BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins returned to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2014 and were hit with a rash of injuries before and during their Eastern Conference First Round series loss to the Ottawa Senators.
Although the Bruins were disappointed after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Senators in Game 6 at TD Garden on Sunday, Boston understood it had accomplished a lot.
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"Adversity is something that you have to stick with, you have to keep fighting, keep battling," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "I thought we showed a lot of character to get back in games and you know we didn't make it easy on ourselves by any means.
"But at the same time, very proud of everyone. A lot of guys came in the lineup with not much experience and were asked to play a different role and they did it. It was impressive to see that and it was next man up every time. And I think it was a great experience for the young guys for sure."
It was a tumultuous run back to the playoffs for the Bruins, who fired coach Claude Julien on Feb. 7 and replaced him with Bruce Cassidy, who had been in his first season as an assistant with Boston. The Bruins were 26-23-6 during the regular season under Julien, in his 10th season with Boston and having won the Stanley Cup in 2011. The Bruins lost their last two games under Julien and turned it around under Cassidy.
Boston went 11-3-0 following the coaching change but were 0-4-0 in its next four games. With the failures of the prior two seasons hanging over them, the Bruins responded with a six-game winning streak and a berth in the playoffs.
Video: OTT@BOS, Gm6: Stafford roofs slap shot for PPG in 1st
The adversity of the regular season prepared the Bruins to handle what was ahead. Defenseman Torey Krug sustained a lower-body injury in the 81st game of the season and never returned. Defenseman Brandon Carlo (upper body) was injured in the last game of the season and also didn't play again. In Game 1 against Ottawa, Boston lost defenseman Colin Miller, who returned from his lower-body injury for Game 4. But Adam McQuaid never returned from the lower-body injury he sustained in Game 2.
Center David Krejci warmed up for Game 1 but wasn't able to play until Game 3. Then in Game 5, he sustained a lower-body injury and didn't play in Game 6.
"Yeah, it's part of hockey, you know. We can't be really standing here and kind of feeling sorry for ourselves because we lost so many guys," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "But you know that's part of the playoffs. ... But very proud of how we battled, how we never gave up. We came back multiple times every game almost, and it's fun to play when you know that there's that never-give-up attitude. Everybody did whatever it took to get that extra push, extra goal."
Every game between the Bruins and Senators was decided by one goal and four went to overtime. That's invaluable experience for younger players.
Video: OTT@BOS, Gm6: Bergeron jams in rebound for tie
Forward David Pastrnak, who had a career-high 70 points (34 goals, 36 assists), had never appeared in the NHL postseason before. He had two goals and two assists in the series. Defenseman Charlie McAvoy, a first-round pick (No. 14) in the 2016 NHL Draft, had never played in the NHL before he averaged 26:11 of ice time and had three assists during the six-game series.
Although the Bruins still relied on veterans like Chara, Bergeron and Brad Marchand, they got a glimpse of their future.
Video: BOS@OTT, Gm5: Pastrnak finishes Marchand's wrap
"Yeah, I think they have a lot to build from," Bergeron said. "You know we talked about how it's a different game in the postseason and I think we've all realized it. ... I think for the young guys it's definitely a great experience and something you can't buy and I know it's going to go a long way for next year."
The Bruins have decisions to make about Cassidy's future behind the bench and about their personnel. But they made strides in the right direction this season.