Bruins early exit nothing new for defending champions

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We’re going to have to wait at least a little longer to see a defending Stanley Cup champion successfully defend their title. The last team to do that was the Detroit Red Wings, who won in 1997 and 1998. The Bruins won’t even come close to matching that feat as Boston was booted from the playoffs by the Washington Capitals after just one round. However, if Boston Bruins fans are upset at their team’s encore performance, perhaps they can take comfort in the fact that they’re not alone.

Including Boston, seven of the last nine defending Stanley Cup champions have been unable to advance beyond the first round of the postseason. The exceptions are the Detroit Red Wings, who made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals in 2009 before ultimately falling after winning the Cup in 2008, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were eliminated in the second round of the 2010 playoffs after winning it all in 2009.

Fatigue might be a factor seeing as winning the Stanley Cup means a shorter off-season. However, there’s another factor too: parity. Thanks to the salary cap, the gap between teams has shrunk and the difference between a squad coming off a Stanley Cup run and any other team that makes the playoffs usually isn’t that monstrous anymore. In the same vein, a seventh or eighth seed team is a serious threat, especially if they happen to have a hot goaltender, as the Bruins can no doubt attest.