Better luck next year: It is probably not going to get better for the Boston Bruins
After a 65-win regular season they did not even get out of the first round. How did that happen?
Welcome to Better Luck Next Season. As each NHL team gets eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention, and then the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we will take a look at what went wrong, what went right, and what sits ahead for them. Today we look at the Boston Bruins, who were the latest record-setting NHL team to lose in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They missed a big opportunity they are probably not going to get again for a long time.
My expectations for the Boston Bruins were quite low at the start of the 2022-23 NHL season.
I did not expect them to be bad, but I looked at them as a fringe playoff team that was going to potentially be in for a really tough start.
In the offseason there was still a question as to whether or not Patrice Bergeron would be back, they had a new head coach coming in, while Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy were set to miss a significant chunk of the first part of the season. Add in the fact that David Pastrnak was unsigned beyond this season and it just seemed like a team that might very much be on the downswing.
But not only did Bergeron return for another season, they also welcomed David Krejci back following his brief return to Europe. That gave them their long-time 1-2 punch back at center at an insanely cheap price against the salary cap, and then everything clicked in their favor after that.
Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman had outstanding years in goal and helped mask the early season absence of McAvoy.
Hampus Lindholm played at a Norris Trophy level before and after McAvoy returned. Who saw that happening?
Bergeron and Krejci were still top-line centers even as they approach their late 30s.
David Pastrnak played like an MVP and helped make up for the early absence of Marchand.
Jake DeBrusk and Pavel Zacha had career years offensively.
They even removed one of the potential offseason distractions by re-signing Pastrnak to a monster contract that made him the highest paid player in franchise history.
They also went all in at the trade deadline, adding Tyler Bertuzzi and Dmitry Orlov to their roster by trading their next two first-and second-round picks.
The Bruins steamrolled over the entire NHL on their way to a record-setting 65-win season where they ran away with the top spots in the division, conference and league, never receiving any sort of a challenge from anybody.
That obviously made them the odds on favorites to win the Stanley Cup, or at least come out of the Eastern Conference.
That belief only intensified when they jumped out to a 3-1 series lead against the Florida Panthers in their First Round matchup.
It was at that point that everything fell apart as they lost three straight games to watch their record-setting season end with a stunning Game 7 loss at home. It was only the second time all season they lost three games in a row. After losing just seven home games (out of 41) during the regular season, they lost three out of four in the playoffs.
It was staggering. All of it.
In picking up the pieces in the aftermath all of these things can be true at the same time.
The NHL has a tendency to underrate and overlook regular season success, and a 65-win, Presidents’ Trophy winning season is still an incredible accomplishment and worthy of plenty of respect.
The playoffs were an incredible failure that everybody has to own.
This should be viewed as a devastatingly big missed opportunity for the Bruins’ core because it is probably only going to be downhill from here. They will never get another opportunity like this.
What is perhaps most stunning is that this was the second consecutive record-setting team that did not get out of the First Round after the 62-win Tampa Bay Lightning lost early in the 2018-19 playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
I have some theories on that, and also on what is ahead for the Bruins.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Adam's Sports Stuff to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.