BOSTON -- Teams that win the Presidents' Trophy are supposed to win more than one round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's why no matter what way you shake it, the Boston Bruins' loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Second Round is a major disappointment.
The Bruins were 54-19-9 in the regular season and dispatched the Detroit Red Wings in five games in the first round. Boston led the best-of-7 series with Montreal 3-2 but lost in seven games.
For a team that had such a great first seven months of the season to unravel the way it did in the space of a few days, a lot of things must go wrong. Here are five reasons the Bruins failed to reach the Eastern Conference Final:
1. Offense in hibernation
The Bruins were third in the NHL during the regular season with 3.15 goals per game. But in the last two games against the Canadiens they scored one goal and didn’t score at even strength. Montreal goaltender Carey Price made 55 saves in those two games, but Boston helped him by missing the net on 27 other shots. In addition to hitting posts and crossbars, the Bruins fanned on several prime opportunities and inexplicably looked tight and nervous offensively with a chance to close out the Canadiens.
2. Stars burned out
Any discussion of who didn't answer the bell for the Bruins starts with center David Krejci. Boston's No. 1 center led the Stanley Cup Playoffs in scoring two of the past three years when Boston won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and made the Final in 2013. This year, he failed to score a goal and had four assists in 12 games. From there, many of Boston's other best players failed to produce. Forward Brad Marchand didn't score a goal in 12 games to extend his postseason drought to 20. Defenseman Zdeno Chara didn't score a goal against the Canadiens, and forward Milan Lucic's only goal of the series was scored into an empty net.
3. Deficient on defense
The Bruins got by in the regular season without veteran defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid because of the maturation of their young defensemen. It was a different story in the playoffs. Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton continued to blossom, especially offensively. They held their own on defense too, and Krug earned more 5-on-5 ice time with his play. However, Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller were exposed for their decision-making when the game picked up speed. Bartkowski found himself in the penalty box too often, and Miller made the miscue that turned Game 6, and eventually the series, in Montreal's favor.
GAA: 1.99 | SVP: 0.928
Price clearly was the best goaltender in the series. Playing behind little goal support had its effects, but Tuukka Rask had a pedestrian .903 save percentage against the Canadiens. Rask typically is as confident as they come. However, his indecision contributed to several goals; he got caught in between coming out or staying in the crease on Montreal forward Max Pacioretty's breakaway goal in Game 6 and had a few other indecisive moments on loose pucks around the slot.
There's no way to measure how much the Bruins' taunts really inspired the Canadiens to play as well as they did. But it was obvious the Canadiens took some of the Bruins' gestures and words to heart and used them as a rallying cry in the dressing room. The only thing more dangerous than a talented team is a talented team inspired by perceived disrespect. The Bruins are a veteran team that typically avoids providing an opponent with bulletin-board material. This time, the Bruins gave the Canadiens an outside source of inspiration that helped tilt the series in Montreal's favor.