Just after 3pm Saturday, the patient, The Bruins, were on life support but they still had a pulse and all that was Black & Gold, we fans, were hoping against hope that it could happen. That season would be extended, even for just another week or so. The Ottawa Senators had defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in the afternoon and Boston had to win it’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and pray that somehow, someway, the last place Buffalo Sabres could defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins and propel them into the second season.
Unofficially, it was over just after 9pm when the Pens Brandon Sutter scored in Western New York and there was no way they could get the defibrillators there in time. The official flat line was 9:43pm EDT. The 2014-2015 Boston Bruins were dead. It made no difference that the end was about a half hour later, when fittingly, the team would lose their game to the Lightning in a shootout. Their 14th of the year of which they won a mere four. Win a couple more of those and hey, who knows.
But we long time jaded fans knew that there would be no Cinderella slipper fitting the Boston toes. Those shoes had already been filled by that team from the National Capital of Canada.
Now the blame game begins. Who stays, who goes? Where did things go wrong? How did a team that had the most points in the league a year ago, not qualify for the playoffs, losing their final three games. General Manager Peter Chiarelli, commented on the lack of will by the team and said he failed to see it all season and yet, he failed to do anything to combat that. The malaise went on all season even though he felt the roster was still good enough to play better.
Usually there is a meeting of the minds between the GM and the Coach, but after Thursday’s game, Claude Julien said “I don’t think we have the same team we’ve had in the past,” Julien said. “have a look at the roster. It’s not the same. We can’t live in the past. That’s what we’re trying to do here: work with the guys that we have. We’ve got a lot of young players and we’ve got a lot of players that haven’t played up to expectations right now.
Things between the two may not be on the same page anymore as losing can breed a bit of contempt.
It’s been eight years since the Bruins were on the outside of the playoffs and in the Chiarelli/Julien era, they have never had to fight to the end for a playoff spot. This was new and not amusing for the team and definitely disappointing for the fan base. Chiarelli put the Bruins in a bad spot with questionable signings and trade deadline decisions or not which put the team in serious salary cap trouble. He traded away key blueliner Johnny Boychuk just before the season and got nothing (draft picks) in return. Had he waited to trade Boychuck at the deadline, he most certainly would have gotten a much better value for him and possibly the Bruins would have been in a better position where they would not have been struggling to get a spot in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Coach remains a stubborn, I’m not gonna change, manager who thinks young players are poison and should not get the chance to show what they can do. Julien wants defensive responsibility from his players, especially rookies, yet he will let his veterans make mistake after mistake and does not hold them with the same accountability that he asks of the youngsters. Too many times he has allowed the likes of Greg Campbell, Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly, and Dennis Seidenberg to continue their ineffective play and costly mistakes when youth could have served the team better. As Cam Neely said in an interview back in late season 2011, “You cannot win hockey games 0-0.”
And then there are the players who under performed. Patrice Bergeron led the team in points with a mere 55 points. Brad Marchand led the team in goals with 24. Injuries played a role also as David Krejci started the year on injured reserve and only played 47 games. Zdeno Chara was out for 19 games with a knee injury. But that was only part of the story. Too many nights, the Bruins had no desire, not drive, no fight to win games and what use to be their signature was third periods when they would shut the opposition down and win the game. Not so this season.
Then there is your goaltender who I think is the reason you were in a position to claim a spot in the playoffs. Did he have his bad nights? Sure, but don’t put this on Tuukka Rask. Too many one goal, low scoring games were lost because of defensive blunders and inability to put the puck in the oppositions net. 67 starts for Rask and he appeared in 70 games, the most since Eddie Johnston in 1962-63. The Bruins inability to acquire a backup goaltender that they can rely on prompted overuse of your number one netminder.
Change for change sake is not a good thing, but there needs to be a major change in philosophy and how you want to progress in the ever changing world of the National Hockey League. Do the Bruins change the coach, GM, or both, we’ll get the answer to those questions and more, very soon!