We fully expected the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens to jostle for position all the way to the end of this series. The 34th playoff installment of this rivalry culminated on Wednesday night, and the winner would have earned the right to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
There was no safety net for either team on this night; one of these teams was moving on and the other would be heading home for the summer. Everything was going to be left out on the ice. Also, it is worth noting that this was the ninth game-seven meeting between these two teams, a record for all sports.
Game 7, arguably the two greatest words in all of sports, went to the Canadiens. Despite what we may think, they played like they wanted this more. Sure, the Bruins had their struggles, but you have to give credit where credit is due.
Now, it is time to criticize.
All throughout the playoffs, the B’s first line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Jarome Iginla could have been considered invisible. During the regular season, the trio posted 73 goals and 116 assists combined. Not too bad, right?
When the playoffs roll around, that is the time where the most productive offensive weapons are supposed to thrive on the big stage and produce. Through the first two rounds, the B’s top line combined for 18 total points.
The most stifling and head-scratching performance came from Krejci. He had no goals and just four assists in the 2013-14 playoffs. He has led the Bruins in points during their last two Stanley Cup runs, so it is easy to point the finger at the catalyst. Krejci has put an enormous amount of pressure on himself to be Boston’s biggest threat in the postseason.
One of the biggest surprises for the Bruins during the playoffs was the emergence of the third line. The two staples on that line were Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. They were put together after Eriksson returned from his second concussion, and they instantly started clicking.
The lone problem was to find the proper left winger that would mesh well and compliment the Swedish combination. Daniel Paille, Jordan Caron, and Justin Florek were tolerable options, but Matt Fraser became a force since being recalled from Providence to fill that void.
Fraser, who also came over to Boston from Dallas in the Tyler Seguin trade, played in 14 regular-season games in which he recorded a pair of goals. In four games this postseason, he posted two points, including the game-winning goal in overtime at Montreal in game four.
This line was red hot in the second round against Montreal. They combined for 10 points in the series, six of them coming in game five.
Chris Kelly was out of the lineup for the Bruins since April 8 due to back spasms. However, Fraser has proved that he is a capable player on that third line. The coaching staff will have an interesting decision to make if Kelly returns next season.
Lastly, Tuukka Rask made the saves he needed to make in the series, but he was outplayed by Carey Price. Rask posted a .928 save percentage and 1.99 goals against average in 12 games this postseason, which is solid. However, it was not enough to bring a title back to Boston.
We will see the Habs next year, but it is time to move on and focus on the big picture. The new task at hand is concentrating on the offseason.
Many of the big questions will be answered in the upcoming months: Will Adam McQuaid be with the team come September? Will the Bruins add more speed up front? Will Iginla get a contract extension? Is Chad Johnson a worthy backup?
For now, let’s enjoy the rest of the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Bruins can now do the same.