Takeaways from the Bruins’ Game 7 loss to the Hurricanes

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The Bruins were never able to put on a strong performance on the road in a series where they didn’t have home-court advantage.

Jared C. Tilton

Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand left the ice for the season finale on Saturday, and in Bergeron’s case, possibly for the last time with the Bruins.

RALEIGH, NC — The Boston Bruins needed to turn the tide on home ice to advance to the second round. Instead, one of their troubling tendencies has emerged at the worst possible time.

Teuvo Teravaninen’s gate count gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 1-0 lead with 1:24 left in the first period of Game 7.

Talyor Hall committed an ill-advised double-minor in the ensuing shift. The Bruins managed to enter the locker room with only a 1-0 deficit in hostile territory.

Bruce Cassidy’s side killed the double minor but soon found themselves down 2-0 on Max Domi’s marker.

Jake DeBrusk came to life just 1:50 after Domi’s first playoff goal. But the Bruins failed to capitalize on DeBrusk’s third career game. They entered the third period with another two-goal deficit on Domi’s second of the second period shortly after Trent Frederic hit the post at the other end of the ice.

David Pastrnak cut the Bruins’ deficit to 3-2 with just over 21 seconds left in regulation time. But the Bruins didn’t have much luck in the final stanza, with Charlie Coyle missing an open net and Jaccob Slavin blocking a shot into Patrice Bergeron’s crease in the closing moments.

An offseason of uncertainty awaits the Bruins as their 2021-22 campaign draws to a close. Here’s what we learned from their 3-2 loss at the end of the season.

The inner road disparity has reached its conclusion

More often than not, the two teams in any long playoff series trade wins at home and on the road. That didn’t happen at all with the Bruins-Hurricanes first-round game.

The Bruins certainly took advantage of the home ice. But with the benefit of the latest change, the leading Hurricanes shift into second gear ahead of their enraged faithful.

“They get the games they want, and it’s the same when we’re at home; we get the matchups we want,” Marchand said of Round 1 home road dynamics. “We feed off the energy of our home crowd, and they do that well here. This is playoff hockey. That’s why you play all year, that’s that advantage of playing at home, and that’s why, because when you’re good at home, that’s important in the playoffs, and they are, and we were. And we needed to win a game on the road, and we didn’t.

Cassidy and company didn’t help their cause with untimely defensive breakdowns in their four games at the PNC Arena, starting with Teravainen’s scorer at the end of the first stanza.

Unlike Games 1, 2 and 5, the Bruins generated several quality looks on Antti Raanta, who made the series stopper on Hall on a 2-on-1 in the first 20 minutes. A lucky rebound off the chances of Frederic or Coyle could also have tipped the momentum in Boston’s favor in a tightly contested Game 7.

“If we bury that 2-on-1, things could change in a game like today where it’s hard to score,” Cassidy said. “They don’t understand you much, but you take the lead and it’s a bit of adversity now from them.”

DeBrusk and Pastrnak gave the Bruins some life after responding to Carolina’s second and third bases, respectively. But it was too little too late.

The Bruins looked gassed amid their frequent tough battles in Raleigh. And now the organization is embarking on another uncertain future.

A foggy offseason awaits the Bruins

Bergeron and his partner-in-crime Brad Marchand witnessed the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during their decade-plus careers as linemates.

From the 2019 Stanley Cup Final to their exit from the first round three years later, the feeling of elimination left a sour taste in their mouths. However, this loss may persist for a little longer.

“You only have a few opportunities in these places where you have a legitimate chance to go far. And we thought we had that this year,” Marchand said. “So yeah, it hurts.”

In perhaps some kind of suspicion, Bergeron waved to his team near the visitation tunnel, shaking hands with his teammates as they exited the box at the PNC Arena.

Now the Bruins are awaiting news on Bergeron’s future after the final year of his contract. He could end up returning to Boston on a short-term contract. Or he may decide to sign with a Stanley Cup contender with the Bruins’ championship window possibly closed. Or he could choose to hang up the skates after 18 wonderful seasons.

As he dealt with another season-ending loss, the Boston captain barely discussed his offseason approach during his postgame press conference.

“It’s too early right now…it’s too fresh obviously,” Bergeron said. “[The loss] always stings a hard-fought series, and we fell short. Of course, I’ll have to think about it, but I’m not there yet.

Beyond Bergeron’s status, the Bruins must decide whether to enter rebuilding or retooling mode. They have anchors in place to shorten the lifespan if they decide to go either way, including Charlie McAvoy, Jeremy Swayman and Pastrnak, an unrestricted free agent pending in 2022-23. They also have a pair of top prospects in Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei, who will likely compete for NHL minutes over the next two seasons.

But the Bruins can choose to go in the rebuilding or retooling direction without Cassidy and general manager Don Sweeney.

Maybe the Bruins will move on from Sweeney’s mixed history with the draft as well as some head-scratching trades and free agent decisions. Cassidy got all he could from this year’s makeshift roster, but if the Bruins want a new general manager, he may want to bring a new voice behind the bench.

The Bruins’ secondary scoring issues and defensive shortcomings have defeated them in their four road losses at Raleigh. With their championship window likely closed, they will have to rebuild their roster for the future, with or without Sweeney, Cassidy and Bergeron.

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