The Bruins are about to endure one of the most painful offseasons in recent memory, one that will prove a harsh reminder of just how much it takes to win in professional sports.
Boston fell flat on its face in its first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, suffering a Game 7 loss Sunday night to the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. In a perfect world, the Bruins would reload and come back next season full of motivation, looking to right the wrongs of this playoff failure. Unfortunately for them, it’s not that simple. Therein lies the pain of such an abrupt exit.
No one knows better than the Bruins — who just authored the most successful regular season in NHL history — how hard it is and how much work must be done just to get back to the position where they might have a chance for a deep run. Then there’s the black cloud lingering over the Black and Gold. There’s a very real chance the roster looks drastically different in September. Longtime mainstays Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci both have decisions to make about their futures. The Bruins could be staring at having neither for the first time in 20 years.
That’s a heavy load to handle, and David Pastrnak knows there’s a reckoning that could be on the Bruins’ doorstep.
“Obviously, it is very emotional. You never know. You can’t stop the time,” he told reporters Sunday night after the game. “You obviously think about yourself, as well. The career goes by fast, so this one is definitely going to hurt.”
Time does heal wounds, but this is a scab that might take a while to heal, especially if Bergeron and/or Krejci decide they’ve had enough.
“I think as time goes the next couple of weeks, months, it’s going to be more painful,” a potentially prophetic Pastrnak said.
You can’t stop the time. That’s obviously life’s harshest truth, and it could ultimately be one of the reasons Bergeron or Krejci call it a career. There’s more to their lives than hockey, and they have a finite time to nurture those areas. Do they really want to put forth the effort and go through the injuries just for another chance to accomplish one of sports’ most difficult tasks? If they understandably decide they’ve chased enough, the offseason becomes even bigger for Boston in a way the organization hasn’t seen in decades.
Clearly, Pastrnak is the centerpiece of the Bruins’ next core. The roster is built around him and to a lesser degree, players like Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm. That won’t make any parting any easier, though, especially for a player like Pastrnak who benefited from the collective friendship and mentorship of both Bergeron and Krejci perhaps more than anyone else in the Boston dressing room.
“I can’t say enough,” Pastrnak said when asked about the lessons he’s learned from the two. “Bergy, I’ve never seen such a leader leading on and off the ice ever. I can’t thank him enough for everything. And (Krejci) is one of the best teammates I’ve ever had the chance (to play with), so it’s been a pleasure. One of my best friends, and I am really thankful for that.”
Ultimately, those are the sorts of things players cherish when looking back on their careers. But that pain of falling short endures, too, and it might hurt even more than usual for the Bruins this summer.