The Bruins didn’t just lose a playoff series Monday night. They also may have lost their last chance at winning another Stanley Cup with their longtime core.
It didn’t take long after the Bruins’ 3-2 double-overtime loss to the Lightning, who won the second-round series 4-1, for the questions to start coming about Boston’s future.
Their 43-year-old captain, Zdeno Chara, is set to become an unrestricted free agent and has a decision to make about a potential retirement. Fellow defenseman Torey Krug is another free agent-to-be and in line for a big deal. Veteran center David Krejci has one year left on his contract, Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron has two and goalie Tukka Rask, who left the bubble during the first round for family reasons, has one.
“It just kind of hit me after the game that the core group, a few of us, we have one or two, three years left,” Krejci told reporters after the game, per the Boston Herald. “With the pandemic going on, you never know what’s going to happen. So, it’s just kind of – I just got a little sad right now. At the same time, I don’t regret coming into this bubble and fighting for the Stanley Cup. If I would have to do it again, I would.”
Krejci, who won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011 alongside Chara, Bergeron, Rask (then a backup) and Brad Marchand, wasn’t the only one who was thinking that way.
“It’s definitely something that crossed my mind. You never want this to happen and obviously, well see what happens going forward,” Bergeron said. “Obviously, wish that everyone is coming back and we can have another chance at it. It’s been – it’s always a pleasure and a treat when you’re going out there with guys that you’ve been around for 10-plus years. You’d like to keep that and carry that, and keep going. Keep going with them. Obviously, lots of very great young players as well that are on the rise and we should be excited about. But you’re right that, it’s a fact.”
The Bruins’ core has a pair of just-misses on their resume, falling to the Blues in seven games in the Stanley Cup Finals last year and to the Blackhawks in six games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.
They entered this postseason with the best record in the NHL, winning the Presidents’ Trophy with a 44-14-12 mark during the shortened regular season. But in the postseason bubble, they failed to rediscover the spark that had helped them get there, going 0-3 during the round-robin games to fall to the No. 4 seed. They beat the Hurricanes in five games in the first round but after winning the first game of the series against the Lightning, dropped four straight to pop their bubble.
Chara said Monday night he had not yet made a decision regarding his future, but either way, time is running out for the Bruins to win another Cup with the pieces that have become the faces of their franchise over the last decade.
“Just, the way things were rolling throughout the season, we thought we were going to go all the way,” Marchand said.
“It’s tough and you never know how many opportunities you’re going to have to win a Cup. We never know if we’re going to be back in the finals again or even in the playoffs again. Every opportunity missed, it hurts.”