|Tuukka Rask: ‘It felt like if I let in more than 2 goals, it’s going to be done’||04.11.15 at 11:53 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — Nobody had to work harder than Tuukka Rask this season. His efforts were not rewarded.
The Bruins leaned on Rask to play the final 12 games of a season that also saw him play 15 straight from mid-January on. Those stretches were part what ended up being a career-high 70-game campaign for Boston’s starter. Rask was one of only three goalies to hit the 70-game mark this season.
Making matters more difficult for Rask was Boston’s difficulty scoring this season, meaning the goaltender could not afford to have many off-nights. Following the team’s elimination from postseason contention, the 2013-14 Vezina winner admitted the heavy workload got to him.
“Honestly, it felt like [I] played like 15 playoff series out there, but we battled and I battled and just tried to give us a chance to win every game,” Rask said. “The last I don’t know how many games, it felt like if I let in more than two goals, it’s going to be done. Obviously it drains you mentally, but we battled.”
Asked whether he felt the workload was too much, Rask said the more difficult part was the lack of breathing room given all the close games.
“I don’t think the amount of games, but when you’re struggling with your team game and you know that you have to be on top of your game every night and you play pretty much 70 of those games, it’s tough,” he said. “It’s too much for anybody because it’s like a playoff game every night out there. But physically I felt fine and we’ll see how we move on.”
Rask finished the season with a .922 save percentage, which was seventh among NHL goaltenders with at least 50 starts.
|Milan Lucic doesn’t want to be traded, Bruins players accept blame for lost season||04.11.15 at 11:37 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — The Bruins didn’t play dumb after concluding their disaster of a 2014-15 season. They know that when the bar is set high and the results come in low, things can change quickly.
Charlie Jacob’s words about the team’s leadership being under review midway through the season suggested general manager and Peter Chiarelli could be on the hot seat. Star players could be shipped out of town.
Milan Lucic, a player who is both one-of-a-kind and overpaid, hopes this season didn’t cost anyone their jobs, himself included. Lucic has one season remaining on a three-year, $18 million contract with a modified no-trade clause. The 26-year-old, who will be an unrestricted free agent following the deal, had just 18 goals in 81 games this season.
“Obviously, there’s high expectations on this team and this organization,” he said. “I think, if you look at things, when there’s those high expectations and they aren’t met, changes usually seem to be made. As a player, those are things that are out of your control.
“For myself, personally, I just want to be back and stay in Boston. You love the team, you love the city, you love the organization and you hope that things stay the same as much as they can.”
Players were aware of Jacobs’ comments. The B’s went on a five-game winning streak in January following that press conference, but their play dropped off again in a season full of starts and stops. Tuukka Rask felt that said the players failed their bosses and not the other way around.
“Coaches put the game plan out there and we go out there and try to execute it,” Tuukka Rask said. “Obviously that wasn’t the case this year, so a lot of it falls on us as players because we underachieved. We just have to live with it.”
Asked about Julien and Chiarelli, Brad Marchand said it’s ‘not their fault that we didn’t perform.’ Marchand, who led the Bruins with 24 goals this season, said that nobody did well enough this season.
“I don’t think that any of us really performed to our capabilities this year,” Marchand said. “The goals may have been there at times, but that doesn’t mean that I had any better of a season than anyone else. I think we all know that we could have been better, and if we were then we wouldn’t be here right now. This is a failure of a season for all of us and it doesn’t matter what guys’ stats were.”
|Bruins lament failure of season||04.11.15 at 11:34 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — The Bruins never gained traction this season and now it’s over. Though injuries and the team’s coaches/management will be blamed for the team’s demise, the team’s motor was seemingly busted all season.
“When you don’t make the playoffs, you’ve failed,” Claude Julien said after the Bruins finished ninth in the Eastern Conference.
For all the team’s inconsistency this season, the Bruins were in control of a playoff spot entering the final week of the season. Boston sat third in the Atlantic Division entering their season-ending three-game road trip, but regulation losses in Washington and Florida left the Bruins needing teams like the Senators and Penguins to lose in order for Boston to get in.
That didn’t happen and the Bruins got what was coming.
“I really don’t have an answer,” Chris Kelly said. “You’d think at the most critical time, we’d be playing our best hockey, and that wasn’t the case. It was in our hands and we let it get away. This is ultimately what happens.”
Kelly and other leaders called out the team at multiple points in an effort to return to the success of seasons past, but their efforts rarely took.
“I mean, you talk about it all the time. You talk about, ‘We need to have everybody going. We need to do this, we need to do that,’ and at the end of the day I just think a lot of it is mental,” Tuukka Rask said. “We never really got to that comfort zone. It seemed like we were nervous a lot of times out there and just couldn’t overcome that as a team. It’s frustrating, but I really don’t know why that happened.”
Now, the Bruins will not play postseason hockey for the first time since 2006-07.
“We could have been better. We could have been more consistent throughout the year,” Zdeno Chara said. “It’s been a tough year for us all around. I think everybody could have been better.”
|5 things we learned as Bruins miss playoffs for first time under Claude Julien||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.
|Bruins’ season hopes come down to Saturday night’s games||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:
|Bruins’ playoff streak could be over much earlier than expected||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.”
|Bruins cling to what little hope remains as they prepare for Lightning||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.”
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