|Patrice Bergeron and Bruins powerless to stop Caps when it mattered most||04.26.12 at 11:52 am ET|
It was as if the hockey gods were sending a message to the Bruins.
Jason Chimera hugged Johnny Boychuk ever so briefly, as the two went to the ice in the Bruins defensive zone. Chimera was called for a highly suspect and questionable holding penalty with 2:26 left in regulation of a 1-1 contest in Game 7.
If the Bruins could muster simply one power play goal, they almost certainly would be headed on to the second round and have escaped a first-round scare like they did in 2011.
But all the Bruins could muster was a harmless shot from the high slot from Brian Rolston as the power play dwindled to a precious few seconds. As was the case for most of the series, the Bruins could even get the puck on the sticks of the playmakers to organize a threat.
One shot on the season’s most important power play chance. Scoreless in three chances in Game 7. Two goals in 23 power play chances in the series.
Even when the hockey gods tempted, the Bruins could not control their own fate.
No one felt the pain more than Patrice Bergeron, who was playing with an arm/shoulder injury so bad he couldn’t take faceoffs in Games 6 and 7.
“It’s obvious that we had to better on the power play and we didn’t do that and at least create some momentum out of it and I don’t think we did that,” Bergeron said. “But, more than that I think it’s about especially Game 7, you have to find ways.”
The Bruins were very, very lucky last year to win the Stanley Cup with an inept power play for three rounds. This year, it would be why they are eliminated after one round.
“When you talk about [the game], that’s probably the most frustrating part of our game, was that power play that could have ended the series and the game,” added Bruins coach Claude Julien. “But, I guess, when you look at the whole picture, I think it was more than that. At the end of the series, you look at their team, and you look at ours, and they were the better team. They had more guys going than we did, and they played us tough. It was unfortunate that we’ve got to look at this one incident because it did play a big role in, but a lot of the damage had been done before that as well.”
It was Bergeron who had the series-winning shot on his stick 40 seconds into overtime, only to have Karl Alzner come over and interrupt glory, knocking Bergeron and the puck off target.
“It kind of exploded ‘ just rolled on my stick and the puck was bouncing I just tried to go quick because obviously there wasn’t a lot of time and the puck wouldn’t settle,” Bergeron said.
“You look at all the overtime goals in this series, it’s always like that. It’s a tough break or a lucky bounce and the other team doesn’t get that and I think that’s what it is. It’s overtime, it’s one shot so yeah.”
Bergeron is captain material.
All you have to do is listen to him not address the seriousness of his arm injury following the toughest loss of the year to appreciate his leadership.
“I don’t want to use that [excuse],” Bergeron said. “I’ll let [media] know, I don’t want to talk about it right now if you guys don’t mind. Obviously on the checkout day so I’ll let you guys know.
“It’s there, it was a little better but not much better but like I said I don’t want to use that as an excuse right now. It’s a tough one to swallow and I really don’t want to put that on an injury. I’m not the only one that goes through that stuff.”
|Dennis Seidenberg: ‘We didn’t play our best hockey’||at 1:49 am ET|
The best player on the ice for the Bruins in the seven games against the Capitals couldn’t make up for one huge deficiency — the Bruins couldn’t defend home ice.
“I mean, no, last year it was [an advantage] for us, this year not so much,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “We just, when first stepping into this didn’t seem to have our legs on. We just didn’t get anything going, it was more like a ping-pong match going back and forth until we found our rhythm in the second period, but the home ice wasn’t really there.”
Indeed, in the 2011 the Bruins went 10-3 on home ice in winning their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. One year later, they barely won 1-0 in overtime in Game 1 at home and lost the next three at the Garden to see their dreams of back-to-back Cups come to a crashing halt.
“It was a long year,” Seidenberg said. “We had a few ups and downs, longer ups than downs. At the end, we came out of it strong and we seemed to find our rhythm going into the playoffs. But then again, we didn’t play our best hockey in this series. They played us well. It was tough.
“It’s definitely a weird feeling. It’s an empty feeling. You’re wondering what’s going to happen. You don’t really realize it’s over. It’s summer now. It’s going to be a long summer. A couple of bounces here or there, it could’ve gone the other way. You always have to look at it from a different perspective. The next couple of days, it’s going to sink in, probably.”
Seidenberg gave props to the seventh-seeded Capitals for hanging in as long as they did to have the chance to land the knockout punch on the champs.
“Well, they played us very well,” Seidenberg said. “They never really gave us momentum, they played very patient defensively and always used their chances to their advantage, I guess, in overtime. They just played a great series and their goalie played well and now it’s just a really weird, empty feeling, I guess.
“I mean, we totally took them serious. We knew how explosive they are offensively and how solid they are defensively. They were set to play a solid game, they seem to take our speed away pretty well all throughout the ice, and that’s what made it hard for us to penetrate on the outside or even to the middle with speed into their offensive zone.”
|Tim Thomas: ‘Our guys … are still champions’||at 1:28 am ET|
Just minutes after letting in the series-deciding goal three minutes into overtime, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said he couldn’t believe the team’s chances at a repeat had ended so suddenly.
“I’d have to say I’m probably in shock,” Thomas said after Joel Ward tapped in Mike Knuble‘s rebound at 2:57 of overtime. “I really believed that we were going to win tonight. I thought that, I really had a deep feeling that this wasn’t the end of the road for us tonight, that this wasn’t going to be the last game of the season. And so that’s my first reaction.”
The Capitals broke out on a 2-on-1 on the game-winning rush when Benoit Pouliot couldn’t dump in the puck deep on an attempted Bruins’ line change.
“Well obviously you see Knuble coming down with the puck and coming to the net hard,” Thomas said. “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. So I had to play him straight up, and he got, 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 took the, released the puck because I didn’t want him to be able to go up and over my pad.
“And then he threw, they he put it at the net backhand and his momentum continued into me. I’m not, 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 [Joel] 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. I don’t have a picture of it in my head even because I couldn’t, so, it’s, you just hear the crowd and you see them going crazy so you know something happened.”
For the first time in Stanley Cup playoff history, all seven games were decided by one goal.
“I think both teams battled very hard,” Thomas said. “They stuck to their game plan. They made it very difficult for us to generate any offense or any momentum with the style that they played. What it says about our guys is that they’re battlers and they’re, well they’re still champions. And they gave everything they had to the bitter end. Unfortunately this is sports and they fell short this time.
“Well, it’s obviously a very difficult thing. That’s why nobody’s done it in a long time. But having said that, I thought we had a better chance than most. I thought that if we could get past this first round hurdle that we would pick up some energy and momentum. I mean, I had the picture in my head of holding the Cup again this year. And I thought, I believed in that this team still had what it took to get it done, even with that short summer and everything else.”
|Claude Julien: Capitals ‘were the better team’||04.25.12 at 11:56 pm ET|
After the Bruins failed to make it out of the first round for the first time in four years, Bruins coach Claude Julien gave credit where credit was due by commending the defensively tight and shot-blocking Capitals.
“At the end of the series, when you look at their team and you look at ours, they were the better team,” Julien said. “They had more guys going than we did and they played us tough.”
The Bruins became the second-consecutive defending Stanley Cup champions to be eliminated in the first round, as the Blackhawks were bounced by the Canucks to open last postseason. Julien mentioned the difficulty with putting together a successful season following the Bruins’ 2011 championship, but ultimately said the series came down to the Bruins being outplayed.
“Right now, I’m not going to stand here and nitpick at our team because when I look at this hockey club ad what it went through last year, and you look at teams that have been through that situation and how they struggled throughout the year, we still finished at the top of our division,” he said. “We still finished second in the conference and we had really grind it out. It was a challenging year for our guys and it was a challenging series as well.
“They made it tough on us, and they deserve a lot of credit for the way they played and the number of shots they blocked and how they helped their goaltender through it. The young goaltender played extremely well, so let’s not forget to give them a lot of credit for how they handled us. At the end of the day, when you look at your team, your team wasn’t playing its best hockey in the series.
“Before this day started, you’d just hope that they could get through this Game 7 and hope to pick some momentum up as you move forward in the playoffs, but you have to get through this game, and we weren’t able to.”
The Bruins’ season ended in disappointing fashion Wednesday night, as they fell to the Capitals, 2-1, in overtime to decide Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The loss marks the first time in four years that the B’s have failed to make it out of the first round.
The series was the closest in the history of the NHL, as no other series have had each game decided by one goal. Joel Ward‘s overtime goal made the difference in the game and the series, as Washington outscored the B’s, 16-15, in the series. Four of the seven games in the series were decided in overtime.
The Capitals got on the board in the first period when a Milan Lucic turnover led to a John Carlson wrist shot that Matt Hendricks redirected in. The goal ended Tim Thomas‘ Game 7 shutout streak at 139:03, as he had blanked both the Lightning and the Canucks in Game 7s last postseason.
Tim Thomas stopped 24 of the 25 shots he saw in regulation, while Braden Holtby made 30 saves on 31 Boston shots prior to overtime.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- Jason Chimera, who has been a villain around these parts since his hit on Adam McQuaid late in the season, chose a pretty bad time to put the Bruins on the power play. The Capitals forward took Boychuk down when the two were chasing a puck in the Bruins’ zone, resulting in a holding call. The Bruins wouldn’t be able to take advantage.
Boston also had a perfect opportunity to take the lead in the third period when Roman Hamrlik went off for holding the stick at 1:18. Unfortunately for the B’s, the power play of Games 1-4 showed up and the Bruins weren’t able to muster any production. The Bruins finished the first round 2-for-23 on the man advantage.
- In games as close as the ones this series had, playing mistake-free hockey is key, and that means limiting turnovers. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they were rather prone to them, and the Capitals got their first-period goal after Lucic overstated a puck along the half wall in the Bruins zone. The Capitals gained possession, and Carlson fired a wrist shot on net that Hendricks redirected past Thomas. In the second period, Boychuk and Andrew Ference had turnovers in their own zone on convective shifts.
- The first period was Braden Holtby’s series in a nutshell. The B’s outshot the Capitals, 11-5, but only a Rich Peverley bid late in the period challenged the rookie goaltender. The Capitals successfully play their 1-4 neutral zone trap to made it tough for the B’s to get good rushes, and when they broke into the zone their shots were often from outside the perimeter. Holtby continued to give up big rebounds, but the Bruins had trouble capitalizing on them. For example, Benoit Pouliot ant a puck to Brian Rolston in front after a first-period blast from Zdeno Chara yielded a big rebound, but Rolston couldn’t get to it.
- The playoffs aren’t a time for one to lose their cool, and that nearly happened with the one of the last players from whom you’d expect to see foul play. Rich Peverley was sandwiched between Holtby and Carlson in front of the net late in the second period. Holtby shoved Peverley to the ice, and when the B’s forward got up he started to slash Holtby up high. He held up before skating away, but he could have put the Bruins in a real tight spot entering the third period had he followed through.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- Seguin generally avoids contact at all costs, but he really played a grown-up shift when it was most needed. Seguin had to lunge at multiple bodies and take contact in order to put that puck in, and he did so instinctively. The Bruins need Seguin to continue to roll up his sleeves like that.
- The Bruins did an admirable job of killing off a third-period Patrice Bergeron penalty with nine minutes remaining. The Capitals were applying pressure heavily, and the odds were further stacked against the B’s when Dennis Seidenberg broke his stick. The B’s still managed, as Thomas juggled a save on Ovechkin and lost the puck behind the net before eventually covering to get a whistle.
Shawn Thornton or Jordan Caron?
That’s the question that Bruins coach Claude Julien faces going into the most important game of the season. Caron played in his first career postseason game Sunday when Julien called his number for Game 6.
“I was waiting for that for a little while, so I was pretty happy when Claude told me I was going to play,” Caron said. “It went well, so I was pretty happy with it.”
Julien had been saying throughout the series that he was keeping Caron in mind when it came to Boston’s lineup. When Patrice Bergeron had to leave Game 5 but was healthy enough to go in Game 6, the B’s went with Caron, presumably because he could play on the second line if anything were to happen to the Selke finalist.
On Wednesday, Bergeron was on the ice for morning skate but did not take faceoffs. That means that he’s still banged up a little bit, something that could have been assumed when No. 37 wasn’t on the ice in Tuesday’s practice.
Julien has confirmed multiple times that Bergeron will be in the lineup in Game 7, but if his status is still even the least bit shaky, the team could elect to keep Caron in and Thornton out. Another option is to play Thornton anyway, and if anything happens to Bergeron the team could explore putting Brian Rolston on right wing of the line with Rich Peverley at center.
With Caron unsure of his status, he’s had to do something he’s done a lot of over the last two seasons: prepare as though he’s playing and hope for the best.
“I think a lot of it is mentally. You just need to prepare,” he said. “You don’t know if you’re playing or not, so I think you’ve just got to be ready to jump in and do your job.”
Said Julien: “We talked to him before the series started, because I thought if anything, he was a real good player for us in that last stretch of the regular season. It was tough to take him out [before the playoffs] but we went with some experienced guys, first and foremost. The one thing that we said to him ‘ we said you’ve got to stay ready because there’s going to come a point where we’re going to need you and obviously we did last game.”
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