BOSTON — The Bruins’ season ended Wednesday night with a disappointing 3-1 Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden, and even though it might be difficult to think about them right now, several positives from this playoff run should give fans reasons to be excited for next season.
Here are four positives that can be drawn from the team’s two-round playoff stay.
Dougie Hamilton was outstanding
Hamilton played in just seven playoff games last year and was scratched in the final three rounds when veterans Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference returned to the lineup after battling injuries. Hamilton took on a much more important role this postseason and thrived.
The 20-year-old finished second among Bruins blueliners in scoring with seven points (two goals, five assists) in 12 games. He also excelled on the power play and played exceptional defense alongside captain Zdeno Chara on the Bruins’ top pairing. The 2011 first-round draft pick also was a quality possession player, evidenced by his 57.1 corsi-for percentage (second-best among B’s D-men). Boston averaged 4.9 percent more shots when Hamilton was on the ice.
Hamilton was poised with the puck, committed very few turnovers and made the smart, simple plays in his own end during the postseason. He has become a much more polished, confident two-way player and should have a regular top-four role next season.
Torey Krug led Bruins in scoring
Krug led all rookie defensemen in scoring during the regular season and continued that offensive success into the playoffs with a team-leading 10 points (two goals, eight assists). His vision and play-making ability at the point created a lot of scoring chances, especially on the power play. He’s the best Bruins D-man at walking the blue line and finding shooting lanes, as well as jumping into plays to create scoring chances.
Krug did make mistakes in his own end, but there’s no question he became a better defensive player this season with fewer turnovers and smarter decisions. There’s still a lot of room for improvement in his game, but he’s on his way to becoming one of the league’s better offensive defensemen.
“Give those guys credit — they did a great job of allowing us to have a good year,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said of his young D-men after Game 7.
Carl Soderberg’s two-way game was exceptional
Soderberg arguably was Boston’s best player in Round 2 with five points (one goal, four assists) in seven games. The Swedish center filled in well for the injured Chris Kelly on the team’s third line alongside Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser and sometimes Daniel Paille.
Soderberg was Boston’s fourth-best possession player with a 59.0 corsi-for percentage, and the team averaged 6.6 percent more shots when he was on the ice. In addition to his scoring production and power-play success, Soderberg was strong defensively as a consistent backchecker and someone who battled in the corners for possession of the puck. He has become a responsible three-zone player whom Julien can trust in any situation.
Soderberg was one of the Bruins’ better players in Game 7, and sadly, many of his teammates weren’t able to match his intensity or compete level.
Tuukka Rask gave his team a chance to win
Rask finished the playoffs with a 1.99 goals against average and a .928 save percentage (third-best among all playoff goalies), both of which are strong numbers. He also posted two shutouts, including a 1-0 overtime victory in Game 4 at Montreal’s Bell Centre.
The 27-year-old goaltender had a few rough games against the Canadiens, but it didn’t help that he was forced to stop multiple breakaways in nearly every game and needed to bail out his defensemen after many horrendous defensive-zone turnovers. Rask’s performance certainly wasn’t one of the top five reasons the Bruins were eliminated. The Game 7 scoreline would have been lopsided without his tremendous saves in the first and second periods to keep the Bruins within 2-1 through 40 minutes.
Overall, Rask had a stellar season and likely will win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s most outstanding goalie, but that doesn’t take away any frustration from the ending.
“You always try to get better as the series went on,” Rask said after Game 7. “I don’t think this was the case for us. As far as defensively goes, I think the last two games we made some uncharacteristic mistakes, and that ended up costing us the series. It’s not that it’s anybody’s fault, but, you know, it’s just we couldn’t take the next step as a team and, you know, raise our game.”