BOSTON (AP) — The Presidents’ Trophy curse was too strong — even for a team coming off the best regular season in NHL history.
After a record-setting year, the Boston Bruins failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs, losing to the Florida Panthers in overtime in seven games on Sunday night.
And suddenly, Boston fans who were eagerly planning for two parades – the Celtics are primed for a long playoff run, too – instead are wondering where this Bruins’ collapse ranks among the city’s all-time worst.
“It’s not the outcome you want, and we’re extremely disappointed,” said Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, who teased retirement after last season but returned for one more run at the Stanley Cup. “Especially with the team we had. It’s not where we want to be.”
The Bruins fired coach Bruce Cassidy after a first-round exit last year and replaced him with Jim Montgomery, then coaxed Bergeron and David Krejci away from possible retirement in the hopes of getting a second NHL title in a dozen years. They won 17 of their first 19 games and did not lose in regulation at home until mid-January.
General manager Don Sweeney added Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway at the trade deadline for toughness. Linus Ullmark developed into a Vezina Trophy runaway as the best goalie in the league, with Jeremy Swayman rotating in for one of the most productive tandems in history.
Put it all together and it added up to NHL records of 65 wins and 135 points.
But the same playoff disappointment.
“I’m proud of everything we’ve accomplished with this group,” Bergeron said. “It’s a special group on many levels. The individuals we have … Obviously, it’s far from the outcome that we wanted.”
Finishing with the best record in the regular season has become a dubious distinction: Only twice in 20 years has the Presidents’ Trophy winner gone on to win the Stanley Cup — most recently a decade ago when the Blackhawks beat Boston in the final. Since then, only one team has made it past the second round.
In other sports, too, regular-season records are no guarantee of playoff success: The 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games but didn’t even make the World Series, and the 2016 Golden State Warriors broke the NBA record with 73 wins but lost in the finals.
And then there’s the 2007 New England Patriots, who won all 18 games in the regular season and playoffs before losing in the Super Bowl — a loss that still stings for local sports fans.
“The regular season is very special, with what we were able to build together,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “At the end of the day, we play the regular season to get a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs, to play for a Cup, and that’s the goal every year is to play for a Cup, not to dominate the regular season. Special, what we built and what were able to do together, but fell short of our goal.”
Next year could look quite different.
Bergeron, who missed the first four games of the series, said he was playing with a herniated disk but did not elaborate on whether the injury would affect his decision to return for another season, when he would turn 38. Krejci wasn’t made available for comment.
Bergeron lingered on the ice long after the handshake line, giving the remaining fans a stick wave and ushering his teammates into the tunnel. After a long embrace with Marchand, Bergeron left the rink — perhaps for the last time.
“I’m going to take some time and talk with the family and go from there,” the five-time Selke Trophy winner said. “Right now, it’s hard to process anything. Obviously, we’re shocked and disappointed. So that’s it.”
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Jimmy Golen, The Associated Press