The loyalists in the overpriced seats at Boston’s TD Garden for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference first-round should’ve-been shellacking between the hometown Bruins and barely made it into the postseason Florida Panthers went from agitated, to full-on bittah in booing the 135-point getters in the regular season. The record 65 regular-season wins, 135 points, and the 22-point margin to the second-best pre-playoffs team made a series against the Panthers look like a cakewalk on paper. And after Carter Verhaeghe’s overtime wrist shot beat replacement goaltender Jeremy Swayman clean over his left shoulder and under the crossbar, David Pastrňák, and his friends can start practicing his golf swing. And if history is any indicator, that’s a good thing for Boston.
No, I’m not drunk on Sam Adams or whatever was thrown into the Habah during the Revolutionary War. The only recent example that compares to this year’s Bruins’ squad was the 2018-19 Lightning. Tampa Bay had 128 points to end the regular season, 21 better than the next-best team. The Lightning finished the regular season and their overall campaign with 62 victories. That’s right, for those who actually were/are drunk on Sam Adams, cheers, and welcome to Deadspin! Also, Tampa Bay was swept in the first round by the lowly Blue Jackets. And most of those four games weren’t close. The next time Tampa lost a playoff series was just over 10 months ago. Two straight Stanley Cup victories and a runner-up finish to the Avalanche followed the extreme disappointment. And Boston was one lucky bounce a few times during the series from bouncing the Panthers from the postseason.
A look into Boston’s future
There’s no reason Boston can’t replicate Tampa’s model, even with the uncertainty as to whether Patrice Bergeron has played his final NHL game, and any questions in net. The Bruins loaded up ahead of the trade deadline and keeping the core of the team together should be easy. And whatever pieces move on, there aren’t many more attractive cities to play in for an NHL player. The postseason is a crapshoot as is. Going to a team nearly guaranteed to participate in the playoff festivities next season should allow Boston to bring in any player it wants. One of the players the Bruins need to keep is defender Dmitry Orlov, who was acquired at the trade deadline. Orlov’s slap shot late in the third period grazed the shoulder blade of Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and the post. Maybe a centimeter in a different direction and Boston takes a late-two-goal lead and it advances to face Toronto in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Boston’s first-round exit is shocking in a postseason that feels like a changing of the guard in the Eastern Conference when three of the four teams remaining on its side of the bracket could be Florida, Toronto, and New Jersey after Monday evening, just as everyone predicted. The Bruins not crapping their pants would keep things the same, a year after Tampa also exited the playoffs in the first round, and old-standards Washington, and Pittsburgh didn’t even advance to the postseason. As gut-wrenching as the Bruins’ loss on Sunday might be short-term, it’s proven to yield great results in the long run.