MONTREAL - Milan Lucic, much like his Boston Bruins, made a statement in these playoffs.
Though the disappointment of losing Game 7 to the Montreal Canadiens was still fresh in his mind, Lucic was able to find the silver lining in a season where the Bruins overcame more challenges than perhaps any team in the NHL.
"I'm proud of what we've accomplished this season," said Lucic, 19, who emerged as a future star with his rugged play in the series. "No one gave us a chance from the start of the season and even the start of this series. I think we've proved a lot of people wrong, and it was a good feeling proving a lot of people wrong. We can build a lot on what we did this year to carry into next year."
The Bruins lost arguably their best player Patrice Bergeron to a concussion Oct. 27, which was the start of a nightmare year where head coach Claude Julien had to patch together a lineup as his team lost 364 man games to injury.
But in the long run, Julien said, that may prove beneficial for his young club.
"I'm really happy with the way our young guys have come along, and that was because some of our injuries allowed some of them to grow quicker," he said. "We're a lot further ahead today than we were at the beginning of the year, or that we expected to be at this time when we looked at our hockey club."
Though the Bruins have many reasons for optimism, it was a little more difficult for them to focus on that seeing as they were so close to advancing to the second round. Captain Zdeno Chara said the pressure of a Game 7 had no impact on his team, because the Bruins have been playing on the edge for the better part of two months.
"We were in a similar situation since there were about 15 or 20 games to go and we were battling for the playoffs," Chara said. "Basically every game since then was do or die, so it was nothing new for us, even though it was the playoffs."
Julien said his team got away from its game plan once the pressure of the situation became too much for them, but he also said it would be a "cowardly excuse" to say his team was emotionally spent.
He added that even though no one gave them a chance against the Canadiens after losing all eight regular season meetings this year, the Bruins never doubted their own chances in the series, even when down 3-1.
"The further along the series went, we gained more and more confidence," Julien said. "We had expectations for ourselves that were much higher than people had for us, and we were convinced we would move on to the next round.
"We didn't particularly care about what was being said outside our room, it was the belief in our room that mattered."