UNIONDALE, N.Y. - A season unlike any other came to a close on Wednesday night.
After months of challenges and adversity in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bruins - who surged into the playoffs with a torrid stretch run following the trade deadline and cruised through Washington in the first round - were eliminated by the New York Islanders with a 6-2 loss in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum.
"It's disappointing. We expected a longer run in this room," said Brad Marchand. "We thought we had a group that could go really deep this year. It came down to a couple breaks, they capitalized on a few opportunities that they got. We didn't on the other end. There's some games that we really outplayed them and came up short, but that's playoffs."
Marchand scored two power-play goals - including a tying tally that made it 1-1 late in the first period - but it wasn't nearly enough as the Islanders struck three times in second and added two empty-netters in the third to close out the second-round series with their third consecutive victory.
"They've been a good second-period team throughout the playoffs," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of the Islanders. "Tonight…let's face it, we mismanaged pucks. That could have happened in any period, when you give them…you don't want to call them gifts, but that was on us to manage the puck better in those situations. I don't think the period mattered in this instance tonight, to be quite honest with you. It was just us not managing the puck well enough to beat a team that pressures the puck well."
"They were able to win when they didn't have their A-game," added Cassidy while dissecting the series. "There was a couple games at home, Game 2 and Game 5 the other night, I thought they found ways to win. So, give them credit, that's what it's all about this time of year. Doesn't have to be pretty. I thought they were much more opportunistic than us."
Despite winning two of the first three games against the Islanders, the Bruins were unable to overcome a depleted back end that was without the injured Kevan Miller and Brandon Carlo, whose injury in Game 3 helped change the tenor of the series.
"They're valuable pieces of our defense, obviously. That's no secret," said Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. "Great players that play a heavy game and lots of minutes. That being said, the guys that came in did a great job and stepped up and we obviously believed in everyone that came into that lineup to do the job. But yeah, every time you're missing some key players it hurts you a little bit."
Video: Cassidy speaks following Game 6 loss
Rask Banged Up
Tuukka Rask got the call for the do-or-die Game 6 but acknowledged postgame that he had not been playing at 100 percent for some time. While he was hesitant to reveal the extent of the injury that hampered him during the playoffs, he did say that it's possible he may need surgery in the offseason.
"It's not getting easier, but you battle, you try to maintain your health as good as possible," Rask said when asked if the grind of the playoffs was catching up to him. "You take those days off for treatment, but you play every other day and the more physical it gets, it doesn't get easier. But the training staff did a great job keeping me out there playing. We tried our best."
Cassidy said there was constant communication between Rask and the coaching staff and that despite not being at full strength, the netminder felt good enough to get the job done.
"He had an injury earlier in the year he was dealing with, kind of one of those nagging ones that the medical team will assess at the end of the year," said Cassidy. "A lot of guys have gone through it in the playoffs. He was healthy, healthy enough to play…we talked to him on a daily basis. He's ready to go. We've been very up front with him. We gave him time to heal in the middle of the year.
"We would have given him time to heal from game-to-game in the playoffs, if that was necessary. The communication, I thought, was excellent. He's our starting goalie, and he told us he was ready to go, and that's that."
Video: Rask talks following Game 6
Another Year Older
With the core group aging and Rask and David Krejci set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, Bergeron and Marchand lamented after the loss how disappointing it was to fall short as the chances to hoist another Stanley Cup pass by.
"It does [weigh on us]," said Bergeron. "That core is getting older one year to the next. It's disappointing that way, that you have a good team, you have opportunities, and you know they don't come that often, especially later in your career. You want to make the most of it. Take it a year at a time and see what happens."
Video: Marchand, Bergeron talk after Game 6
Miller was on the Mend
Cassidy said that he did not believe Carlo would have played in a potential Game 7, though Miller was back skating and trending well. "Miller was skating and had an opportunity," he said. "We'll never know now, so I don't want to speculate and speak for Kevan, but he was trending well that if we were able to get to Game 7 that he had an opportunity to play. Carlo, no."