Bruins struggle to wrap their heads around loss

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Bruins struggle to wrap their heads around loss

The reality was painful for some players, and perhaps a relief to others. After playing 196 hockey games over the last 17 months, the Bruins find themselves eliminated from the first round of the playoffs for the first time since Claude Juliens first season in Boston.

The series loss to the Capitals was one they were favored to win as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. They had dreams of repeating as Cup champs dancing through their heads, but it wasnt meant to be.

The reality was more than some could wrap their brains around in the home dressing room after it was all over.

We . . . were kinda used to going on all the way, you know? said Johnny Boychuk. To be done now its like . . . its kind of hard to even understand. Its like you cant even believe its over right now.

Dennis Seidenberg was one of the few Bruins players that excelled at a high level throughout the seven-game series, a credit to his mental toughness and the genius of German engineering. But even he said it was stunning to think there will be no practice or team meetings for the Bruins on Thursday.

Its such a weird feeling. You play hard and its a tight game and suddenly a bounce goes against you. Suddenly the seasons over, said Seidenberg. For the first few minutes, and even right now, youre wondering what time practice is tomorrow. But there is no practice. I mean its going to be a long summer and we have to get ready for next year again.

In some ways perhaps a first round exit isnt such a bad thing in terms of motivation. The Bruins have enjoyed five straight seasons of playoff appearances and climbed the mountaintop to win the Stanley Cup last season. A reminder of how difficult the path can be was probably in order.

So now the Bruins think about things for a couple of days. They will say their final goodbyes on Friday while they pack up their bags, conduct exit interviews, and get their final physicals. Then theyll be scattered off to the four corners of the world while eight NHL teams continue on a journey the Bruins fully expected to be taking once again.

Sometimes its not so bad to be denied what you want, and it should make for a revamped Bruins team thats just a little more dialed in next year.

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

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Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while in disbelief mode that the summer is almost over.

*Good piece on the remainders of the Hartford Whalers organization in Connecticut trying to keep the dream alive for the Whale.

*Tyler Seguin sits down for a podcast this week that I freely admit I did not have the time to listen to. I wonder if Boston even rated a mention in the conversation?

*Rating the top NHL contracts, according to the fancy stats hockey analysts, sounds like an interesting exercise.

*Tracey Myers has Duncan Keith bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey while recovering from an injury, and getting replaced by Jay Boumeester.

*The “Da Beauty” Hockey League has kept players like Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh and David Backes in hockey shape this summer while slowly getting ready for the season.

*The Arizona Coyotes make a historic hire by naming Dawn Braid as skating coach, making her the first female coach in the NHL.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb guested on the #DORK podcast this week, and it sounds like he didn’t love “Stranger Things.” At the very least he liked “Preacher” better. I thought Preacher was entertaining, but I didn’t even think it was in the same stratosphere as Stranger Things. Rich also has me wanting to watch “It Follows” now, however, after his endorsement.

 

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.