Empires are born to fall. That of the Bruins has obviously just been conquered, and its apparent decline was made after a trauma, an elimination in seven games by the Florida Panthers. Then there is Patrice Bergeron, who left the ice with a heavy heart, without however advancing on his future.
The best team in NHL history, at least statistically, fell apart. She finished the season with a record 135 points. She signed 65 victories in season, also a record. The expectations for this group at the end of the cycle could only be excessive.
The Bruins first let slip a 3-1 series lead. They then fell 2-0 down in the final game before being booed by their own supporters. They came from behind to take a 3-2 lead, however, but saw victory slip through their fingers in the final minute of play.
It was after all these concussions that Carter Verhaeghe flashed the red light in overtime to allow the Florida Panthers to win 4-3 on Sunday night and advance to the next round.
“This is the biggest surprise in NHL history! exclaimed Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk after the game. This is true. The 43-point difference between the two clubs is the biggest gap in a duel that ended in a triumph for the underdog since the introduction of the seven-game series.
And what followed the game looked like a handover in Boston.
Before leaving the ice, Patrice Bergeron took the time to hug each teammate. The captain then shed a few tears after a very long hug with his good friend Brad Marchand.
After the meeting, he explained that he would discuss with his family before making a decision concerning the continuation of his career. He does not have a contract for next season, but his future depends only on his wishes.
“Yeah, I’ll take the time to talk to my family and we’ll go from there.” […] Again, it hurts right now. I’m going to have to take a step back and talk to my family. »
In any case, the future Hall of Famer revealed the injury that had plagued him for a few games: a herniated disc. “It’s not something I’m going to use as an excuse. It’s like that. Everyone is fighting against a lot of things during the playoffs. »
Brad Marchand, in the locker room, was also very emotional when it came to his captain and friend who may have played his last game.
“He’s the perfect person on and off the ice, he’s such an incredible and driven leader, an incredible family man, a great friend, who always thinks of others first. He really changed the way I approach my life and hockey, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He allowed me to be in this position, to play alongside him for a long time, and he’s an incredible person, an incredible teammate, and we were lucky to have him in this group for a long time. It has completely changed the way I live on a daily basis. »
Before the start of the season, the 37-year-old center toyed with the idea of retirement. However, he signed up for a single season with the Bruins. A season with the flavor of the last waltz.
For the occasion, the Bruins mortgaged their payroll for the 2023-2024 season. They granted performance bonuses to Bergeron and David Krejci, who had also been convinced by the idea of another lap. This nucleus they formed with Marchand has been central to the team’s successes over the past decade.
The Bruins lifted the Stanley Cup in 2011 before reaching the Finals again in 2013 and 2019. They won the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the best team of the season, three times together.
“I’m disappointed… And confused. On the other hand, if you look at the season, it’s been an honor to lead this group,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said.
Before lowering the flag, Montgomery played one last card. He sent up-and-coming goaltender Jeremy Swayman, who hadn’t started a game since April 13, into the net.
The doorman was not perfect, but certainly allowed the Bruins to stay in the game. He stopped a breakaway from Tkachuk in extra time and made a superb save on Verhaeghe moments later. However, like Linus Ullmark, he did not have the last word in overtime.
The Panthers instead made the opposite bet. After three starts to Alex Lyon, they gave the net to Sergei Bobrovsky. The one who also surprised the Presidents’ Trophy holders in 2019, the Tampa Bay Lightning, while playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets, was up to the challenge.
The Panthers were able to overcome their indiscipline to triumph. Brandon Montour, who picked up two questionable penalties, scored the game’s first goal and then the equalizer with just 60 seconds left on the clock. It is with this label of underdog and team never shot down that the Panthers will go to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs in the second round.