RALEIGH, N.C. — The Boston Bruins needed to buck the home-ice trend to advance to the second round. Instead, one of their troubling trends popped up at the worst possible time.
Teuvo Teravaninen’s doorstep tally gave the Carolina Hurricanes the 1-0 lead with 1:24 remaining in the first period of Game 7.
Talyor Hall committed an ill-advised high-sticking double-minor on the ensuing shift. The Bruins managed to go into the locker room with only a 1-0 deficit in hostile territory.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad killed the double-minor but quickly found themselves in a 2-0 hole on Max Domi’s marker.
Jake DeBrusk provided life a mere 1:50 after Domi’s first goal of the postseason. But the Bruins failed to build off DeBrusk’s third-career Game 7 tally. They entered the third period with another two-goal deficit on Domi’s second of the middle stanza shortly after Trent Frederic hit the post down the other end off the ice.
David Pastrnak cut the Bruins’ deficit to 3-2 with a little over 21 seconds remaining in regulation. But the Bruins didn’t get much puck luck in the final stanza, including Charlie Coyle missing an open net and Jaccob Slavin blocking a shot in the slot from Patrice Bergeron in the closing moments.
An off-season of uncertainty awaits the Bruins as their 2021-22 campaign comes to a close. Here’s what we learned from their season-ending 3-2 loss.
The home-road disparity reached its conclusion
More often than not, the two teams in any lengthy playoff series trade home and road wins. That didn’t happen at all with the Bruins-Hurricanes first-round matchup.
The Bruins certainly benefitted from home ice. But with the benefit of the last change, the front-running Hurricanes reach a second gear in front of their rabid faithful.
“They get the matchups they want, and it’s the same thing when we’re at home; we get the matchups that we want,” Marchand said of the Round 1 home-road dynamic. “We feed off the energy of our crowd, and they do it well here. That’s playoff hockey. That’s what you play for all year, is that home-ice advantage, and this is why, because when you’re good at home, it matters in the playoffs, and they are, and we were. And we needed to win a road game, and we didn’t.”
Cassidy and company didn’t help their cause with ill-timed defensive breakdowns during their four games at PNC Arena, beginning with Teravainen’s marker late in the first stanza.
Unlike Games 1, 2, and 5, the Bruins generated multiple quality looks on Antti Raanta, who delivered the save of the series on Hall during a 2-on-1 in the opening 20 minutes. A fortunate bounce on Frederic or Coyle’s chances could’ve also swung the momentum in Boston’s favor in a tightly-contested Game 7.
“If we bury that 2-on-1, things might change in a game like today, where it’s hard to score,” Cassidy said. “They don’t get you much, but you get the lead and it’s a little adversity now on their part.”
DeBrusk and Pastrnak gave the Bruins a little life after responding to Carolina’s second and third tallies, respectively. But it was too little too late.
The Bruins looked gassed amid their frequent uphill battles in Raleigh. And now the organization embarks on another uncertain future.
A hazy off-season awaits the Bruins
Bergeron and fellow partner in crime Brad Marchand witnessed the highest of highs and lowest of lows in their decade-plus run as linemates.
From the 2019 Stanley Cup Final to their first-round exit three years later, the feeling of elimination left a bitter taste in their mouths. This loss may linger a little longer, however.
“You only have a few opportunities at these where you have a legit chance at going far. And we thought we had that this year,” Marchand said. “So yeah, it hurts.”
In perhaps a hint of sorts, Bergeron greeted his team near the visiting tunnel, shaking his teammates’ hands as they exited the PNC Arena surface.
Now the Bruins await word on Bergeron’s future following the final year of his contract. He may wind up returning to Boston on a short-term deal. Or he may decide to sign with a Stanley Cup contender with the Bruins’ championship window possibly closed. Or he could choose to hang up the skates after 18 marvelous seasons.
As he processed another season-ending loss, the Boston captain hardly discussed his off-season approach during his postgame press conference.
“It’s too early right now… it’s too fresh obviously,” Bergeron said. “[The loss] still stings off a hard-fought series, and we came up short. Obviously, I’m going to have to think about it, but I’m not there right now.”
Beyond Bergeron’s status, the Bruins need to decide on entering rebuilding or retooling mode. They have some anchors in place to shorten the lifespan if they decide to go in either direction, including Charlie McAvoy, Jeremy Swayman, and Pastrnak, a pending unrestricted free agent in 2022-23. They also have a pair of top prospects in Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei, who will likely compete for NHL minutes within the next couple of seasons.
But the Bruins may opt to go in the rebuild or retool direction without Cassidy and general manager Don Sweeney.
Perhaps the Bruins will move on from Sweeney’s mixed history with drafting along with certain head-scratching trade and free-agent decisions. Cassidy got whatever he could out of this year’s makeshift roster, but if the Bruins want a new GM, he might want to bring in a fresh voice behind the bench.
The Bruins’ secondary scoring issues and defensive shortcomings did them in during their four road losses in Raleigh. With their championship window likely shut, they’ll need to reconstruct their roster for the future, with or without Sweeney, Cassidy, and Bergeron.
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