The Boston Bruins’ roller coaster of a 2019-20 season ended with a straight, sudden drop. After taking Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston lost the next four games to the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
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It was a stunning ending for the team that won the Presidents’ Trophy and had designs on a second consecutive trip to the Final. That series against the Lightning produced many of the lowest moments of the Bruins’ season, but not all of them, though. Here’s a look at Boston’s levels of rock bottom.
Eastern Conference Final Division
Most of the Bruins fans’ heartache from 2019-20 can be traced to an eight-day period in late August. Fresh off a comfortable 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Round 1, Boston faced Tampa Bay as a lower seed and slight underdog.
Then it’s the hope that kills you. The Bruins captured Game 1 despite two Lightning goals in the third. Tampa Bay proceeded to win the next four games, dealing Boston a separate brand of heartache each time out.
The Lightning evened the series in overtime in Game 2 after answering Boston goals in the first two periods. Ondrej Palat kept the Bruins from a 2-0 lead, charging the net off a rebound less than five minutes into the extra frame.
STILL D.R.E.J. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/RxvcenKhiu— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) August 26, 2020
Game 3 delivered an opposite but equally disheartening blow: three unanswered goals to start the game and a 7-1 Tampa victory. Which is worse: an overtime defeat, or one you know is coming long before the third-period horn? Bruins fans got both on back-to-back nights.
Still, at that point, Boston was within a game. In Game 4, though, Tampa went up 3-0 for the second straight game to establish a 3-1 series lead. That deficit is much more manageable in hockey than in other sports. Not for the 2019-20 Bruins.
The Lightning took two leads in Game 5, but David Pastrnak and David Krejci had answers. Then came the waiting. Neither team could find a finisher in the first overtime. Game 6 remained a possibility for another 14 minutes, 10 seconds. Victor Hedman happened at 14:10.
Just like that. Season over with a gasp.
When the World Stopped
Ultimately, the worst part of any season is when there’s no more hockey. Your favorite team loses or, rarely, raises the Stanley Cup. Not in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic halted all sports, and much of life as we knew it, in mid-March. The NHL suspended operations March 11, leaving us to watch classic games and wonder when – or more importantly if – the season would resume.
Going 0-3 in Bubble Seeding Games
Playing at the Scotiabank Arena did not suit the Bruins in the Toronto postseason bubble. Boston lost its first four games post-restart, including its opening exhibition against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Bruins only put away four goals in the three games that mattered. Their 0-3 record in the round-robin dropped them from the No. 1 seed in the East to No. 4. Instead of playing the weakest remaining seed after the opening round, Boston had to contend with the Hurricanes.
Dropping in seeding also forced the Bruins into a less favorable Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with Tampa Bay. We all know how that ended.
Before the pandemic, the Bruins were the best team in hockey, but they were a shell of themselves in the Toronto bubble.
Letting in 9 Goals Against Vancouver
Is it bad when you allow the single most goals of any team in a game all season? Sources say it’s pretty bad. Boston lost 9-3 to the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 22.
The Bruins hadn’t allowed that many since Washington put 10 away in March of 2008. Not only that, the loss ended a five-game winning streak.
Eight Canucks found the net, and Tyler Toffoli had two. Pastrnak actually tied the game 1-1 a little over seven minutes in. Then Vancouver reeled off five consecutive tallies. There’s not much good to draw from, except that it was just one game.
A Five-Game Losing Streak
When the Bruins hosted the Lightning on Dec. 12, they needed a win pretty desperately. Boston had dropped the previous four to the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals. That slide dropped the team five points behind the Capitals for first place in the Eastern Conference. Facing Tampa Bay allowed them an opportunity to gain ground at home and push a division rival further away.
Instead, the Lightning overcame an early Boston lead and made it five straight losses for the B’s. (from ‘NHL roundup: Bruins not panicked despite five-game losing streak,’ Press Herald, 12/13/2019) It was also part of an extended down stretch where the Bruins fell in eight of nine games. Thankfully for Boston, it only went up from there. At least until the pandemic-related break. But we’ve already been over that.
Look, it was objectively a great season. The Bruins were the best team in hockey for long stretches of the season. They won the Presidents’ Trophy and had one of the league’s leading scorers, best lines and exciting, young, local talent.
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Losing in the conference semifinals was discouraging after entering the bubble as the No. 1 seed, but a lot of teams would kill for what the Bruins can rightfully call a disappointing end to a season.
Kyle grew up in Colorado before relocating to the East Coast in 2015. He’s written for newspapers in Colorado and Massachusetts. Find him at a punk show or brewery.