Orfao: Bruins end season in anguish after disappointing Game 7

  • Boston Bruins fan Adam Aldred (front) of Foxborough, Mass., rests his head on his hand at a Boston bar after the St. Louis Blues defeated the Bruins, 4-1, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night to secure a 4-3 win in the series. AP

  • Boston’s Patrice Bergeron (37), Zdeno Chara (33) and Matt Grzelcyk (48) leave the ice on Wednesday night after the St. Louis defeated the Bruins, 4-1, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston. AP

  • Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy watches from behind the bench during the first period in Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

Monitor staff
Published: 6/13/2019 5:26:44 AM

As the jubilant St. Louis Blues flung their pads into the air and mobbed each other in the immediate aftermath of the franchise’s first championship, it didn’t take long to pinpoint the most disappointing aspect of Wednesday night’s Game 7 thud from the Boston Bruins.

It was obviously disappointing to watch another team hoist the Stanley Cup, a role that seemed to fit the Bruins so well during a stellar regular season and resilient playoff run.

It was also disappointing to think about the missed opportunities – and a particular missed call – that led to a Game 7, and the early miscues that set the tone for a decisive 4-1 defeat.

It was certainly disappointing to recall the reasons it felt like this season couldn’t end in such bitter fashion.

That’s when it became apparent. The biggest disappointment? It’s over.

“It’s an empty feeling,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s a long year. Someone had to win, someone had to lose and we came out on the wrong side of it. It’s not the way you picture it.”

Captain Zdeno Chara echoed the sentiment after playing through a third game with a reportedly broken jaw.

“I’m sure everyone pictured it differently, and we believed that it was there for us,” the 42-year-old defenseman said. “That’s sports. You’ve got to kind of take those and move on.”

The first bad sign was Boston’s lack of reward for a seemingly picture-perfect start.

The Bruins came out flying, dominated the puck and put Jordan Binnington to the test. The St. Louis rookie goaltender turned scoring chances into groans from the crowd at TD Garden, and eventually the Blues settled in.

The initial score on a deflection from Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O’Reilly was tough to swallow, but the second goal made stomachs turn.

An ill-timed odd-man rush was worsened by an ugly sequence from Brad Marchand and ended with St. Louis defenseman and captain Alex Pietrangelo using a backhand move to beat Tuukka Rask with just under eight seconds left in the opening period.

“It’s probably a different game if it’s 1-0 coming out of the first,” Cassidy admitted during his postgame press conference. “I do believe that. I’m not saying we would have won or lost. …

“I do believe it gave them a lot of juice for a period that if they looked at it objectively, probably felt – should have felt – like they got outplayed, but they were up 2-0 on the scoreboard and that’s all that matters.”

The two-goal deficit didn’t seal Boston’s fate, but either Binnington needed to crack or the Bruins needed a bounce. Neither happened.

Joakim Nordstrom nearly injected serious life into the Bruins’ comeback hopes when he collected a rebound, kicked the puck to his stick and tried to jam it in. But Binnington’s sprawling effort for the desperation pad save with about 11 minutes left painfully reinforced the likelihood that it just wouldn’t be Boston’s night.

A few minutes later, that sinking feeling came to fruition.

Brayden Schenn delivered a dagger with 8:35 left, and somewhat fittingly, former Pinkerton Academy star Zach Sanford pounded the final nail in the coffin with a goal to make it 4-0 with only 4:38 remaining.

That’s when it officially dawned on even the most optimistic Boston supporter: This wasn’t going to be like 2013 against the Maple Leafs. This wasn’t the 2004 Red Sox. This wasn’t 28-3.

This was over. And it’s a tough team to bid farewell.

Every postgame interview video in the Boston locker room illustrated the genuine anguish of falling one win short of the ultimate goal.

Chara and Patrice Bergeron embody the character of this team, and they were both playing through noticeable pain.

“They’re the ultimate leaders. They’re incredible people, incredible teammates,” Marchand said. “What they put themselves through for this team, it’s impressive.”

The veteran leadership combined with young talent paved the way to a winning product and a  chemistry that screamed contender. It made Boston’s shortcomings in the most important moments even tougher to endure.

“It’s just how close we are – we were – as a team,” Bergeron said. “We didn’t quit all year. We battled. We fought our way back from Toronto, and Columbus also. We kept going and kept pushing.”

Then Bergeron paused and shrugged his shoulders.

“Right now, whatever we say, it doesn’t matter. It is what it is,” he said. “I’m proud of the guys. I’m proud of everyone for the way that we’ve competed … but then we don’t get the result.”

A devastating end to a delightful ride.

(Jason Orfao can be reached at jorfao@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JasonOrfao)




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