BOSTON, MA --
|Boston Bruins defenseman Steve Montador carries his sticks and equipment bag as he leaves the team locker room after emptying his locker Monday, May 18, 2009, in Boston. The Bruins were eliminated in overtime of Game 7 by the Carolina Hurricanes in the NHL hockey Eastern Conference semifinals. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) |
Following an incredible regular season where they amassed 53 wins and secured home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, Bruins coaches, fans and players all expected a long post-season run by the young team.
“It’s without a doubt, a very disappointing finish for our team,” said Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “As much as everyone, including our fans, had higher expectations for us, so did we.”
Those unmet expectations were very visible Monday as solemn players and coaches collected their things from the B’s locker room in the Garden and spoke to the press during the last media availability of the 2008-09 season.
The consensus being that despite steady improvement over the past two years, players know they cannot be happy with the way the campaign ended.
“We can’t be satisfied losing in the second round, just because we did better than last year and with the season we had and the team we had, it’s really disappointing,” said Bruins forward PJ Axelsson.
“It’s only been a couple of days but obviously we’ve had a lot of success this year and that alone is a big step,” said goalie Tim Thomas
. “I am not trying to sugarcoat it because we all wanted more.
“But you can’t just write this whole year off as a loss -- that would be a mistake,” he said.
B’s captain Zdeno Chara
thinks the team did a good job of improving from recent years past.
“Well, we improved,” said Chara. “We tried to set goals and I think this year we did a pretty good job of reaching and accomplishing those goals.”
“I am not trying to sugarcoat it because we all wanted more...but you can’t just write this whole year off as a loss -- that would be a mistake." - Tim Thomas
Even though Chara was satisfied with reaching goals, next season is just a few months away and the B’s have a chance to push through and move forward.
“Next year is another step,” said the defenseman, “and we just need to keep moving forward to get better and better. This year we established ourselves in the league and now we just have to take the next step.”
Easier said than done.
It was also revealed Monday that Phil Kessel, David Krejci
and Mark Recchi all played through injuries during the Carolina series and both Kessel and Krejci will need surgery.
“[Krejci and Kessel] are obviously questionable to start the season, based on their surgeries and prognosis,” said Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. “Phil played with two tears in his shoulder, and David played for a good part of the year with an impingement on his hip joint.”
If that occurs, and depending on how free agency negotiations pan out, Boston may again look south to Providence to fill their ranks.
“There are players down there that certainly have a good shot of making the team, so I guess, consequently, there’ll be players that we don’t sign because we have to give these guys a shot,” said Chiarelli. “There’s been…at least three or four, that have justified long looks based on what I’ve seen, and they’re having a good playoff run, and we’ll see them in games three and four coming up here in Providence.”
Beyond the youth in Providence, the youth in Boston all gained valuable experience during 2008-09.
Julien was also quick to point out the age of his team, saying that each series is a completely new learning experience for his young players.
|Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien, right, talks with reporters while seated with general manager Peter Chiarelli during a news conference Monday, May 18, 2009, in Boston. The Bruins were eliminated in overtime of Game 7 by the Carolina Hurricanes in the NHL hockey Eastern Conference semifinals. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) |
“We have learned something from this,” said Julien. “I think if we can move forward and get better, it’ll only make us a better team down the road”.
Moreover, this season saw a resurgence of the hockey culture in Boston. As such, the Bruins experienced their highest television ratings ever and packed the Garden with more than 16,000 fans each night.
And while the pain of Thursday night’s loss may still be fresh in the hearts and minds of the Bruins and their fans, there is reason to believe that the best is yet to come.
“I think we have had some big steps with the fans,” said Thomas. “With the success we’ve had this year there is a lot of buzz about hockey and hopefully next year we can come back and give them something worth watching again.”
That said, defenseman Mark Stuart spoke for most of the locker room (and most of New England) when he talked about getting ready for next season sooner rather than later.
“I usually get antsy as soon as I get home,” said Stuart.Dyan LeBourdais contributed to this report.