When all was said and done with the regular season, the Bruins were the second-best team in the Northeast Division, both on paper and on the ice.
The same Bruins who had all those returning players, with all that familiarity. The same Bruins who were going to have a leg up on the rest of the league because they had 12 players play during the lockout. The same Bruins who were expected to run away with the division.
It’s only socially acceptable to quote yourself when pointing out a funny tweet of yours that you’re afraid someone might have missed, but this calls for it anyway. From Jan. 18, the day before the season started:
Anything can happen in a short season, and a strong 10, 15, 20-game run can put any team in good position to make the playoffs, but the safe bet is that the Bruins are the only serious Cup contenders in their division.
The Senators or Sabres ‘ both of whom will play the B’s five times — figure to be the Bruins’ biggest competition, with Ottawa coming off an eighth-seed finish last season and the Sabres toughening up with the additions of Steve Ott and John Scott.
Though the Sabres might be better-equipped to drop the gloves with the B’s, they still can’t hang with them. Buffallo finished in the bottom half of the league in scoring, goals against, power play and penalty kill.
Then there’s the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens. The Leafs weakened their blue line in trading Luke Schenn for James van Riemsdyk, and though van Riemsdyk is one of the most talented players in the league, that’s an awfully risky move for a team with suspect goaltending.
The Habs, on the other hand, definitely have the goaltending, but they have a new coach with a new system to go with a team coming off a brutal season. Then there’s the fact that they didn’t sign restricted free agent P.K. Subban during training camp. Even if that team eventually hits its stride, it could take quite a while.
Take that with a grain of salt because the writer’s a hack, but nothing about it seemed wrong at the time. The Bruins appeared to be the only big boys in the division, and it was supposed to take Michel Therrien longer than it did for him to straighten things out in Montreal.
He obviously straightened things out pretty quickly, and the Bruins had two good months before they stopped looking like a great team. The Canadiens won the Northeast Division by a point, which is fitting because every game between the teams this year were one-goal games, but it has been apparent for some time now that the Canadiens have been the class of the division.
As consistent as the Habs were for the majority of the season, they even gave the B’s the opportunity to take the division late in the season. They went 4-7-0 over an 11-stretch from April 3-April 23 and the Bruins didn’t take advantage. The Habs went 4-6-0 over their last 10, and the Bruins went 3-5-2.
So perhaps it isn’t too surprising that when the B’s entered this weekend tied in points with the Canadiens with two games left to Montreal’s one, they didn’t emerge with the division title. The Canadiens won their game Saturday by beating the Maple Leafs by three goals, and the Bruins blew a two-goal lead and lost to the Capitals in overtime before falling to the Senators at home in regulation Sunday.
So despite the intimidation factor, recent Stanley Cup and preseason expectations, the Bruins will enter the postseason as the No. 4 seed. They weren’t at their best in the regular season, so the postseason will be a good time to change their level of play.