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End of the road! Bruins eliminated from Playoffs

The 2019-2020 Boston Bruins season has reached its disappointing end as the Bruins fall to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the playoffs after losing Game 5 in double overtime 3-2 and the series four games to one. The Bruins got goals from David Pastrnak and David Krejci, while Jaroslav Halak stopped 32 of 35 shots, but it wasn't enough as the Bruins Cup hopes, fall through once again.

The Bruins have officially left the Toronto playoff bubble and their off-season and begin immediately. The Bruins can make trades with other teams and negotiate contracts with their restricted and unrestricted players on a new deal, but cannot sign other free agents until the Stanley Cup has been awarded, which still going to take at least another month.

The Bruins certainly have a lot of question marks surrounding them as their championship window with their core players is closing extremely fast. Key players are up for new deals, while they might have to replace two or three, maybe even four major pieces to their team. Questions loom such as: will the Bruins have the money to resign Torey Krug? Has "Tuukka Time" officially expired in Boston? Is now the time to trade David Krejci for prospects? What will be the decision be on Captain Zdeno Chara?

Before we get into that, let's review the Bruins season in a nutshell. The Bruins began the season as Stanley Cup favorites, despite losing Game 7 to the St. Louis Blues the year before. The Bruins began the season in Dallas, Texas as they faced off against the Stars as it was the first of a four-game mid-west trip to begin the season. The Bruins won five of their first six games of the season.

The Bruins were the most consistent team in the NHL for the entire season as they sat atop the NHL from night one. The first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak looked absolutely unstoppable, and Pastrnak has a breakout season scoring 48 goals in 70 games for the Bruins.

The Bruins were extremely hot, heading their way to the President's trophy and home-ice advantage through the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

However, two days after their 2-0 shutout win against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 10, the entire sports landscape and the country was flipped upside down as the Coronavirus Pandemic took over and shut down every single sports league in the world. It was a dark day on March 12th when all sports seasons were officially put on hold. The Bruins at the time were the first team to 100 points in the season and only had 12 regular season games left on their schedule.

It was on May 26th, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the NHL was going to resume play in the summer with the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 24 teams would qualify and that the 2019-2020 regular season was complete based off the current standings. Which meant at the time that the Bruins were deemed Atlantic Division and President's Trophy champions for the season.

However, the B's drew the short straw as they were forced to play for seeding in a round-robin against the Lightning, Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers. For a team that recorded 100 points prior to the pause, you figured the Bruins should've been awarded the top seed. It wasn't the case and some Bruins higher ups and players expressed their displeasure, but ultimately accepted the card that they were dealt.

The Bruins struggled in the Round-Robin as the Bruins went 0-3 and fell from the first seed, all the way down to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket. The Bruins drew the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the same team they eliminated to reach the Cup Final round the year prior. Given how the Bruins played in the round robin, many hockey annalists chose the Hurricanes to win the series.

After Game 1 was delayed a day after the Lightning and Blue Jackets played a five overtime thriller the night prior, the Bruins and Hurricanes were forced to play the next morning at 11 am. The Bruins prevailed with a double overtime winner by Patrice Bergeron who continued to add on to his legacy here in Boston. The Bruins entered Game 2 of the series without David Pastrnak as he injured himself at the end of Game 1, after the game winner was scored. The Bruins lost game two and the series with Hurricanes was all knotted up.

The following day, goaltender Tuukka Rask made comments saying how "it doesn't feel like playoff atmosphere. It feels like exhibition games." Rightfully so, Rask faced backlash for his comments from the Boston media, and it was reported that his own teammates did not appreciate his comments either. The next day, roughly 90 minutes before the Bruins were scheduled to play Game three, it was announced that Tuukka Rask had opted out of the NHL Playoffs and returned home. At the time, the full reason was unknown. That lead to media quickly assuming that Rask quit on the Bruins in the middle of a playoff series, and after only being in the bubble for roughly three weeks. It was announced days later that one of Rask's daughters had a medical issue and he felt that he needed to be home. The reason got people to understand his decision more so, but did not stop the rumors of Rask either retiring or being traded by the team in the off-season.

The Bruins turned things over to veteran backup Jaroslav Halak to fill the void. Halak was able to settle in quite easily and the Bruins went on to win the final three games against the Hurricanes to eliminate Carolina in five games to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Bruins have reached at least the second round of the playoffs in each of Bruce Cassidy's first three full seasons as Head Coach.

In the second round of the playoffs, the Bruins drew a familiar opponent. The Tampa Bay Lightning, the same team who eliminated the Bruins in five games in 2018. Would the Bruins fortunes finally turn this time around. The Bruins won Game 1 of the series 3-2 to go up 1-0 in the series. Game two was a back and fourth contest as both teams traded goals and leads multiple times throughout the game. It took overtime, but eventually Tampa would win to tie the series. Suddenly, momentum shifted in favor of the Lightning as they thumped the Bruins in Game three 7-. Took Game four of the series with a 3-1 win, and to up in the series 3-1.

The Bruins needed to win game 5 to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Bruins battled all night long but couldn't take a lead at all. David Krejci forced the game in overtime after scored the game-tying goal with under two in a half minutes left to go in the third period. The Bruins had their chances in overtime but couldn't find the back of the net. It went to a second overtime, where mid-way through the period, the Lightning put the final dagger in the Bruins season. Won Game 5 3-2 and took the series in five games.

Now the Bruins are left to pick up the pieces to what looked like an extremely promising season before the four-month layoff. The biggest story line right now in Boston, is if Game 5 was the last time we saw 22-year veteran player Zdeno Chara play his final game not only as a Bruin, but of his incredible career. Chara as said that he hasn't made any decision yet but is keeping an open mind. If Chara does decide to come back for 23rd NHL Season, will he be donning a Bruins sweater for the 15th consecutive season.

Chara has only played for three organizations throughout his career. Four seasons with the New York Islanders (1997-2003), The Ottawa Senators (2003-2006) and the Bruins (2006-present) 14 years in one place. That should be oddly familiar as we know another former Boston athlete that spent 14 years wearing a Boston uniform.

The Bruins still have decisions to make regarding Torey Krug, if they have the space to bring back their third best defenseman. Will Tuukka Rask come back or was Game two against the Hurricanes the last time we saw Rask wear a Bruins uniform. Plus will David Krejci be sticking around despite being a good trade piece.

We will know more in the coming months. However, a lot of decisions must be made in a short amount of time. The 2020-2021 NHL season is projected to begin on December 1st, with training camp in mid-November so Don Sweeney and Cam Neely have a lot of work to do in extremely compressed window.

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