They'd rather be playing in a Game 7 in Ottawa on Wednesday night, but the recently-eliminated Boston Bruins should feel pretty good about themselves.
The goal isn't to lose in the first round of the playoffs, but the proper steps were certainly taken by a team that desperately needed to take those steps in the right direction. And like it or not, just getting into the tournament was good enough for this group.
It was an opportunity for the Bruins' youth movement to get some playoff experience. It wasn't a perfect series, losing in six games to the Ottawa Senators, but it was one that can be used as a learning experience moving forward.
From defenseman Charlie McAvoy making his NHL debut in Game 1 and logging top-pair minutes for the entire series, to Sean Kuraly scoring two goals -- including the overtime winner in Game 5 -- the kids were thrown into the fire, and didn't just survive, they thrived.
Also getting some much valuable playoff experience for the first time were forwards David Pastrnak, Noel Acciari, and Frank Vatrano, as well as defensemen Colin Miller and Joe Morrow. None of them played mistake-free hockey against the Senators, but they all looked like they belonged.
And don't forget someone like defenseman Kevan Miller, who made his playoff debut the last time the Bruins were in the tournament in 2014. His game seemingly benefitted from some of the crucial mistakes he made in those 2014 playoffs -- and there were several. Miller has established himself as a defenseman the Bruins' organization can trust in the future. And they hope the youngsters who made their playoff debuts this year will benefit all the same, come next April.
The Bruins will be back in the playoffs in 2018. Book it. In fact, don't be surprised to see some of the experts picking the B's to do something special next season, while making their predictions.
I'm not going to plan any parades just yet, but if the Bruins progress the way they should, then our expectations for a deep playoff run next year will be far greater than they were this year. Especially if they aren't as banged up as they were over the last three weeks.
This isn't excuse-making on my part. It's reality. Injuries to David Krejci, Torey Krug, and Brandon Carlo, to name a few, absolutely affected the on-ice product. Get those players healthy next year at this time, to go along with the young blood that will be back for more, and you've got a Bruins team that will have all the tools to make a serious run at a Stanley Cup.
There will be some obstacles, of course. You don't even have to look past the division to see that. But right now, the Bruins are in a good place, at least, a much better place than they were last year at this time.
So while losing in six games to the Ottawa Senators in the first round is not what anyone wanted, nobody can deny that the Boston Bruins' future is as bright as it's ever been.
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