Bruins left to lament bitter ending


BOSTON -- None of it matters now -- home ice, the President's Trophy, the near bionic recovery of Dennis Seidenberg, the Vezina that will likely have Tuukka Rask's name engraved in crisp, gleaming letters.

It all feels so meaningless, empty accolades in a suddenly hollow Boston Bruins season that abruptly ended Wednesday night under the worst scenario they could have possibly envisioned: a thorough 3-1 beating at the hands of their bitter rival, the Montreal Canadiens, in Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals at home.

Welcome to hockey hell. The boys in the spoked B's will reside there for the next four months as they try to comprehend how they allowed the Canadiens to dictate the terms of this series and how they chose the first period of this win-or-go home contest to play their worst 20 minutes of hockey all season.

"It's going to be tough to swallow this one," said Bruins bruiser Milan Lucic.

No kidding. The heavily favored Bruins, in case you've forgotten, were ahead 3-2 in this series. They were playing on their own ice with a frenzied crowd poised to propel them to the next round. They should have been able to capitalize on the advantage they toiled all season to create.

Instead, they lost their edge, and then they lost their nerve.

With a roster that includes such redoubtable names as Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and David Krejci, the Bruins looked tight, uncertain about their game plan and completely out of sync.

When asked to characterize his team's overall effort, Bergeron replied, "On and off, I guess."

On and off? Huh? How could a veteran team loaded with Stanley Cup champions falter so badly when it mattered most? Where was the leadership? Asked about their underwhelming first period, captain Chara conceded his team was "kind of hesitant."

That aptly describes the overall vibe that Chara gave off throughout this series. He looked a step slow, a tad uncertain. He was completely overshadowed by resident villain and Canadiens dynamo P.K. Subban, who boldly proclaimed he couldn't wait to mix it up in Game 7 at the Garden, couldn't wait for it to get "nasty," couldn't wait for it to get "dirty," couldn't wait to be in that handshake line when the horn sounded, because, as he predicted, "You know what? We're going to be there at the end, there standing tall."

Subban backed it up. Every word. He derived motivation from Shawn Thornton spraying water on his visor, from Lucic mocking him by flexing his muscles. His teammates chimed in by claiming Boston disrespected them (Rodney Harrison would be proud), and used the perceived slight to fuel their narrative.

"Like I said," Subban crowed afterward, "there's nothing better than shutting everybody up in here."

The Canadiens did so by proving to be smarter, more disciplined and more composed. Though it was the Bruins who finished third in the NHL in the regular season in goals scored, it was the Habs that finished their scoring opportunities. Boston, conversely, scored one goal in the final two games. The only way they beat  Carey Price was when Jarome Iginla redirected a Torey Krug shot in the second period.

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