By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Be honest, Bruins fans. If I had told you prior to this first-round series against the Ottawa Senators – a team who had a 0-3-1 record against you in the regular season, that you would have a hard fought, three overtime games series in which you had key contributions from kids who were barely on the radar during the regular season – you likely would have taken that in a heartbeat just two weeks ago, right?
And if you are honest with yourself, you knew that anything more than an interesting first-round playoff series against the Sens was gravy – following two years of watching the NHL’s second season from the outside looking in – so you must admit, it is difficult to find fault with a team that little was expected of, and that pretty much over delivered, agreed?
Just to put things in perspective, the Bruins entered game six, a win or go home game, with exactly one NHL level line. Their top threesome of Patrice Bergeron, between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak – although among the deadliest lines in the league – was pretty much all the B’s had to offer when it came to offensive threats.
In retrospect, the rest was just a bunch of overaged Jimmies, and inexperienced Joes, that still found a way to fight to an overtime period in a game six of the playoffs. Regardless, the result of this series, should not damper your expectations going forward for this growing Bruins team.
If anything, the fact that two-thirds of the B’s regular rotation on defense spent the entire series watching on the press level, should give hope to those – this space included – who thought that the Bruins defense would take several years to fix. The emergence of Charlie McAvoy – you would be hard-pressed to make me believe that he is not a franchise defenseman in the making, based on his play in these six games – and the growth of Colin Miller, has to have the most pessimistic B’s fan thinking happy thoughts when it comes to what the future of this team could be.
As has been written in this spot several times, this playoff run was more about a forging by fire of the future of the foundation of the next Stanley Cup contending Bruins team, then it was about progressing past the first round of this year’s playoffs. As far as any rational B’s fan is concerned – and hopefully general manager Don Sweeney and team president Cam Neely feel the same – this postseason was all about seasoning, and less about seeing how deep this team went in the NHL’s second season.
The fight this team showed – being undermanned as it was – can serve as the bedrock on which to build the next great Bruins team. Anyone who doesn’t see that, doesn’t understand how far this team came in these past two weeks; even though it ended in defeat against a team they likely would have beat if they had healthy bodies to call on for the entire series, is frankly blind to the growth they displayed, or simply a pessimist in the first degree.
Nevertheless, the character that was displayed – not only from the Zdeno Chara’s, Marchand’s and Bergeron’s of the Black and Gold; but from the Sean Kuraly’s and McAvoy’s who represent the team’s future -speaks volumes about how far the rebuild on the fly is coming along for a team who was on the precipice of falling off the NHL’s relevancy cliff, just two months ago, is remarkable.
The Bruins may have lost a chance to move past the first round of the playoffs tonight, but they have begun to climb their way back into the conversation of teams who can actually challenge for a Stanley Cup in the future. And that is a step no one who had an even rudimentary understanding of the NHL would have thought possible just two months ago.