafs, and he was hit again on the other side of the foot by a Joel Ward shot Wednesday in Washington. Neither he nor the Bruins have elaborated on his condition.
With Morrow no longer on the roster, Boston has only six defensemen: Chara, Adam McQuaid, Zach Trotman, Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski. Dougie Hamilton did not make the trip and will not play.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|04.11.15 at 11:00 am ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — The Eastern Conference is changing. Since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, then-competitive teams have fallen off and risen again.
One of them is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now, after earning their second consecutive playoff berth following a two-year drought, the Lightning can make it so the last Eastern Conference team to win the Cup will not participate in the postseason.
“I think any team in the league would love to knock a team like this out because of how dangerous they can be come playoff time,” Steven Stamkos said after the Lightning’s morning skate. “I think you look at LA and you look at Boston. Those are the teams that, no matter where they finish, if they can get into the playoffs, anything can happen because of the personnel they have, the experience they have. With LA being out, I think everyone in the West can sleep a little easier and obviously if Boston doesn’t make it, teams are a little happier here.”
Thanks to Friday night’s Penguins loss, the Bruins will still technically be alive when they hit the ice Saturday night at Amalie Arena.
When told of Stamkos’ words, Brad Marchand wasn’t surprised.
“We know that there’s no team that wants to do us a favor,” Marchand said. “We know that they’re going to bring their best game tonight. They played well at home their last game against us.
“We’re a good playoff team. We’re kind of built for that. Any team would be happy to knock us out. We know that they’re going to get their best game. That means that means that we’re going to have to play even harder and make sure we lay our bodies on the line and sacrifice for the team.”
Neither wild card spot in the Eastern Conference is clinched entering Saturday’s games. The Senators can clinch a playoff berth with a win Saturday afternoon in their regular season finale in Ottawa. The Penguins can tie up a spot with a win over the Sabres Saturday night. If the Senators lose in regulation or the Penguins fail to get a point, the Bruins can claim a spot with a win over the Lightning.
Yet the Lightning have more than one reason to try to win Saturday. In addition to knocking off the Bruins and making sure that they would never have to run into Tuukka Rask this spring, a win could potentially earn them the top seed in the Atlantic Division.
Through 81 games apiece, Tampa Bay has 106 points to Montreal’s 108. If Montreal loses to Toronto in regulation and Tampa beats Boston, the Lightning would take the top seed in the Atlantic by virtue of the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker.
|04.10.15 at 3:59 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — Peter Chiarelli feels he deserves blame for this season, but the Bruins general manager thinks the idea that he killed the season before it started is incorrect.
The two biggest absences from last season’s roster were Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk. The Bruins originally signed Iginla to a deal that allowed them to stash most of his $6 million on this year’s cap in the form of a penalty from performance bonuses. Signing him in the first place left them in the cap bind that prevented them from keeping him, while Boychuk also was dealt due to cap constraints.
Yet Chiarelli strongly disagreed with the suggestion that losing those two players led to a potential spring without playoff hockey in Boston for the first time since 2007.
“When you go back to when we won [the Stanley Cup in 2011], we’ve lost players since when we won, too,” Chiarelli said. “We’ve lost players since we went to the final. That happens, there’s roster turnover. I’m not avoiding the question. There’s no question, losing Iginla and Boychuk [hurt], but this is a game of, you’ve got to turn over your roster. You need to bring up talent and you’ve got to bring in talent. It’s part of the business.”
Added Chiarelli: “My point is is that things change and things have changed since 2011 and we went back to the final and we lost players. I just don’t buy it.”
Iginla took a three-year, $16 million deal with the Avalanche on the first day of free agency, while Boychuk recently was given a seven-year extension from the Islanders, who traded two second-round picks to the B’s for his services.
“We just can’t keep everybody and keep signing everybody, you just can’t do it in a cap world,” Chiarelli said. “[If] teams, our guys are saying or some guys are saying it’s a transition year, if you look back at our roster turnover, every year we’re trying to bring new players in. So I don’t see it as any different.”