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May 23, 2014 | 9:33am ET
Cubs became Bruins during bridge season
By Shawn Hutcheon, TheFourthPeriod.com

BOSTON, MA -- For the second consecutive year, the season ended abruptly for the Boston Bruins on TD Garden ice, only this time the loss came at the hands of the arch rival Montreal Canadiens in a seven game Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.

It was a shocking end for a team that many, including this writer, had predicted and expected, nothing less than a second Stanley Cup championship in four years.

The Bruins had been built to win this year and were the odds on favorite to win the Stanley Cup after garnering the President's Trophy as the team with the best record in the National Hockey League.

Immediately after being eliminated from playoff contention came the now-popular blame-game. For some reason, the adage, “win as a team, lose as a team” has been forgotten and people, somehow, believe that a team of 25 players lose a game or series because of one, two, or three of it’s members.

The outcry was loud and abrasive, “trade Lucic”, “trade Marchand”, “get a goalie who can stop a puck”, and of course, “fire the coach”, came from those who like to hear themselves make noise.

To the disappointment of those calling for major changes, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli held a press conference two days after the playoffs ended in Boston and said that big trades are not in his club’s future.

“This is a very good team,” the GM said. “There are some tweaks (that need to be made) here and there but it is a very good team.”

Chiarelli has decisions to make on unrestricted free agents Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton, Chad Johnson, Andrej Meszaros, and Corey Potter.

According to team sources, Chiarelli wants to bring Iginla back for another season. The future Hall of Famer led the Black and Gold with 30 goals and as a former captain of the Calgary Flames, the winger is a leader in the dressing room.

At the club’s Break Up Day, Johnson, Meszaros and Potter said that they will let their agents handle negotiations with Boston and/or other NHL teams.

In Thornton’s case, it is becoming increasingly apparent that he has played his last game in a Bruins uniform.

His season was marred with the incident involving Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik. The Penguin’s defenseman received a concussion and Thornton received a 15 game suspension. As the season progressed, Thornton’s time on ice diminished on almost a nightly basis. In the playoffs, Thornton became the center of controversy when he squirted water into Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban’s face during Game 5 of the club’s series. An action that was frowned upon by Boston’s President Cam Neely.

“The water bottle incident is something that as an organization you don’t like to see happen to be quite honest with you.” Neely said when asked about it in a postseason press conference.

Rumors have begun to swirl concerning Marchand’s future in Boston. Sources are saying the organization will listen to inquiries about the winger during the off season.

As for those who will make up the nucleus of the Boston Bruins, coach Claude Julien’s squad has a very strong future ahead of itself.

Upon the completion of the playoffs, Julien said that the young players, especially the newer defensemen, showed signs of being nervous in Game 7 of the series versus the Canadiens.

Chiarelli agreed with his coach.

“Maybe we overestimated the youth and where they were,” he said. “They brought us to good spots and I think you’ll see in the future that these players, these young defenseman, are going to be better as a result of participating in this series.”

It makes sense that the youngsters were tense in the fiercest rivalry in all of sports while on the grand stage that is the Stanley Cup playoffs.

When the playoffs began, Torey Krug led the four fledgling defenders with 15 career playoff games under his belt. Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton had seven postseason games of experience each while Kevan Miller had yet to play a single Stanley Cup playoff contest.

When it was all said and done, for an inexperienced group, it can be said that they performed very well.

Krug finished the postseason as the Bruins leading scorer on two goals and eight assists totaling 10 points in 12 games. His 28 shots on goal tied Marchand for second on the team.

Hamilton was the club’s fifth leading scorer with seven points on two goals (including a game winning tally) of his own and five assists.

Miller tied Zdeno Chara for second place on the Bruins with 24 blocked shots.

Bartkowski, however, was a disappointment. It is believed he has played his way out of Boston but for that to happen, as a restricted free agent, the team will need to work out a deal with another club.

It is expected that blueliners Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid will return next season joining Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Hamilton, Krug, and Miller.

The experience gained by the three young defensemen will prove extremely valuable when the 2015 playoffs roll around. Add in the fact that forwards Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg, and Matt Fraser entered this year’s playoffs with a grand total of two (Soderberg played in two games last season) postseason contests on their resumes and the Boston Bruins have the makings of a very strong Stanley Cup contender again.

Looking at the team in those terms, it can be easily seen that the season in which the Bruins were built to win the Cup became Boston’s "bridge" year.

For one reason or another, some veterans with Stanley Cup rings departed, opening jobs for new, hungry players. Those new players went from being cubs to Big, Bad, Bruins in a hurry and those "nerves" that proved costly in 2014 will be harnessed and used in a positive manner for a team that could, and should, go much deeper in the march to the Stanley Cup in 2015.

Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period.


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