By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON Perhaps everybody should have seen this coming after the bar was set ridiculously low by the Bruins general manager and head coach over the past week of feverishplayoff anticipation.
Both Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien happily agreed prior to last nights Game One that advancing past the second round of the playoffs the spot thats proven to be Bostons bugaboo over the last two Stanley Cup campaigns would signify a sufficiently successful postseason run.
We entered this year coming off of that disappointing end against Philadelphia and thats been an underlying theme of the year, to be able to respond, to be able to build from that, said Chiarelli in a conference call leading up to the playoffs. So the obvious answer is get past the second round but its more than that.
Its about how we play, its about how we compete and there a lot of variables that go in a playoff run and I expect us to have a successful one.
Well, pardon us for the bluntness but thats just a losers mentality.
Its all about the Cup, and only about the Cup.
That would be like the Red Sox saying theyre be satisfied with simply winning the A.L. East over the Yankees, or the Patriots declaring theyd be pleased as punch if they pushed it all the way to the conference finals.
It sounds so strange put in that context that the Bruins goals and aspirations seem to border on the ridiculous. It's tantamount to saying losing at some point is okay.
Its apretty simple concept: Bruins brass should say the Stanley Cup is the only barometer for success and failure; say the Stanley Cup is the only option.
Or say, as Bs president Cam Neely did to CSNNE.com earlier in the week, that the team is simply focusing on one game at a time against the hated Habs, and that the end result to the game-to-game approachshould becapturing the Cup. Insteam Neely stomped away red-faced and rankled from the B's management box following last night's crap sandwich of a game.
Chiarelli and Julien didnt say any of those things, though.
The fear now is that this skewed view of postseason hopes has infected Bruins players. That strangely passive approach to the postseason from the B's front office and brain trust seemed to spill over onto the roster in the opening night of the series as key players like Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton thought it was okay to simply disappear -- or never really appear at all -- in a 2-0 loss to the Canadiens at TD Garden.Many of the players seemed to indicate they played a "pretty good game" against the Canadiens in Game One, but "pretty good" doesn't get it done in playoff hockey.
Brad Marchand was one of the few Bruins really making things happen in the offensive zone as he finished with a team-high six shots on net and enjoyed several Grade-A scoring chances in the first two periods. But the Bs agitator couldnt pull the trigger on a wide-open chance by the right post after a brilliant cross-ice pass from Tomas Kaberle, and the Black and Gold didn't see another equally good chance for the remainder of the game.
It was a moment of rookie nerves affecting the natural scorers touch that allowed him to top 20 goals this season, and Marchand admitted afterward that he rushed a shot too open to be true.
It was a perfect pass. But I just tried to, I rushed it a bit, said Marchand. I should have tried to stop it and I would have had a wide-open net. But I just rushed it a bit.
It is frustrating. You feel like you kind of let the team down. You had opportunities like that and you didnt bury. You can say what if, but at the end of the day there is tomorrow and we have to be ready for that, focus on that and then be ready for the next game. We cant hang our heads here,
Atleast Marchand was skating hard and creating chances against an overmatched Montreal defensive pairing of Brent Sopel and Jaroslav Spacek. The Habs' twosome had some serious difficulty containing Patrice Bergerons line, one of Boston's few bright spots that could serve as a sign of good things to come.
Unfortunately there were more of Marchands teammates that were cool make that way too cool in their first game of the "new" season.
Sure Lucic finally got on the board with a pair of shots in the third period, but Bostons tone-setter was nowhere to be found during the opening 40 minutes -- either physically or on the scoreboard. More than once the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Lucic was blown off the puck -- or knocked on his backside -- by the 6-foot, 212-pound PK Subban. The entire Bruins first line was shut down by the Habs' rookie defender and Hal Gill in a dispiritingly quiet performance.
Both Krejci and Lucic had zero shots on net through two periods, as scores of Bs bodies stood around watching Zdeno Chara fire shots straight into Carey Prices CH logo on his chest for five of his 31 saves.
We didnt capitalize in the second period, said Julien of a period where the Bs outshot the Habs by an 18-6 margin. We had some great opportunities, but I think there are reasons for lack of goals. I dont think we did a very good job of taking away his Price's vision.
He saw a lot of shots tonight and he saw a lot of pucks. We definitely have to get better in that area if we plan on scoring some goals. We had some quality chances as well that we didnt capitalize on. When you get those quality chances, you have to make sure you bury those.
There was also the potentially toxic defensive pairing of Kaberle and Dennis Seidenberg on the ice for both of Brian Giontas Montreal goals, and the continued aimless wanderings of Kaberle away from the Boston crease.
The ex-Maple Leafs defenseman once again proved he could use an electric dog collar wrapped around his neck to zap him and keep him from straying away from the front of the net prematurely after making an ill-advised hard puck reversal behind the net in the first period.
Kaberle compounded his mistake by assuming Seidenberg was going to be able to handle the grenade tossed at him.
That led to Montreals first goal by Brian Gionta all alone in front of the net, and allowed the Canadiens to simply back into the packed-down prevent defense for the remainder of the game.
The loss wasnt the end of the world by any means. It wasnt a terrible effort by the Black and Gold. But it also wasnt nearly good enough to win in the playoffs and certainly wasnt strong enough to help achieve Chiarelli and Julien'sflawedcrusade: Conference Finals or Bust.
The Bruins need more bodies around the net, more traffic to make Price uncomfortable and more of a commitment from their best players to use their inherent size and strength advantages against the quicker, smaller Habs.
We had a lot of chances. Weve got to find a way, said Patrice Bergeron. Obviously Price is a great goalie, and he cant see the puck like that. Weve got to make sure we get in front of him and get some traffic. It doesnt have to be the prettiest goal, we just need to put the puck in.
Its clear Chiarelli and Julien are sticking with their modest postseason goals with job security in mind, but thats not working for anybody elseafter the first 60 minutes of what's sure to be a hotly contested series.
Its time to head back to the drawing board, and for Chiarelli, Julien, Lucic, Kaberle and the rest of the Bruins to reassess their Stanley Cup aspirations before they fall woefully short.