The Boston Bruins, who were not considered a great team to start the season, finished their year 65-12-5 to set a new NHL record for wins. Their 135 points were also a new NHL record for regular-season play. Of course, as the 16-0 New England Patriots taught us, a flawless regular season does not a champion make. The Bruins, who lost to the Florida Panthers 4-3 in overtime on Sunday evening in a classic Game 7, failed to learn that lesson. (It doesn’t let them off the hook, but the B’s aren’t the only No. 1 club to go home early from the postseason.)
As unbelievable as it is for the top-seeded Bruins to lose to the Panthers, who advanced in the postseason for just the second time since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, it is somewhat par for the course Boston’s hockey franchise. After all, these are the same Bruins who lost Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final to the underdog St. Louis Blues on home ice, and the same Bruins who blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 postseason. Even still, Sunday’s loss was a historic choke job by the Bruins and sets the bar for an all-time low for the NHL franchise even higher.
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The Bruins, who had a plus-127 goal differential to lead the NHL and gave up just 177 goals thanks to the play of goaltenders Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, had not lost three games in a row all season but did exactly that while blowing their 3-1 series lead to the Panthers. They were one minute away from escaping the series with a win on Sunday but somehow allowed Brandon Montour to tie the game in regulation. Once that happened, the outcome of the game already seemed certain before Florida’s Carter Verhaeghe scored the game-winner at 8:35 of overtime.
In losing the series, the Bruins dropped three games in Boston after being defeated on home ice just seven times during the regular season. The Bruins may never really have been as good as their impressive regular season made them appear, but they were certainly good enough to win two home games during a playoff series — or at least they should have been. They weren’t, and now their season is over. The career of longtime team captain Patrice Bergeron, who teased retirement last year but decided to return, likely is as well.
Bergeron, who was a part of all of the prior Boston failures as well as the Bruins team that won the Stanley Cup in 2011, missed the first five games of the series with a herniated disc. His return should have provided the team with a breath of fresh air, but Boston, in typical fashion, gagged anyway. Even by Bruins’ standards, it was an epic NHL choke job.