RALEIGH, NC — The Boston Bruins needed to break the trend of playing at home to advance to the second round. Instead, one of his worrying tendencies showed up at the worst possible time.
Teuvo Teravaninen’s gate count gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 1-0 lead with 1:24 remaining in the first period of Game 7.
Talyor Hall made an ill-advised double minor the next turn. The Bruins made it into the locker room trailing just a 1-0 deficit in hostile territory.
Bruce Cassidy’s team killed the minor double, but quickly found themselves in a 2-0 hole on Max Domi’s score.
Jake DeBrusk came to life just 1:50 after Domi’s first postseason goal. But the Bruins failed to take advantage of DeBrusk’s third-run Game 7 count. They entered the third period with another two-goal deficit on Domi’s second half stanza shortly after Trent Frederic hit the post on the other end of the ice.
David Pastrnak cut the Bruins’ deficit to 3-2 with just over 21 seconds remaining in regulation. But the Bruins didn’t have much luck with the puck in the final stanza, including Charlie Coyle missing an open net and Jaccob Slavin blocking a shot into the slot from Patrice Bergeron in the closing moments.
An offseason of uncertainty awaits the Bruins as their 2021-22 campaign draws to a close. Here’s what we learned from their 3-2 loss at the end of the season.
The home-road disparity has come to an end
More often than not, the two teams in any long playoff series trade home and away wins. That didn’t happen at all with the Bruins-Hurricanes first-round matchup.
The Bruins certainly benefited from the ice at home. But with the benefit of the latest change, the front-running Hurricanes hit second gear in front of their rabid worshipers.
“They get the matchups they want, and it’s the same when we’re at home; we get the matchups we want,” Marchand said of the Round 1 home-away dynamic. “We feed off the energy of our crowd, and they do well here. That’s playoff hockey. That’s what you play all year for, it’s that home field advantage, and that’s why, because when you’re good at home, it matters in the playoffs, and they are, and we were. And we needed to win an away game, and we didn’t.”
Cassidy and company didn’t help their cause with untimely defensive lapses during their four games at PNC Arena, beginning with Teravainen’s scoring late in the first stanza.
Unlike in Games 1, 2 and 5, the Bruins generated multiple quality looks on Antti Raanta, who delivered the save of the series over Hall during a 2-on-1 in the first 20 minutes. A lucky rebound in chances from Frederic or Coyle could also have turned the momentum in Boston’s favor in a closely contested Game 7.
“If we bury that 2-on-1, things could change in a game like today where it’s hard to score,” Cassidy said. “They don’t give you much, but you get the advantage and now it’s a little bit of adversity on their part.”
DeBrusk and Pastrnak gave the Bruins some life after answering Carolina’s second and third counts, respectively. But it was too little, too late.
The Bruins looked gassed in the midst of their frequent uphill battles in Raleigh. And now the organization embarks on another uncertain future.
A foggy offseason awaits the Bruins
Bergeron and his partner in crime, Brad Marchand, witnessed the highest ups, the lowest lows, and the lowest lows in their decade-plus career as linemates.
From the 2019 Stanley Cup Final to their first-round exit three years later, the feeling of elimination left a bitter taste in their mouths. However, this loss may last a little longer.
“You only get a few chances in these where you have a legitimate chance to go deep. And we thought we had that this year,” Marchand said. “So yeah, it hurts.”
Perhaps on a track of sorts, Bergeron greeted his team near the visiting tunnel, shaking hands with his teammates as they came off the surface of PNC Arena.
Now the Bruins await word on Bergeron’s future after the final year of his contract. He may end up going back to Boston on a short-term deal. Or he may decide to sign a Stanley Cup contender with the Bruins’ championship window possibly closed. Or he could choose to hang up his skates after 18 wonderful seasons.
Processing another season-ending loss, the Boston captain barely discussed his offseason approach during his postgame news conference.
“It’s too early right now… it’s too fresh, obviously,” Bergeron said. “[The loss] still itches from a very close series, and we fell short. Obviously, I’ll have to think about it, but I’m not there at the moment.”
Beyond Bergeron’s status, the Bruins must decide whether to enter rebuild or retool mode. They have a few anchors to shorten the lifespan if they decide to go either way, including Charlie McAvoy, Jeremy Swayman and Pastrnak, an unrestricted free agent pending in 2022-23. They also have a couple of big prospects in Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei, who will likely compete for NHL minutes over the next two seasons.
But the Bruins can choose to go in the rebuild or remodel direction without Cassidy and general manager Don Sweeney.
Maybe the Bruins will put Sweeney’s mixed history with the draft behind them along with certain trade and free-agent decisions that will scratch your head. Cassidy pulled as much as he could from this year’s makeshift roster, but if the Bruins want a new GM, he might want to bring a fresh voice behind the bench.
The Bruins’ secondary scoring problems and defensive shortcomings plagued them during their four road losses in Raleigh. With their championship window likely closed, they’ll need to rebuild their roster for the future, with or without Sweeney, Cassidy and Bergeron.
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