BOSTON – After a hard-fought playoff series, the losing dressing room is always a difficult place full of raw nerves and heavy emotions.
That is magnified a hundred fold when it’s a team that was stunned in the final 76 seconds of a Stanley Cup Final elimination game. So it was with the Boston Bruins after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Chicago Blackhawks on their TD Garden ice on Monday.
A range of emotions were on display when the Bruins room was opened long minutes after the game had been decided, and the teary eyes on the inside were juxtaposed with the cheering Blackhawks fans celebrating with Chicago's players on TD Garden ice.
David Krejci was still armed in his hockey equipment and full uniform, sitting in his locker stall and staring directly ahead as he spoke with watery eyes about the chance to win another Cup that had just gone by the boards.
“It felt like we had it, you know? It feels like we lost it. We had a Game 7 in front of us,” he said. “It was right there. I felt we played a pretty good game, and we lost it. We just gave it to them, basically.”
For Krejci the loss was that much more painful, as he was one of the five Bruins skaters on the ice that seemed rattled after the game-tying goal from Bryan Bickell and allowed the Blackhawks to tally the game-tying strike just 17 seconds later.
Johnny Boychuk was also on the ice and was beaten to the loose puck in front by Dave Bolland for the game-winner. His thunderstruck expression following the loss spoke volumes.
“It’s a bad feeling. Bad, like an awful feeling. You can’t really describe it,” Boychuk said. “As a player, it’s probably one of the worst feelings you can get when you are up by one goal with a minute and twenty left and somehow you lose the game. It’s just like a total shock.”
Boychuk, who played like an All-Star during the playoff run with six goals and the most blocked shots of any playoff player, was asked how long the loss would stick.
“Forever," he said. "You are going to remember forever. You remember winning it, but I think you remember losing it a little bit more, now that we have had that happen.”
Tyler Seguin spoke long after the media had been cleared out of the Bruins dressing room, and wasn’t afraid to admit that he had a good, long cry after the sudden demise of their Cup hopes. He was far from alone among a group of Bruins players that consider themselves a family.
“I’ve never felt anything like this. I’ve never cried for as long as I’ve known until tonight. It sucks, but I love the guys in this locker room,” said Seguin. “I’m going to miss them this offseason, but I’m going to make sure I’m working even harder for next year.
“We wear so much pride on our jersey, and we fight for each other. This city deserved for us to do that, and for us to give it our all. No regrets. It’s been a very long, short year I guess you could say. We need to take this rest, and obviously get our conditioning back up and get ready for training camp.”
Guys like Boychuk, Krejci, Seguin and Bergeron were joined by Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Tuukka Rask and Andrew Ference to answer all of the questions and bare their hurting souls after the kind of defeat that will stick with them forever. Unfortunately it’s not exactly new territory for a Bruins team that has gone through disappointment and playoff heartbreak before, but that just means they’ll be able to harness that raw, scarred emotion and turn it into something that will motivate them moving forward.
The Bruins rebounded to win a Cup a year removed from their worst ever playoff experience when they collapsed from a 3-0 lead against the Flyers, but that pain has been replaced with a fresh wound delivered by the Blackhawks.
Once the hurt begins to heal up, a strong core of Bruins players should have exactly the kind of motivation they’ll need headed into next season.