The Boston Bruins cruised through the regular season, claiming the Presidents’ Trophy, then easily dispatched of the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.
In the second round, though, the B’s finally found their match against their long-time rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.
The Bruins and Canadiens played in an NHL record ninth Game 7 on Wednesday night, but Montreal scored early and never surrendered the lead, sending the Bruins packing after just 12 postseason contests.
The Bruins certainly looked capable of going the distance this year, but now they will be left to ask what, if anything, needs to change for them to get over the hump after coming up short for the third straight campaign.
- There are reasons to believe that things will get better on their own next season for the Bruins. Those who want to make that argument will be quick to point a finger at forward Loui Eriksson. He was supposed to be the centerpiece of the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to Dallas in the summer of 2013, but suffered two concussions that really derailed his campaign. The 28-year-old forward will get a full summer to regroup and return as a bigger part of the Boston attack in 2014-15.
- The Bruins’ young defense, led by Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, and Kevan Miller also seems to be coming along nicely. The trio made mistakes in this playoff run, but more than held their own for the most part.
- That’s key, because the B’s might need to start getting adjusting to life without Zdeno Chara — or at least not the Chara they’ve gotten used to. The 37-year-old defenseman averaged fewer minutes per game in the 2014 playoffs than he has in any run since 2009, despite the fact Boston was missing blueliner Dennis Seidenberg. There’s no question Chara’s still a dominant force in the NHL, but his age might start to become increasingly apparent.
- Boston’s major pending unrestricted free agent is Jarome Iginla. There’s a good chance the team will re-sign him, but it won’t be easy. The problem isn’t convincing Iginla, it’s that his 2013-14 contract was heavy on performance bonuses. The Bruins didn’t have the cap space to cover them this season, so they’ll count against the Bruins’ cap hit in 2014-15, which makes Boston’s already tight cap situation a little more difficult.
- With that in mind, even if the Bruins wanted to make significant changes, it would be hard for them to do so. They just don’t have much in the way of cap flexibility, although there’s always a chance they’ll find a way to pull off another blockbuster trade like they did last year.
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Goalie issues continue in Boston.
With both starting netminder Tuukka Rask and back-up Anton Khudobin both out of the lineup due to injury, Malcolm Subban was recalled from the AHL and given the start Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild.
But Subban, making his second career NHL start, allowed three goals on 16 shots and was pulled from the crease, giving way to his AHL teammate and fellow emergency recall Zane McIntyre.
Minnesota scored three times in the span of 5:29, which resulted in an early exit for Subban, the 24th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.
Subban’s lone NHL start didn’t go well, either. He gave up three goals on six shots in 31 minutes.
For those Maple Leafs fans who once hoped Steven Stamkos would go to free agency and sign in Toronto, what transpired Tuesday will probably sting for a bit.
Playing in Toronto for the first time since he re-signed with the Lightning, opting not to test the open market and potentially signing with what is essentially his hometown team, Stamkos scored 1:19 into the contest, after getting sent in alone and beating goalie Frederik Andersen.
That one might hurt.
There was even a smattering of boos directed at Stamkos, who has never played a game for the Leafs, when he first touched the puck during Tuesday’s contest.
You’ll recall that last season, the Stamkos-to-Toronto speculation dominated headlines at times. A bit of a “circus,” indeed.
There were even ‘Sign Stamkos’ signs being handed out to fans prior to a game between the Lightning and Maple Leafs last season.
All signs pointed to it happening earlier in the day, but it is now official: Sidney Crosby is making his 2016-17 debut on Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Florida Panthers.
Crosby, the captain of the Penguins and the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, missed the first six games of the season due to a concussion. He was injured during practice following the World Cup of Hockey where he led Canada to a championship. Given how much time he missed a few years ago with a concussion only missing six games a positive development for both him and the Penguins.
Crosby will open the game skating on the Penguins’ top line alongside wingers Patric Hornqvist and Scott Wilson.
Along with Crosby return to the lineup, goaltender Matt Murray is also in uniform for the Penguins for the first time this season and will serve as Marc-Andre Fleury‘s backup.
Murray, who took over the starting job in the playoffs last year when Fleury was sidelined at the start of the first round, was injured at the World Cup while playing for Team North America and has been sidelined since.
Even with the return of Crosby and Murray on Tuesday the Penguins are still missing a pretty significant player as defenseman Kris Letang remains sidelined with an upper body injury.
The Buffalo Sabres visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. This match-up features two teams off to slow starts and looking to work their way up the standings in their respective divisions.
You can check out the action on NBCSN or the NBC Sports’ Live Extra (7:30 pm ET).
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
Flyers put Raffl (upper body) on IR
NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Flyers; Ducks vs. Sharks
Bylsma: ‘We need to get more’ out of Reinhart