James O'Brien

Claude Julien, Scott Kozari

Julien: ‘When you don’t make the playoffs, you’ve failed’


The unthinkable was made official on Saturday as the Boston Bruins were eliminated from the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Perhaps the best phrasing would be “the Bruins failed to make the playoffs,” as that word seemed to come up pretty often as key members of the team reacted to their postseason run ending.

“Everybody’s pretty down right now,” Head coach Claude Julien said. “When you don’t make the playoffs, as you know, you’ve failed.”

Brad Marchand echoed such a thought, deeming the 2014-15 campaign “a failure of a season,” according to WEEI’s DJ Bean.

Then again, maybe Marchand and Julien jumped to the “acceptance” phase of grieving while others haven’t quite made it there yet. More than a few Bruins seem stuck in “confusion.”

Zdeno Chara said it’s “tough to find words” to explain the letdown while Patrice Bergeron seemed in the middle: knowing that they failed, but not completely comprehending the turn of events.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, they have a longer-than-usual offseason to contemplate what went wrong … and then maybe address what needs to change.

Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, honestly got a little dark:

Tough times.

Here are your Western Conference playoff matchups

Nashville Predators v Chicago Blackhawks

Want to read up on the East’s matchups? Click here.

The Western Conference lacked the East’s drama on Saturday, as the biggest jaw-dropper happened on Thursday instead. Let’s take a look at the four series in the West’s first round.

With a tight win against the Arizona Coyotes tonight, the Anaheim Ducks nabbed the first spot in the West (they clinched the Pacific long ago). They won’t get an easy draw despite this designation, however, as the Winnipeg Jets come in as one of the hottest teams with Ondrej Pavelec riding a stunning wave of success.

The St. Louis Blues managed to win a typically brutal Central Division before tonight’s win against the Minnesota Wild, their first-round opponent. Considering all the players resting in Saturday’s contest, that didn’t really qualify as much of a primer for what could be a skin-tight series.

Closing out the Pacific side, you have another all-Canada series as the Vancouver Canucks take on the Calgary Flames. The two franchises haven’t met since Calgary won a seven-game series on its way to losing in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, and the series’ best days really came with three straight postseason squabbles from 1982-1984. The Flames have won four of six postseason meetings, yet the Canucks play the role of favorites this time around.

The Central Division’s No. 2 vs. 3 match is captivating, as the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks both had very real chances to win the top spot. Instead, they fell short and must gut out what could be a thrilling series, especially since Patrick Kane seems like a long-shot to play. Predators fans probably haven’t forgotten out a tough series loss to Chicago back in 2010.

Shining Star: Benn wins Art Ross Trophy in dying seconds

St Louis Blues v Dallas Stars

Much like playoff berths, the Art Ross Trophy came down to the last minute. Actually, it was the last second, as Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn barely won it on a Saturday.

The 25-year-old generated a four-point night to hit 87, edging John Tavares’ 86 and Sidney Crosby’s 84. Benn came into the night tied with Tavares at 83, so it was a brisk final chase.

Benn’s third point on Saturday was a pretty fluky empty-net goal:

Tavares would have taken the scoring title in a tie since he had the goals tie-breaker, so Benn made sure that happened by assisting on a Cody Eakin with just nine seconds remaining against the Nashville Predators:

Benn needed a ridiculous finish to jump up the points leaderboard, and he did it. He scored a ridiculous 10 points in a three-game span, and it’s almost as impressive when you go back further (including 16 points in seven contests). Really, Benn has been on fire since the middle of January.

Barely edging Tavares in such dramatic fashion makes this photo from the 2014 Olympics that much more fun to deploy:

source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Tavares can one-up Benn in future conversations since his New York Islanders made the playoffs this season, but his Stars counterpart takes home the hardware.

(And he probably doesn’t care that 87 points stand as the lowest full-season Art Ross output since Gordie Howe’s 86 in 1962-63, either.)

Update: The NHL released details on the other award winners based on regular season results (rather than any form of voting). Along with confirming Benn as the Art Ross Trophy winner and Alex Ovechkin as the Maurice Richard champ – he smoked everyone else with 53 goals – it turns out that the William Jennings will be split between goalies Carey Price and Corey Crawford.

Some more details in that regard from the NHL:

The Blackhawks and Canadiens finished the regular season tied with a League-low 189 goals allowed, and Crawford and Price saw the most action for their respective teams. This marks the first time that goaltenders on two teams claimed the Jennings Trophy since 2002-03, when New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur and Philadelphia’s Roman Cechmanek and Robert Esche captured Jennings honors after the Devils and Flyers tied for the League’s lowest goals-against total.

Smooth like Sutter: Penguins clinch spot, boot Bruins from playoffs

Pittsburgh Penguins v Buffalo Sabres

With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line, one would expect Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby to take over against the Buffalo Sabres. Instead, it was Brandon Sutter.

His two goals powered a huge 2-0 win for Pittsburgh, who clinched a playoff spot while eliminating the Boston Bruins in the process. With this, all 16 postseason teams have been accounted for as the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs approach.

The Penguins let out a big sigh of relief when Sutter scored the 1-0 goal. His second tally might have been more impressive in a way, as he returned to the ice after taking a shot to the face to put in a big insurance tally.

It was tense at times for the Penguins, as the Sabres stuck with them even as Pittsburgh steadily out-shot them. One assumes that more than a few Pittsburgh fans had a “here we go again” feeling about a nice set of chances amounting to nothing, but Buffalo couldn’t put up much of an attack. Marc-Andre Fleury ended one of his better individual seasons with his 34th win.

To some extent, it felt like the Penguins carried an air of fatigue – only have five defensemen dressed is a succinct reminder of their issues – yet they’re likely glad to avoid a premature vacation. It’s easy to forget that the Penguins just continued quite the run of success because it was so close to falling through:

The Bruins would surely beg for the Penguins problems right now. Instead, they’ll miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Around the Internet, people are really giving it to the Bruins for putting first-round playoff tickets on sale in late March. Ouch.

Update: The Bruins fell 3-2 via a shootout against the Lightning in a game that became increasingly irrelevant for both teams.

Momentary relief: Sutter gives Penguins 1-0 lead

San Jose Sharks v Pittsburgh Penguins

As of this writing, the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning traded goals in a high-stakes game on NBCSN. It remains to be seen if Boston will be able to control its destiny, however, as the Pittsburgh Penguins will enter the third period against the Buffalo Sabres with a 1-0 lead.

Brandon Sutter’s 20th goal might not be of the highlight reel variety, but it was a work of art for anxious Penguins fans:

If that ends up being Sutter’s fourth game-winner of the season, the Penguins will clinch a playoff berth and boot Boston. A lot can change in the meantime, though.