The end comes early to all but one team out of thirty. That is the bitter truth. All else being even, the odds of winning the cup at the start of the season are 30:1. Bruins fans should remember that what is truly out of the ordinary is to be the last team standing, not the abrupt end of a season.
Why did the Bruins lose to the Caps? You can run down your fingers making an impressive list of reasons, including injuries (Bergeron, Horton, McQuaid), inconsistent officiating, and less than stellar play from some key players, or simply pick one star player to dump all your anger onto because he never got up to speed or had a less than perfect game along the way (Lucic, Krejci, Thomas, or even Marchand).
Me? I personally blame one man, and one man alone, for the Bruins loss in this series: Dale Hunter. I knew from about half way through the first game that this series was going to be a tough one to win. Because Hunter, the Caps coach, designed a defensive system that would keep the Bruins off the board and frustrate their forwards. It was as if the Bruins were playing themselves at their defensive best. When it came right down to it, the two teams were a near perfect match. What we witnessed was the closest playoff series in NHL history, the first with six one goal games, and it eventually went to seven, only to end in overtime. When it comes right down to it, they could have skipped playing and simply flipped a coin.
When the playoffs started I did what I always do. I set my own personal goals for the team; I set the bar. Only if they didn't make the bar would I be bitterly disappointed, upset, or angry. My realistic expectations were simple: play hard and don't lose a series in less than seven games. Looking around, there are a lot of teams out there that could have been expected to achieve that goal, and didn't: Vancouver, San Jose, Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Bruins fans: if you think it was painful to lose in OT in game seven, consider how it would feel to be dominated by the Kings, winning only a single playoff game.
I wish the Caps luck on winning the cup. I have no idea if they can beat any of the other teams remaining in the playoffs or if they were just the perfect Bruin killers. We will see. But they played very hard, showed a lot of grit, and didn't whine. For that, I give them a tip of my Bruins cap.