Digesting the Bruins’ collapse

Posted 5/3/23

The Boston Bruins fell victim to what was one of the biggest upsets in sports history on Sunday night, when the Florida Panthers marched into the Garden and pulled off the wild overtime upset in Game …

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Digesting the Bruins’ collapse


The Boston Bruins fell victim to what was one of the biggest upsets in sports history on Sunday night, when the Florida Panthers marched into the Garden and pulled off the wild overtime upset in Game 7 of the opening round of the NHL Playoffs.

The Bruins recently wrapped up the best regular season in NHL history, and that is not hyperbolic, that is a fact that can be objectively argued. They broke the all-time wins record and the all-time points record. Boston was in the playoffs weeks before other teams qualified.

I know that there are some variables like how previous teams used to have to settle for ties when in today’s game, teams play extra periods to determine a winner. Among other things, I understand that circumstances change as time goes on. But at the end of the day, you can absolutely say heading into the playoffs that the Bruins were on pace to be the greatest team in the history of the NHL.

For them to lose in the first round of the playoffs, especially in the manner in which they did, is a devastating underachievement. A disappointment beyond measure.

Boston led the series 3-1 and held the lead until the Panthers tied things up with under a minute to play. What made this loss even worse was that Florida won because of effort. They beat the Bruins to the puck, were more physical, they just wanted it more. Even when they were ahead, they played like they were behind.

This was an experienced Bruins team. It was not as if the moment was too big. The team just seemed to be too comfortable from start to finish. Even after the loss, it didn’t seem like they even knew what had hit them.

Naturally, on social media, New Englanders began comparing this disaster to other notable losses in Boston sports history. The undefeated 2007 Patriots losing in the Super Bowl, the 1986 Red Sox losing on Bill Buckner’s famous error at first base, the 2010 Celtics blowing a 3-2 lead in the finals to the Lakers, among others.

In my opinion, although this loss does not sting as much as some of the other ones, it is, in fact, the biggest underachievement.

What did all of those other teams have in common? They lost in the championship.

It does not matter how good a team is, anyone can be beat on any day. By the time you get to the championship, you know the opponent is also going to be top notch.

For the Bruins to lose in the first round against a team that had to claw its way into the postseason in the days before it began, it is a colossal failure.

Last week, Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo made headlines when a reporter asked him if his team’s loss meant it was a failure of a season. His response was to the effect of, “success is not purely based on wins and losses.”

Although I agree with that statement, in the Bruins’ case, this loss absolutely means a failure of a season. You do not break the all-time wins record and lose in the first round, you just can’t do that.

Where do the Bruins go from here? Well, this one stings pretty badly.

Patrice Bergeron and David Krecji are likely retiring, Brad Marchand seems to be slowing down, the goalies went ice cold in the playoffs which I don’t believe is coincidence, I believe they were exposed. This Bruins team actually has a pretty big climb ahead of itself in order to be back in the championship mix.

On social media I posted moments after the loss, “I am honored to have just witnessed one of the all-time choke jobs in sports history.”

I said that mostly sarcastically, but there was a part of me that meant it.

Look, I am a sports fan no matter what, win or lose. I am a spoiled Boston sports fan who has been alive for 12 championships, so I am certainly in no position to be bitter.

So, what we witnessed on Sunday was a historic event. Not the historic event that we can celebrate, but at least appreciate what we witnessed. A scrappy, underdog team pulling off what most viewed as the impossible. It burns being on the losing end, but that is why we watch sports, the thrill of the uncertainty, the competition.

This also is a reminder of one of the most overused, cliché aspects of sports, which is that most of the time, talent is secondary to effort and will.

The Bruins, in my opinion, had the most talented roster of the past 40 years. I say 40 years because the Montreal Canadiens rosters in the 1970s were filled with future hall of famers, but that was before my time, so I can’t say I watched enough to be truly educated.

But, from 1980 on, this Bruins team had to be the best. Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, Pavel Zacha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie Coyle, Charlie McAvoy, Dmitry Orlov, Hampus Lindholm. I still can’t wrap my head around how a roster with that much depth lost in the first round. It’s beyond me.

Again, although it was a nightmare scenario, at least we were able to watch history unfold. Decades from now, we will still be talking about the great failure that was the 2022-23 Boston Bruins.

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