The Boston Bruins fell in six games to the Ottawa Senators in the opening round of the playoffs to end a short-lived return to the postseason. It was a frustrating series for an injured Bruins roster dropped that four one-goal games, three of which were dropped in overtime while fighting through inconsistent refereeing, several called-back goals, and way too many delay of game penalties.
Long story short, nothing seemed to go Boston’s way in the series, which brought the season to a quick end in the playoffs.
While the series against Ottawa was frustrating for Bruins fans who are now mourning the approaching offseason, there are quite a few reasons to be optimistic about the future of the franchise. All things considered, this season was a success for the Bruins.
Boston’s Postseason Return
When the season started last October, nobody was certain what to think of this Bruins team. Expectations for the season flustered drastically from one media outlet to another, as experts broke down Boston’s roster in an effort to predict how their season would play out.
For the most part, the Bruins were considered a playoff-bubble team. After two straight years of missing the playoffs, the B’s were by no means a lock to reach the postseason. Boston had a questionable defensive corps and a number of young players who had yet prove themselves at an NHL level.
And, a number of key members of the organization, including then-head coach Claude Julien, were on the hot seat.
At the end of the day, this season was all about making a return to the postseason. With the organization stuck in no man’s land, the fanbase was torn between those who wanted to build on what the Bruins had (which hadn’t been up to snuff for the past two seasons) and those who wanted to shake things up in hopes of building a playoff-caliber team.
Ultimately, many of the organization’s big questions would be answered throughout the course of the season. The big question — whether or not the Bruins would qualify for the postseason, was not answered until late in the season — well after Julien was replaced as head coach.
Regardless of taking the L, that was a good series that the Bruins nearly took to 7 with an AHL lineup. Lot to feel good about going forward
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 23, 2017
But when the regular season came to a close, the Bruins found themselves back in the playoffs. After a two-year playoff drought, the B’s were able to qualify for the postseason once again, and that alone is a big success for the organization.
One of the biggest question marks for the Bruins this season was their youth. Boston had a number of young players who needed to get used to playing at the NHL level rather quickly, or else their season would be doomed.
The best surprise for the Bruins this season was Brandon Carlo, who played in all 82 regular season games as a rookie. Carlo adjusted quickly to the NHL game and proved to be a very valuable asset to a Bruins defensive corps that many questioned heading into the season.
Meanwhile, Colin Miller looked to follow up his rookie season with a solid second-year. Although he only played in 61 regular-season games, Miller demonstrated a lot of improvement throughout the campaign.
Then, of course, there is Charlie McAvoy, the 19-year-old that many have pinned as the future of Boston’s blue line.
McAvoy didn’t join the Bruins until the postseason, but he certainly impressed in his short appearance. The young defenseman, who just turned pro after finishing his college season at Boston University, was thrust into his much-anticipated NHL debut in the playoffs against a divisional rival. Oh, and the Bruins would end up missing four out of their top six defensemen, which meant the Bruins were forced to lean on their young prospect a lot.
McAvoy lived up to the hype, eating large amounts of ice time while demonstrating tremendous talent, physicality, hockey IQ, and work ethic.
Even Sean Kuraly, who played in just eight regular season games, scored two huge goals for the Bruins in Game 5 against the Sens.
The experience that these young players soaked up this season is extremely important to their development. They all made tremendous strides this season and will progress with their careers as better players with the experience under their belt.
A Clear Path Forward
Last but not least, the questions that were answered this season for the Bruins have provided a clear path forward for the organization.
The last two seasons, the Bruins have been stuck in no man’s land as almost-contenders — not quite past the hump as a playoff team, but not bad enough to rebuild, either.
This season, the Bruins returned to the playoffs, replaced their head coach (there’s more coming with this situation, too), and developed a lot of youth for the future. On top of that, the Bruins have quite a few prospects that are still working their way up the pipeline, some of which could be sporting black and gold next season.
All in all, the organization seems to be back on track. This is the biggest takeaway from the season for the Bruins, without question. The team may not have been a strong enough team to compete for the Stanley Cup this season, but the developments that they made have cleared out a well-defined path toward that ultimate goal of bringing another Cup to Boston.
For an organization that was in disarray just months ago, there’s a tremendous amount of relief in seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. There’s still plenty of work to do to make that dream a reality — but a plan has been made. Most importantly, a sense of hope and direction has returned to the city of Boston — and that can go a very long away.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!