BOSTON -- Milan Lucic made his way through a crowd of reporters huddled around his locker in the Boston Bruins dressing room Wednesday night, and the anger was pouring off of him like water and gathering in a pool at his feet.
And the pool was knee deep.
Lucic had just seen his team's season come to a premature end against a Montreal Canadiens team he openly admitted he hated prior to the start of this Eastern Conference Second Round series.
Standing there with cameras and microphones coming at him from every direction to catch his every word, that hate was still there.
In a sense, Lucic's hatred of the Canadiens epitomized why the Bruins lost the series, and why their 2013-14 season will be remembered for winning the Presidents' Trophy and not the Stanley Cup.
Lucic scored one goal, into an empty net, in seven games against Montreal. His center, David Krejci, didn't score any, and his opposite wing, Jarome Iginla, scored three times, once at even strength.
That is one even-strength goal in seven games from the Bruins' top forward line.
As the lack of production and defensive mistakes continued throughout the series, the Bruins consistently spoke of how important it was to simply play their game; if they did, everything would be fine, they said. From Bruins coach Claude Julien down to the players, that was the message: Bruins hockey will beat the Canadiens if they are able to execute it properly.
Not once did anyone on the Bruins admit that maybe, just maybe, something the Canadiens were doing was preventing them from playing their game.
Not until it was too late.
"They played well; you have to give them credit," Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said following Boston's 3-1 loss in Game 7 on Wednesday. "They played well and they capitalized on their chances and now they're moving on."
Except even after losing Game 7, after being outplayed in the first period of a do-or-die game and giving up the first goal to the Canadiens for the fourth time in the series, most of the Bruins were unable to admit they were beaten.
They continued to believe they lost more than the Canadiens won.
And that might have been their biggest problem.
"We just didn't play our game when we needed to in these last two," Lucic said, still seething. "They were able to execute on the chances that they were able to create, and we didn't."
If the Bruins had been able to admit to themselves that maybe some of their poor play came as a result of what the Canadiens were doing, maybe they would have made the adjustments necessary to win the series.
Maybe they would have found a way to crack a Canadiens forecheck that forced turnovers in the Bruins zone throughout the series, turnovers the Bruins simply never make. Maybe they would have found a way to beat Canadiens goalie Carey Price with greater frequency instead of pointing to the litany of goal posts and crossbars they hit in the series as a sign of bad luck. Maybe they would have found a way to throw the Canadiens off their game instead of the other way around.
Maybe they would have won the series.
But pride appears to have gotten in the way.
The Bruins never did manage to play Bruins hockey. And the Canadiens had something to do with that, whether the Bruins want to admit it or not.
"We're frustrating to play against," Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty said. "We frustrated them for seven games. We got them off their game a bit, and it might sound like something stupid to someone who's not in this series, but it goes a long way. I believe in respect and I believe in the hockey gods and I believe in karma, and it gave us that extra motivation.
"We have respect for them, and we wanted that in return."
The Bruins never gave it, right to the bitter end.
Lucic's anger was apparently unleashed on the Canadiens in the handshake line after the game, with him reportedly making threatening comments to Montreal forward Dale Weise and defenseman Alexei Emelin, his longtime nemesis.
Lucic called Emelin "chicken" earlier this season after a perfectly executed hip check in open ice sent him head over heels and into the boards. On Wednesday, he called out Weise because he revealed to the media that Lucic had said something inappropriate in the handshake line, even though Weise did not specifically say what Lucic had said.
"It's said on the ice, so it will stay on the ice," Lucic said. "If he wants to be a baby about it, he can make it public."
There were a lot of reasons why the Bruins lost this series.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara looked like a tired man over the final two games, two games in which the Bruins were outscored 7-1. Lucic, Krejci and Brad Marchand combined to score one empty-net goal in the series. The young defensemen on the Bruins were unable to compensate for the loss of Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid. The Canadiens' depth, oddly enough, was better than the Bruins' depth.
But the biggest reason might have been the Bruins' refusal to acknowledge what the Canadiens were doing to them.
Now their season is over as a result.