BostonBruins.com - The Bruins gathered at TD Garden on Friday for their year-end meetings and media availability, before packing up their equipment and parting ways for the offseason.
It's always a somber time, with plenty of reflecting and rehashing of the entire season. For a few hours, players bounce from physicals, to meetings with Head Coach Claude Julien and General Manager Peter Chiarelli, to speaking with reporters.
At the end of it all, they grab their equipment bags, sticks and head out for a few months, before reconvening in August, and doing it all over again - just with a better result.
"The only time this group's been smiling at the end of the year is a few years back," said Chris Kelly. "So expectations are extremely high here, and rightfully so. We have such a good group, it's just unfortunate the way it ended this year."
While there are plenty of stories we'll bring you on BostonBruins.com in the coming week, reflecting on the 2013-14 Bruins, here's a run-down from the players' final meeting with reporters...
The netminder held court with media first in front of his stall, to kick off the availability.
"I thought we had a tremendous season, we finished on top of the standings and we played a good season, we grew as a team and we had some tough stretches there, but we battled through them," said Rask, on his assessment of the season as a whole.
"But I think the toughest part is that we didn't play our best hockey at the most important time of the year, and when that happens, then you have to regroup and think about what went wrong and fix those things, but we had a great group of guys and a great season, but it's just a shame that we let it go to waste."
Rask had a strong first round, and the Bruins were much more dominant in playing their stingy style of game with defensive layers all over the ice. They were missing that in the series against Montreal, leaving Rask out to dry on breakaways and losing coverage of their men in front.
As was a theme throughout the room, Rask thought he could have done more to help the team, though.
"I don't think it was my best hockey ever, but I thought I played good, and there were goals scored I could have stopped and then there were some goals scored I pretty much had no chance, and those things happen," he said. "I felt I was good enough to give the team a chance to win, and sometimes it is good enough, and sometimes it isn't. If I was better, then maybe we would have won, but there's always the coulda, shoulda, woulda's."
For Rask, the feeling sunk in immediately after the game, but in the past few days, he's been able to accept that fact that he can't go back, and he's had a new distraction at home that has helped keep his mind away from the frustration.
"Nothing's changed, it sucks, it's the reality - but I've been home with the baby for a couple of days."
"It’s awesome. It’s been awesome for the past week and a half or couple weeks the little time I’ve spent with her," said Rask, of his daughter, born right before the start of the series.
"It’s just great. You spend time with your kid, and kids are the best thing in the world, so I can’t wait."
For once, Patrice Bergeron is healthy at the end of the postseason. Given his laundry list of serious injuries after the 2013 Final, and even the strained oblique muscle he had in 2012, it's been a while since he's been able to relax, recharge and get back to offseason workouts on his own time - not his body's.
Still, he wasn't too focused on his physical state.
"It's disappointing, it's tough to be standing here right now. So, physically I'm fine but mentally and with my mood and everything, it's definitely not there, because it's not where you want to be," said Bergeron.
"It’s never a fun day, you know, unless you win it all it’s never a fun day to be here, and definitely the same thing, knowing that some guys are not going to be back, so it’s always tough to say goodbye to the guys," he added, when asked about the possibility of players not being back for 2014-15.
"You’ve established some relationships and some friendships over the course of a year for some guys, a few years, and even more than that for a lot of guys, so it’s going to be hard if some guys are leaving."
As is tradition on breakup day, players get asked if they were playing through any injuries. There was speculation that Chara was possibly playing hurt during the series against Montreal, and technically, that was true, but Big Zee wasn't too keen on talking about it.
"I don’t like to talk about injuries," said the Captain. "It’s something that doesn’t need to be surgically done so far, and hopefully it stays that way. But again, it’s not something that I’m going to be blaming, or making excuses. That’s the way it is."
"We all play with different injuries, or you’re banged up, and that’s part of hockey and the playoffs. For sure, that’s not why we lost."
Because, that's what hockey players do, right?
"Exactly. I mean, we all do what we can to play. Like I said, once you put the uniform on, you’re 100 percent committed to play and do whatever needs to be done to help the team."
"He’s the type of guy that’s going to play on one leg if he needs to," said Bergeron, not referencing a specific injury to Zee, but simply speaking to his character.
It's players like Bergeron and Chara that make this group a contender every year.
"I believe so, and for sure, I think that we have a great group of guys," said the Captain. "It’s something that we have to learn from this year, and be more motivated."
Thornton will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and wants to do everything in his power to remain in the Spoked-B. He also knows it's a business.
"I am hoping I am back. I don’t know. I haven’t had my meetings yet, but if not, I am still going to be in the community," said Thornton. "I am still going to be here. This is where we live now. This is home. That stuff will not change. I’ll be here, trying to get back when I can. I love it here."
Regardless of whether he'll be back or not, Thornton has always made it a point to speak about his love for Boston and this team, on and off the ice.
"I love it, it's been great, I love it here. There's a reason we stick around in the offseason," said the winger.
"We have a great team. It's nice pulling in [to the Garden] thinking you're going to win every night."
"I had a discussion with Thorty this morning and I said, ‘look, give me a couple weeks to digest what’s happened and then we’ll go from there," said General Manager Peter Chiarelli. "That same comment applies to Iggy [Jarome Iginla]. I haven’t talked to the other guys yet but to Iggy and Thorty so far."
Iginla also made it clear he'd love to be back in the Spoked-B. The UFA signed a one-year deal last summer with Boston, and proved to be a perfect fit in the room and on the ice with Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
The future Hall of Famer said following Game 7 that this is one of the best teams he'd ever been on, in terms of the way the entire season went, winning the Presidents' Trophy, and having the confidence in this group to go the distance.
"I love playing here, I love playing with this group of guys - I think the group of guys have a great chance to compete again next year for a Stanley Cup, to keep getting better with the young guys that we have," said Iginla.
"There's lots of reasons I'd be very fortunate, if the opportunity's there and it works, to work out a deal to be back."
At 36 years old (he'll turn 37 on July 1), Iginla feels he still has a lot of great hockey in him.
"The training part, the desire to do better and ultimately win is definitely burning, so I'll be working hard this summer and can't wait to get playing again next year," he said
"I still planning on playing for a while yet and being effective, and pushing myself to be better."
Seidenberg could have come back during the next round, had the Bruins advanced.
Speaking with media for the first time since late December after his ACL/MCL tear in his right knee, an always upbeat Seidenberg spoke about his quicker-than-expected rehab, shedding off at least a month from his original projected recovery time.
"Right from the beginning, I mean they do tell you 6-8 months but I know people that come back in shorter periods of time, so I just told myself why not? I'll try my best & see where it takes me," he said.
Seidenberg also missed out on the 2010 postseason with a wrist injury - being on the sidelines isn't fun.
"I mean, I went through this before. It’s terrible. It’s very annoying. You feel out of place. You don't know where to be and it's not fun watching," said Seidenberg, who will no doubt could be in the best shape of his career for the 2014-15 season, after the recovery.
"It's just putting in the work and sticking with it - it's a long period of time it's taking, but if you just take it day by day, it goes by that much faster."
Kelly didn't have the chance to make a comeback in the postseason. After having his back seize up on him April 8 in Minnesota in the fourth to last regular season game, Kelly never saw the ice again.
It affected his fifth lumbar vertebra (which Kelly repeatedly referred to as 'L5'), causing shooting pain right down his leg. He was still sore on Friday.
The Bruins' alternate captain will require surgery to correct it, and has been given an estimated 4-6 weeks of recovery time once the surgery takes place (he needed another MRI and didn't know the date of the surgery yet).
"Should be fine," he said. Will he be ready for training camp? "Yeah, definitely, and that's why we're trying to get this done sooner than later."
McQuaid's last game of the season came on January 19 in Chicago. After returning from a leg injury sustained back in November, the defenseman was back on track. He then fell victim to another unfortunate bout of setbacks related to a quad injury that kept him out of game action the rest of the season.
When it was determined he wouldn't be able to make a comeback in the playoffs, he had arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle on May 1, a nagging situation that actually stretched back to before the 2013-14 season.
"I’m feeling pretty good. It feels good to get my ankle taken care of. It’s been something that’s been going on for a little while, so I’m just in healing mode right now and looking forward to getting healthy and I’m optimistic about going forward here," said McQuaid.
"My ankle has been something that’s been going on for, it’s been bothering me for a while. Decided at the end of last year to try and play through it this year, just with how quick the turnaround was last year, so it was something that I knew coming into the year that I would have to get done at the end of this year. We got to a point with my quad that we knew it wasn’t going to be an option for this year, so that was when we decided to do the ankle as opposed to waiting until the end of the year."
After a frustrating season, the impressively optimistic blueliner said he got mentally stronger because of it.
"I would like to at some point have somebody ask me a question about a game as opposed to how I feel, you know," he smiled. "So, yeah I think everybody comes into each season with the hopes of playing 82 games, and that’ll be my hope again next year as it was coming into this season, and I’ll take it one day at a time."
Boston's infamous "Merlot Line" has been a fourth line force for the past few years, but this postseason, the trio never truly found their groove that makes the Bruins' four-line attack so dangerous.
Whether it was the time apart during the regular season, with Daniel Paille's concussions and Shawn Thornton's suspension, their time apart in the first round and the line adjustments Julien had to make moving Paille up to the third line with Chris Kelly's injury, they just didn't have that same spark that they had in 2013 and 2011 when the Bruins made the Final.
"I think the reflecting has to be personal in a sense, and I look at my game and things I could have done better, and I know that when we've won, it's been a team thing," said Campbell. "So I think my game and my line, we could have done some more, and I know that when you win in the playoffs, it takes everybody, so that's kind of where I'm at right now."
"It's still really disappointing, really really tough to swallow. I'm sure it will take a few more days than just a couple. It's something that we have to accept, deal with, try to change it in the year to come."
Paille spoked about the Merlot Line's effectiveness as well.
"There's a lot of different reasons I think. I think that our intensity was there, but it's hard to put your finger on it, but something just wasn't quite there," said the forward. "I think maybe me missing three weeks [with the concussion] could have been something about it, and we did the best we could, but this year, it didn't work out."
When asked if injuries to the Bruins maybe caught up with them, in the cases of veterans like Kelly and Seidenberg, Paille didn't really find that to be an issue for them.
"I mean, we were so strong with our play with injuries all year. It didn't catch up into the playoffs. It isn't necessarily an excuse for it - we were capable to do better with the team we had, even with the injuries," said Paille. "It's just unfortunate that we couldn't pull it off."
"Everyone is going to reflect on the series, and definitely take into account that we needed a lot more."
For Paille, he had his own frustrations this season, with three concussions and two that caused him to miss ample time out of the lineup, including the first series against Detroit.
"We'll enjoy these three weeks to rest the body and once the training starts, that's kind of when you get ready and focused," he said, noting that hockey will probably still be going when he starts training.
I asked him if he would allow himself to watch.
"I'm not really resentful like that - I enjoy watching hockey so when I have the opportunity to watch a game, I will."
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