BOSTON — Shockwaves were sent around the NHL on Sunday when the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks and Eastern Conference powerhouse Penguins were both eliminated from the Stanley Cup chase in the opening round of the playoffs.
Two teams predicted by many to meet in the Cup Final combined to win just three games in the postseason.
It was a stunning demise for two of the league's perceived juggernauts, but the results didn't cause much of a stir in the Bruins locker room where the fickle nature of postseason hockey is all too familiar.
"Obviously when you started the playoffs they seemed to be the heavy favorites because of what they've done in the regular season," Bruins center Chris Kelly said at the Garden on Monday. "Both teams had phenomenal regular seasons, but the playoffs is a funny thing. Anything can happen. You get a couple bounces that go your way or go against you and you're behind the 8-ball and maybe your game plan changes a little bit."
Kelly was also quick to credit the teams that knocked off the Penguins and Canucks.
"I think Philadelphia is a great hockey team and we played L.A. and I thought they were an extremely good hockey team," Kelly said. "I was actually surprised at the [low] number of goals they had scored with how much offensive talent that team has. They've got a great goalie. They don't give up a lot, so it's one of those things that if that team got hot at the right time, they're an extremely dangerous team."
The Kings definitely got hot, with goalie Jonathan Quick particularly scorching in the series. He and the Kings defense combined to hold the mighty Canucks to just eight goals in five games in a performance reminiscent of how the Bruins shut down Vancouver last year in the Cup Final.
Boston limited Vancouver's vaunted attack to just eight goals in that seven-game series. The back-to-back Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks have managed just 16 goals in their last 12 playoffs games.
"I think it shows the parity in the league right there," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "It's pretty impressive to see that Vancouver, which won the Presidents' Trophy again this year, is out, but if you look at that series, they were late games but I watched the beginning of some of them and L.A. played really well. And they were the eighth seed, so I think it shows the parity and how tough it is to go the whole way. You need to take it a series as well."
There was no love lost in that Cup Final between the Bruins and Canucks last spring, and the hostilities were only heightened in a penalty-filled rematch at the Garden in January. But the Bruins weren't taking any special pleasure in their rivals' demise, at least not openly.
"I could take it or leave it to be honest," Kelly said when asked if he enjoyed seeing the Canucks eliminated. "They're a great hockey team, no one's denying that. I thought last year was a ton of fun playing them. Obviously it went down to seven games and I was just thankful we were on the right side of those seven games."
Another seven-game battle will have to wait at least one more year, but the Bruins aren't worried about who they could potentially play this year. Facing elimination themselves with a Game 7 showdown against Washington on tap for Wednesday, the Bruins don't care who they are matched up against as long as they get to keep playing.
"I mean, you can't really control what's going on out West," Bergeron said. "You need to worry about what you're doing right now, so I don't even know if I have an opinion on [Vancouver losing]. I think it's about just playing whoever is in front of you and just going from there."
Instead of a possible rematch with the Canucks, the Bruins may eventually have to face Philadelphia for the third straight year if they can get past the Caps. Boston avenged their 2010 collapse by sweeping Philadelphia last year, but beating the Flyers won't be so easy for anyone this year. Unlike the Canucks, the Flyers have no trouble piling up goals, outscoring Pittsburgh 30-26 in a wild six-game series.
But thoughts of trying to ground the Flyers attack can wait. The Bruins have to take care of the Caps first. And thanks to the troubles of heavy favorites like the Canucks and Penguins, the Bruins know better than to take anything for granted against seventh-seeded Washington.