They acquired an even greater appreciation for what they accomplished a year ago.
The Bruins survived three Game 7 showdowns last year en route to the Cup, a feat no team had ever accomplished before. While they worked for their breaks, they also got all the bounces they needed to survive those nail-biters, including an overtime victory against Montreal in the opening round.
"A couple bounces here or there can take you a long way," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "Last year those bounces went in our direction. This year it didn't. It's that close. You've got to work for your luck, and this time it didn't happen."
The Bruins didn't take anything for granted last year. They knew how close they came to being eliminated, flirting with disaster in three of their four postseason series. Still, coming up just short against the Capitals in another Game 7 showdown reinforced the fickle nature of playoff hockey, where hustle, hard work and talent can only get you so far. There's always an element of luck involved as well.
That's not to take anything away from Washington, nor does it lessen Boston's accomplishment last spring. But any championship team needs a little help from the hockey gods, and the Bruins may just have used up their offerings for a while with last year's magical run.
"I don't think it's an easy thing to do," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "Last year we got the bounces. We got our way. It wasn't the case [Wednesday]. It not easy to do, especially three times in a run, but it's really hard to think about anything else right now but what just happened."
Eventually though, the Bruins will still have that championship run from last year to reflect on, and that should help ease the pain of this year's disappointing finish.
While the veterans need no reminders after years of frustrating finishes before last season's breakthrough, Wednesday's loss also helps the younger members of the team to gain some perspective on just how special, and how difficult, their achievement in 2011 was.
"I mean last year obviously winning it all, you feel lucky and fortunate but you don't really grasp the whole worth of the Stanley Cup," Bruins forward Tyler Seguin said. "I think more and more you get to learn, and losing here, we definitely get a new feeling."
That new feeling isn't nearly as good as last year's championship elation, but if it helps make Seguin and the rest of the Bruins even hungrier to feel that joy again, it could help drive them to much deeper playoff runs in the future.