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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bruins Painfully Bow Out of the 2017 NHL Playoffs With a 3-2 Overtime Loss to the Senators

With so many injuries piling up seemingly every day to important players, we knew that the Bruins were a fatally flawed team (not to go deeper into their uneven roster to begin with). A Stanley Cup seemed very unlikely this spring but it was still a major bummer to see them lose Game 6 of their first-round playoff series today at TD Garden, 3-2 in OT to Ottawa, so the Senators took the series 4-2 and advance to play the Rangers in the second round. You won't find a much tighter six games than that since every tilt was decided by one goal including four of them in overtime(s). Ottawa went 3-1 in the extra session(s) and Clarke MacArthur forever etched his name in Senators history by scoring the power play goal that ended this one at 6:30.

You can always play the what-if game but it makes you wonder how much of a difference defensemen Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo (not to mention Adam McQuaid who was hurt in Game 2) and center David Krejci who missed Games 1, 2 and 6 would have made when Ottawa cumulatively outscored Boston just 15-13 over these six games. Boston's lack of depth eventually caught up to them along with the fact that Ottawa's power play (5-for-23, 21.7%) was better than Boston's (3-for-16, 18.8%) in this series. Senators superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson is actually playing with two hair-line fractures in his foot (surprisingly revealed by head coach Guy Boucher after this win) but you'd hardly know it by the way he played with a series-best six assists.

For only the second time in the six games, Boston actually scored first (both by Drew Stafford) but in each instance, they ended up losing in overtime which is a real kick in the hockey pants. Stafford scored a power play goal of his own at 18:13 of the first period when he blasted a shot past Craig Anderson (28 saves). Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy assisted on Stafford's second goal of the postseason. Bobby Ryan, who was also a completely random force all series-long, tied it early in the second period with a power play goal at 3:26. He tipped in Derick Brassard's shot which was also assisted by Karlsson for Ryan's series-best fourth tally of the series.

Kyle Turris gave Ottawa a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later as he ripped the puck by Tuukka Rask (26 saves) after Stafford had failed to clear the puck out of Boston's defensive zone. It was Turris' first goal of the postseason and rookie Ryan Dzingel's first career NHL playoff point. Fittingly facing elimination, the B's played one of their best frames of the entire series in the third period. They outshot Ottawa 12-3 and tied it at 1:57 on Bergeron's putback of a juicy Anderson rebound. Bergy's second goal of the postseason was assisted by Marchand and Miller. With the way that the ice was tilted their way not to mention all the momentum behind them with their home fans going wild, the Bruins should have ended it right there in regulation. You never want to leave your fate up to overtime, especially in this unwanted situation.

David Pastrnak was called for the holding penalty that preceded MacArthur's game-winner and truthfully, it was the correct call. Rask made the initial save but MacArthur was nearby to blast in the rebound for the undoubtedly biggest goal of his life. If you need something to make you feel a tiny bit better as a Bruins fan, MacArthur's career was nearly ended by concussions so this is someone that is impossible to root against if you have any sort of heart. Ryan and Brassard had the assists on his second goal of the playoffs. Karlsson dominating is one predictable outcome but who would have expected Ryan (4 goals, 3 assists) and Brassard (2 goals, 6 assists) to offensively outplay Bergeron (2 goals, 2 assists) and Marchand (1 goal, 3 assists)?

There is plenty of time to worry about the future of this team with the NHL draft, expansion draft and free agency all looming this summer. Interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said after this contest that he "absolutely wants to be here moving forward, 100%," so I think that his extension will be announced any day now. With the way that he bounced back this season, I believe that captain Zdeno Chara will want to return next fall (and not retire) but other than that, your guess is as good as mine when it comes to moves and signings although I'm confident that Pastrnak will get a long-term deal here soon.

It was great to have some NHL playoff hockey back in our lives, let's hope that it's not another three years (or god forbid more) until the next postseason appearance for the B's. With all the talented young guys, led by Pastrnak and 19-year-old rookie defeneseman Charlie McAvoy, there is plenty to be excited about. They have a bigger infusion of quality newcomers than I can ever remember in the five years that I've been covering them (for what that's worth).

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