-- As Peter Chiarelli put it, there is still a "gnawing feeling" in the back of his head as he and the Bruins organization try to figure out what exactly went wrong, why they're not playing the Pittsburgh Penguins
for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Final.
"There's a gnawing sensation at the back of my head that isn't normally there. And it's about this last playoff series, it's about this season and it's about unfinished business," Chiarelli said. "And we're still all collectively disappointed at the way that it ended. I think what's important to note is that throughout the course of the year, the level of expectation has risen and risen and risen. And that's a good thing. And the fact that we're disappointed here today, while it doesn't feel good, it bodes well for the future."
Veteran forward Mark Recchi
, who came over to the Bruins at this season's trade deadline from Tampa Bay, was very impressed with what he saw in his short time here and believes this team has the ingredients of a Stanley Cup contender.
"If they're able to keep this young core together they have what it takes here," said Recchi who is an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but reiterated his desire to stay. "There is the right blend of talent and chemistry here and it was a joy watching these guys, especially the young kids learn what it takes to win it all at this level. I was very impressed by this group and if they want to get to the top, they're on the right path."
Chiarelli will have to do some maneuvering to keep this team together as he has five unrestricted free agents (including Recchi), and four restricted free agents, with 36-goal scorer Phil Kessel
and David Krejci
(73 points), at the top of that list. But one thing Chiarelli knows he will be getting from any of them, plus the remaining players is a new-found appreciation for what it takes to win.
It was revealed over the past few days and then in detail Monday that Recchi played with broken ribs and then kidney stones for the last three games of the series. Doctors discovered Recchi had a kidney stone while examining the veteran's ribs the morning after Game 4 of the Carolina series. Recchi actually had surgery the night before game 7 to remove the stone, and was in the hospital until 11 p.m. to finish the procedure. He was still experiencing related pain on Monday.
"Obviously, I was pretty sore. I don't know if anyone has ever had one of them, but I don't wish it on my worst enemy," Recchi said. "But we all play through stuff and it's really no big deal. The guys, at this time of year, everybody plays through a lot of things. So it just felt like I could still help and still play and I went out there and tried."
"We're still all collectively disappointed at the way that it (2008-09 season) ended. I think what's important to note is that throughout the course of the year, the level of expectation has risen and risen and risen. And that's a good thing. And the fact that we're disappointed here today, while it doesn't feel good, it bodes well for the future." -- Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli
Recchi's sacrifice didn't go unnoticed and this Bruins team if they're able to stay together, learned what it takes to win in the playoffs thanks to the two-time Stanley Cup Champion.
"That was ... I don't know how else to say it but amazing," said Patrice Bergeron
of Recchi's courage and sacrifice. "I mean to see him on IV's and the pain he was going through before the last three games is just inspirational. You look at it and say, if this guy can battle through that, then I have nothing to complain about and he really motivated us. There were other guys battling injuries too and I credit them for that, but I think we saw that because of Rex and what he taught us since he's been here. He has just been great for us and I think we all learned a lot from him and about ourselves. We know we can be better."
The Bruins also revealed that Krejci (hip) and Kessel (torn rotator cuff; labrum) were playing hurt and will require surgery in the off-season. According to Chiarelli, both are questionable for the beginning of next season.
But as Chiarelli pointed out, the fact these young players battled through that and have a better grasp on the playoffs, is a good sign for the future. He admitted the sting will remain until training camp, but it's a sting that could be worth the pain down the road.
"I don't know if this gnawing feeling will go away this summer; it probably won't," Chiarelli said. "It'll probably subside sometime in September. We're heading in the right direction, the expectations are high, and rightfully so."