RALEIGH, NC — The Boston Bruins had to break the home ice trend to advance to the second round. Instead, one of their troubling trends popped up at the worst possible time.
Teuvo Teravaninen’s threshold gave the Carolina Hurricanes the 1-0 lead with 1:24 to go into the first period of Game 7.
Talyor Hall committed an ill-advised high-sticking double minor on the ensuing shift. The Bruins managed to enter the locker room in hostile territory with only a 1-0 deficit.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad killed the double minor, but soon found themselves in a 2-0 hole on Max Domi’s marker.
Jake DeBrusk was only 1:50 dead after Domi’s first goal of the postseason. But the Bruins failed to continue DeBrusk’s third career Game 7 tally. They went into the third period with another two goals behind Domi’s second from the middle stanza, shortly after Trent Frederic hit the post on the other side of the ice.
David Pastrnak narrowed the Bruins deficit to 3-2 with just over 21 seconds left in the regular season. But the Bruins didn’t get much puck luck in the final stanza, including Charlie Coyle missing an open net and Jaccob Slavin blocking a shot into Patrice Bergeron’s slot in the closing moments.
A low season of uncertainty awaits the Bruins as their 2021-22 season draws to a close. Here’s what we learned from their 3-2 loss of the season.
The inequality between home and away has come to an end
More often than not, the two teams trade home and road wins in a lengthy playoff series. That didn’t happen at all with the Bruins-Hurricanes matchup in the first round.
The Bruins certainly benefited from the home ice cream. But with the benefit of the latest change, the leading Hurricanes are reaching second gear for their rabid believers.
“They get the matchups they want, and it’s the same when we’re at home; we’re getting the matchups we want,” Marchand said of the home-away dynamics of round 1. “We feed off the energy of our audience, and they do it well here. That’s play-off hockey. That’s what you play for all year, that’s home field advantage, and therefore, because if you’re good at home, it’s important in the play-offs, and they are, and so were we. And we had to win a road race, but we didn’t.”
Cassidy and company didn’t help their case with ill-timed defensive failures during their four games at PNC Arena, starting with Teravainen’s marker late in the first stanza.
Unlike Games 1, 2 and 5, the Bruins generated multiple high-quality looks on Antti Raanta, who delivered the series save on Hall in a 2-on-1 in the opening 20 minutes. A lucky bounce on Frederic or Coyle’s odds could also have turned the momentum in Boston’s favor in a heavily contested Game 7.
“If we bury that 2-on-1, things could change in a game like today where it’s hard to score,” said Cassidy. “They don’t get you much, but you get the lead and it’s a little bit of adversity on their part right now.”
DeBrusk and Pastrnak gave the Bruins a bit of life after reacting to Carolina’s second and third scores, respectively. But it was too little too late.
The Bruins looked gassed during their frequent uphill battles in Raleigh. And now the organization is embarking on another uncertain future.
A hazy low season awaits the Bruins
Bergeron and fellow partner in crime Brad Marchand witnessed the highest and lowest lows in their more than decade-long run as linemates.
From the 2019 Stanley Cup final to their first-round exit three years later, the sense of elimination left a bitter taste in their mouths. However, this loss can last a little longer.
“You only have a few chances on this one where you have a legitimate chance to go far. And we thought we had that this year,” Marchand said. “So yes, it hurts.”
As a hint, Bergeron greeted his team at the visiting tunnel and shook hands with his teammates as they exited the surface of the PNC Arena.
Now the Bruins are waiting for word on Bergeron’s future after the last year of his contract. He may return to Boston for a short term. Or he may decide to sign with a Stanley Cup contender while the Bruins championship window may be closed. Or he can choose to hang up the skates after 18 wonderful seasons.
While he was dealing with another season loss, the Boston captain barely discussed his off-season approach during his post-game press conference.
“It’s too early now… it’s clearly too fresh,” Bergeron said. †[The loss] still sticks out from a hard-fought series, and we came up short. I’ll have to think about it, of course, but I’m not there right now.”
Aside from Bergeron’s status, the Bruins must decide whether to rebuild or retool. They have some anchors to shorten the lifespan if they decide to go either way, including Charlie McAvoy, Jeremy Swayman and Pastrnak, a pending unrestricted free agent in 2022-23. They also have some top prospects in Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei, who are likely to compete for NHL minutes in the coming seasons.
But the Bruins can choose to move toward rebuilding or remodeling without Cassidy and CEO Don Sweeney.
Perhaps the Bruins will continue with Sweeney’s mixed drafting history, along with some mind-boggling trade and free agent decisions. Cassidy made the most of this year’s preliminary roster, but if the Bruins want a new GM, he may want to bring a fresh voice behind the bench.
Secondary scoring problems and the Bruins’ defensive shortcomings set them in during their four road losses in Raleigh. With their championship window likely closed, they will have to reconstruct their roster for the future, with or without Sweeney, Cassidy and Bergeron.
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