For the Boston Bruins, the nightmare lingered Tuesday at TD Garden as the players packed their belongings for a summer that seemed to be in the distant future no too long ago.
But a 3-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers and a 3-0 lead in the decisive Game 7 came and went, leaving the Bruins to ponder what happened as the Flyers moved to the Eastern Conference Finals to play the Montreal Canadiens.
"Yeah, it's weird watching those games knowing that just a couple days ago, you were there and you were getting ready for the morning practices and games, and now it's all over," goalie Tuukka Rask told John Bishop of the team's website. "Every year it's the same thing. It really hits you and hits you tough, but it was a great season and I had a lot of fun. I've got to get ready for next year."
"Yeah, it's obviously disappointing, but that's the way it is," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara told Bishop. "But you have to find a way to get past it and look for the positives and get ready for next season.
"Obviously, in the playoffs we executed well in the first round," Chara said. "Even in the second round we started really well. I thought we probably should have won one of those four games we lost but it didn't happen and that's just the reality. Like I said, it was disappointing ... and you have to move on."
Chara rejected the notion the Bruins grew complacent with the top-heavy series lead, one that only two previous NHL teams had overcome in League history.
"No, I don't think that was the case," Chara told Bishop about Game 7. "We knew, everybody knew, we had a really good strong first period and even after they scored that first goal we were still in good position.
"I just thought that we didn't skate maybe as well and somehow we were maybe a little nervous going into the second and obviously you have to give credit to the Flyers," he said. "They were really playing aggressive and attacking with five guys really, and putting a lot of pressure on us with forechecks and pinches. We turned some pucks over and they made some strong plays and it ended up in our net. Even after that it was still 3-3 in the third and both teams created some chances. And it came down to them scoring on the power play..."
"Obviously, there you're up 3-0 and then you lose four games in a row and end up your season like that," Rask said. "So it's tough, but it's behind us now and we have to look to the future.
"There's nothing you can do about it anymore," he said. "It's frustrating and disappointing, but you just got to focus on the future and work on things you think you have to get better at."
As for next season, Rask said he hopes to improve upon a rookie season that saw him go 22-12-5 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. In the playoffs, Rask was 7-6 with a 2.61 GAA and .912 save percentage.
"I'm just going to try to get a little stronger and bigger, and same as every year," Rask said "I just try to get bigger every year... I just got to be in better shape next year."