Seeds of Bruins' loss were planted at trade deadline

Seeds of Bruins' loss were planted at trade deadline
May 16, 2014, 11:30 am
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BOSTON -- There isn’t one single reason that the Boston Bruins -- who, with a loaded roster full of talented players, had much higher aspirations in this postseason -- fell to the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Tuukka Rask was outplayed by Carey Price over the balance of the series. David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand never really showed up offensively. The Bruins' fourth line was dominated by Montreal's revamped fourth line. Key players such as Zdeno Chara (fractured finger) and Jarome Iginla (high ankle sprain) appeared to have been slowed by injuries. That paved the way for Montreal’s superstars (Price and P.K. Subban) to dominate Boston’s stars, and help carry Les Habitants to victory.

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But there was more to it than that. The seeds for the Habs' playoff victory by have been planted by another Montreal victory over Boston two months earlier: At the trade deadline.

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin picked up Dale Weise, Mike Weaver and Thomas Vanek prior to the March deadline, and all three players filled major roles in the series. Weise, who was dealt to Montreal by the Canucks for defenseman Raphael Diaz, potted three goals and contributed more than any role player in the series. Weaver was acquired from Florida for a fifth-round pick, and the shot-blocking veteran helped solidify the defense corps with his gritty, fearless play. Then there was Vanek, who had an up-and-down series against the Bruins but still ended up leading both teams with five goals scored. Bergevin picked him up from the Islanders for a second-round pick and Sebastien Collberg, with the understanding that free agent-to-be Vanek is likely headed elsewhere once the season has ends.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, on the other hand, made only two minor moves to at the deadline: Landing Andrej Meszaros from Philadelphia for a third-round pick, and plucking Corey Potter off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers. Both were non-factors in the postseason: Meszaros was benched in place of the struggling Matt Bartkowski against the Canadiens, and Potter went down with a shoulder injury after appearing in the first round against the Detroit Red Wings.

While Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug played very well in both rounds of the playoffs, the two other young defensemen, Bartkowski and Kevan Miller, had their problems against Montreal. Miller appeared a little nervous in the games at the Bell Centre and made some mistakes that put the Bruins in early deficits. Bartkowski, of course, was called repeatedly for holding calls against the speedy Canadiens, and blew the coverage in front of the net on the Weise goal in Game 7 that set the tone for the evening.

The Bruins could have used an experienced defenseman or two like Weaver. They could have used a top-six forward like Vanek, someone who -- unlike the top-line Bruins in this series -- would actually finish off plays that opened up for them. The Bruins might not have had any use for a grinder like Weise, but he easily outplayed everybody on the more highly respected and decorated fourth line for Boston.

Chiarelli famously said immediately after the passed deadline that the Bruins are “never the anointed team at the trade deadline” and that was fine with him. But it’s not fine anymore, not after Bergevin and the Habs beat Boston to the punch for useful roster players . . . and those players ended up being a big part of the reason that Boston’s season is over.

Chiarelli and the Bruins should do whatever they can to make sure that doesn’t happen again, given the short window of opportunity this current edition of the B’s -- led by 37-year-old Zdeno Chara -- has to win more Stanley Cups.