BOSTON -- Its difficult to make arguments that the better team didnt win in a playoff series that set a league-record with each of the seven games ultimately being decided by a one-goal margin.
So the Bruins didnt try that after falling to the Washington Capitals in overtime, 2-1, on Wednesday night when Joel Ward banged home the game-winner at the TD Garden. The Bruins scored one goal or less four times in the series, dropped three games on home ice and held the lead after the first period only once in the seven games series.
Instead the Capitals frustrated the Bruins with their shot-blocking and defense around goaltender Braden Holtby. In each game, they simply packed in their defense once theyd built up a lead.
It happens a lot, right? I think both teams battled very hard, said Tim Thomas when asked if he was surprised how close the series remained up until the bitter end. They stuck to their game plan. They made it very difficult for us to generate any offense or any momentum with the style that they played.
What it says about our guys is that theyre battlers and theyre . . . well . . . theyre still champions. And they gave everything they had to the bitter end. Unfortunately this is sports and they fell short this time.
Dale Hunter deserved a great deal of credit for getting the oft-times selfish and stat-oriented Capitals players to buy into the defensive system he was selling. The proof was in the pudding during the tightest seven game series in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Claude Julien was asked about a missed chance on a power play at the end of the third period that could have clinched it for Boston, but his answer drifted into an admission that the Capitals were the team that deserved to advance.
When you look at the whole picture, I think it was more than not scoring on power plays, said Claude Julien. At the end of the series, you look at their team, and you look at ours, and they were the better team. They had more guys going than we did, and they played us tough.
At times during the series the Bruins showed the physicality and emotion that marks their game at the height of its powers, and both Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin heated up offensively at different points in the seven game series. But Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand never truly found their way offensively, and none of the Bruins could consistently get to the net to fluster 22-year-old Caps goaltender.
Even Thomas had his moments of weakness while barely cracking the top 10 in save percentage among playoff goaltenders. Neither of the two goals scored in Wednesdays series finale against the Bruins were Thomas' fault, but the fact remains that he wasn't good enough to carry his team to the next round. None of the Bruins were. It's why they're out of the running to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.