BOSTON - The Bruins bowed out of the post-season in the first round two months ago.
It still "stings."
Unable to recapture the magic that pushed them all the way to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011, Boston packed up a little early this season, after an unexpected first-round loss to seventh-seeded Washington in seven games.
But general manager Peter Chiarelli has stated numerous times he is not unhappy with the team's makeup. After all, just 12 months ago, the same nucleus won three grueling, seven-game series en route to the crown.
On Wednesday, after announcing new deals for forwards Gregory Campbell (three years) and Chris Kelly (four years), Chiarelli reinforced his stance, especially with free agency set to begin on July 1.
"I feel really good with our lineup right now," he said. "To add a player still isn't out of the realm of possibility. It gives me a lot of flexibility going into the free agency, but this is as solid of a forward group as you're going to get. So if we do nothing, that's fine. But if something comes across that looks attractive and we have to look at it, then we'll look at it."
For now, though, he likes what he sees, especially after locking up Campbell and Kelly.
"They're two really important pieces to our team," he said, "and to our effort to try to keep the team together as much as possible."
Boston scored 269 goals this season, and finished 49-29-4 with 102 points. They won the Northeast Division and snagged the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference before losing to the Capitals in a tug-of-war series that featured several overtimes.
"When you do win, it really does take a toll on your body, but more so, I believe, mentally," Campbell said, thinking back to the 2011 run in which Boston defeated Montreal, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Vancouver. Only the Flyers series didn't go the distance.
"It's almost like two seasons become one long season. And so, unfortunately this year was cut short earlier than anyone of us expected or wanted to. But from our side of things, I think you have to look at the positives and kind of regroup, and be ready for next year."
Campbell played in 78 games this season, posting eight goals and 16 points. But he had just 74 shots on goal, and sported a rating of minus-3.
"I think the other thing that hits home, too, is seeing another team lift the Stanley Cup," said Campbell, who watched Los Angeles defeat New Jersey on Monday to secure the Cup. "And it's like we considered it ours for a year, and we worked so hard to get it, and now that it's not ours anymore. I think that really hits home, and kind of allows us to get that hunger back, and hopefully strive for it again this year."
Kelly, in his first full season with Boston, played in all 82 games, finishing with 20 goals and 39 points. He was one of six 20-goal scorers on the Bruins, including six game-winners. He had never scored more than 15 before in his nine-year career.
"I watched L.A. raise the Cup the other night, and it almost makes you kind of get that sick feeling. You know, it stings a little bit knowing that that was us a year ago and how great that felt, and you want that taste back," Kelly said. "So, it is nice to have the extended off-season to kind of mentally prepare and heal whatever bumps and bruises you have. But I think at the end of the day, if you're playing into June, you and your team have done something right, and I think that's what everyone strives for.
"I think that's the reason why Gregory and I signed back in Boston, is for that opportunity to consistently play in the month of June."
Chiarelli, who was open and honest about goaltender Tim Thomas' decision to take a year off in his last conference call with reporters, addressed the situation again, but did not get into additional details. The enigmatic Thomas won the Conn Smythe Trophy last season as playoff MVP.
"I've talked to his agent in the last little bit, and nothing's changed," Chiarelli said. "If you're asking me, 'Has he clarified that he's not playing for the year?' He's stated that through his agent that he's not playing for the year, so I guess that's where that stands. But nothing's really changed since the last time I spoke."
Thomas' decision has opened the door for Tuukka Rask to be the anchor in front of the Boston net. Rask was 11-8 this season, with a 2.05 goals-against average and three shutouts. In 2009, he won 22 games.
"I'm operating under the premise," Chiarelli said, "that our goalies will be Tuukka (Rask) and Anton (Khudobin)."