BOSTON -- Two days after the Boston Bruins lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round to the Montreal Canadiens, Bruins center David Krejci reported to TD Garden for breakup day Friday still wearing his playoff beard.
The facial hair added to Krejci's forlorn look as he continued to lament the missed opportunities that would have prevented him from having a goal-less Stanley Cup Playoffs and might have helped the Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight season.
Krejci had four assists in 12 games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I thought I had a pretty consistent season the whole year," Krejci said. "And I guess then I was still getting some chances. I felt like I had some strong games. But at the end of the day when the puck doesn't go in the net, that's all that matters. It was just bad timing. I didn't get through it. I tried my best, but it didn't happen. So it was frustrating at times. Now it's disappointing. But it is what it is. It's going to be tough the next few days, but hopefully I'll get through it."
Although Krejci's drop-off from leading the Bruins in scoring in the regular season with 69 points to failing to score a goal in the postseason was staggering, he was far from the only culprit in their demise. Linemate Milan Lucic had one goal (an empty-netter) against the Canadiens and defenseman Zdeno Chara didn’t score a goal in the second round. Left wing Brad Marchand didn't score a goal in the playoffs. The early exit from the postseason was a team-wide effort.
Boston won the Presidents' Trophy led by three NHL Awards finalists: center Patrice Bergeron (Selke), Chara (Norris) and goaltender Tuukka Rask (Vezina), and they defeated the Detroit Red Wings in the first round in five games. However, the Bruins lost Game 1 to Montreal in double overtime and never were the same, even though they had a 3-2 series lead after they won Game 5. Coach Claude Julien said Friday that although the final score wasn't in the Bruins' favor, Game 1 of that series was his team's best; the Bruins outshot the Canadiens 51-33 but lost 4-3.
In dissecting the series, Julien diagnosed several reasons Montreal advanced to the next round.
"We didn't play our best, we know that," Julien said. "We were maybe expecting some guys to be back [from injury] and they weren't, so we were maybe a little bit young. We did hit 10 to 12 posts. If some of those go in, are we sitting here talking about this today? There's a lot of reasons. You've got to have puck luck. You've got to have a lot of things."
It's for those reasons Julien said he doesn't think there needs to be a major remaking of the Bruins roster.
"So for me, is it really about all of a sudden we lost to Montreal, we need to overhaul and that? No, I think we need to look at the things we need to tweak here and there and make those kind of adjustments," Julien said. "And some of it will be minor adjustments. And some of it, you're going to have some young players that are going to be that much better next year in those kind of situations. So year to year, things change. And I can only speak as a coach, and this is not necessarily what Peter [Chiarelli, general manager] thinks or may think or may not think, but you know you explode a team that's pretty good just because of the situation that is not based one reason only, that could be dangerous."
Without veteran defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid for much of the regular season and the entire playoffs, the Bruins were able to advance the development of younger defensemen Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller. Up front, 23-year-old forward Reilly Smith grabbed a regular spot in the top six, and in the Montreal series rookie Matt Fraser filled in admirably for injured Chris Kelly, who didn't play in the entire postseason.
Despite the offensive struggles of some of the veterans and the mistakes made by veterans and younger players alike, Chiarelli sounded undeterred about keeping the majority of his roster together for another run at the Cup, especially based on his exit interviews.
"What I can tell you, and these aren't the ones that are making the decisions, but like every player to a tee that I've seen so far this morning has [said], 'We should've been there,' meaning going all the way," Chiarelli said. "Or, 'We'll be there next year. We definitely feel strong in that.' Now part of my job is to filter that stuff out because I'm the manager, they're the players, but this is a very good team. This is a very good team. There's some tweaks here and there, but it's a very good team, strong down the middle, strong in the nets, good character, good core. We won the Presidents' Trophy, we beat Detroit in five. We lost in seven to Montreal. It's emotional and it's my job to be unemotional about it.
"So this is a good team and there's some trends in hockey that we'll have to address in this team. It may be that they don't get addressed until the fall or halfway through the year or July 1 or before. You have to let things unfold sometimes. But we're not going to make too many changes to this team. But there will be some changes."
Forward Jarome Iginla, who scored 30 goals in the regular season and five in the playoffs, is the only major unrestricted free agent Chiarelli has to deal with. Krug, Smith and Bartkowski are among a handful of restricted free agents. The Bruins should be able to bank on a return to health for Kelly, McQuaid and Seidenberg, who revealed he would have been able to play in the conference final less than five months after surgery to repair two knee ligaments.
The core of the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and went to the Final in 2013. The veterans have dealt with the highest emotional highs and some doldrums. They think there are some highs in their near future.
"I believe [we're a Cup contender], and for sure I think that we have a great group of guys," Chara said. "It's something that we have to learn from this year and be more motivated and better coming up on playoffs."
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