Bruins’ Untimely Exit Made More Disappointing By Lofty Expectations

Tuukka Rask, Johnny Boychuk, Loui Eriksson, Jarome IginlaBOSTON — One of the worst things in life is failing to live up to expectations, either those you have for yourself or others have for you. The Bruins did not live up to expectations, and they now have an extended summer to think about things.

The Bruins weren’t nearly good enough Wednesday night against their bitter rivals the Montreal Canadiens, and Boston’s season came to an unceremonious end with a 3-1 loss to the Habs in Game 7.

It’s bad enough to lose a series to a team like the Canadiens, but the most disappointing thing for the Bruins and their fans has to be that this team looked ready to accomplish so much more. The 2013-14 season’s headstone will read that the Bruins met their demise in the second round, which is at least a round earlier than many predicted. It doesn’t matter who eliminated them. A second-round exit is far too early for the season to be considered anything more than a disappointment.

The Bruins entered the playoffs with high hopes, and for good reasons. Boston won the Presidents’ Trophy with 117 points and the league’s best record. They ran through the month of March, winning a ridiculous 15 out of 18 games, a stretch that elevated them to not only Stanley Cup contenders but Cup favorites. Then the playoffs started.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are a different animal, and “the best team” doesn’t always make deep postseason runs. The matchups matter more, and that was clear in the second round against the Canadiens, whose speed and style of play gave the Bruins obvious problems. In the playoffs, players get hot and cold. That manifests itself when a player like Dale Weise scores more goals in a series than Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Milan Lucic. The Bruins never really hit their stride in the postseason — not even in a five-game win over Detroit in the first round — and it caught up to them.

“This time of year you’ve got to play your best hockey of the year,” Boston coach Claude Julien said Wednesday night. “And I don’t think we got to that point. I don’t think we played badly but we certainly weren’t playing as well as we could to be a team that would move ahead.”

That must be unfathomably frustrating. The Bruins thought they had a team that could make another deep playoff run. The hopes and expectations were high outside of the Boston dressing room, but they were even higher inside that room among the Bruins themselves.

“It’s really tough. I think we expected to go all the way this year,” a dejected Brad Marchand said Wednesday night. “It’s very tough; it’s very disappointing. It’s hard to really put into words. It’s — we expected a lot more.”

Now it’s onto the offseason where changes are undoubtedly on the way. Those changes might not be big, but then again, there was a similar feeling regarding the roster when last season ended. Then the Bruins traded Tyler Seguin on July 4. So much for minor tweaks. The Bruins probably don’t need a similar shake-up, but the Bruins should certainly take a look at what they can do to tweak their team to be more adaptive for series against teams like Montreal.

Bruins winger Jarome Iginla may have said it best Wednesday night when he said that this Bruins team was the “best regular-season team I’ve ever been a part of.”

Unfortunately for him and the Bruins, that distinction isn’t worth a whole lot.

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