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Whenever a team enters a season as a favorite to be a Stanley Cup Contender and misses the playoffs, serious questions need to be asked. The Bruins, fresh of a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2013 and a President’s Trophy in 2014 looked primed to make some serious noise in 2015. Despite losing Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk prior to the season to the Avalanche and Islanders, respectively, the Bruins still looked to be a contender.

Expectations took a hit when the Bruins began the season 1-4 while playing a poor brand of hockey. They began to right the ship but then the injury bug hit, Boston lost Zdeno Chara and David Krejci for significant parts of the season. Despite these losses, the Bruins were still putting themselves in position to win games. The problem was they weren’t finishing. A full 60 minute effort was hard to come by and the Bruins seemed like a squad just going through the motions and waiting until the playoffs. Their play against elite competition was troubling also, going 0-4 against Montreal and 0-3 on a key west coast road trip in December.

A strong month on January was followed by a lackluster February that saw the team suffer another west coast losing streak, this time at four games. March was the month that finally quashed any doubts about the Bruins being contenders. Their five game losing streak in the middle of the month that included losses to three playoff teams and the league worst Sabres. Despite having a chance to sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the season, it would have been naïve to think this Bruins team would have made much noise in the postseason.

Several players performed well below expectations this season. The injuries to Chara and Krejci greatly affected their performance while Dennis Seidenberg and Milan Lucic only showed flashes of the players that helped bring Boston to two Cup Finals in three seasons. Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille were ineffective and have already been informed by the team that they will not be brought back. Chris Kelly was the best player on the team through October, but came back down to Earth offensively while still contributing on defense. Reilly Smith was ineffective throughout the season and did was constantly moved around the lineup.

Loui Eriksson played well as did Carl Soderberg, but at times lacked the necessary physicality. Adam McQuaid was not as effective as years past and Dougie Hamilton played well but was hampered by a late season ribs injury. Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask were stars for the Bruins, but unfortunately Rask had to play in 70 games because his backup, Niklas Svedberg, was woefully ineffective.

Three bright spots for Boston were Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Ryan Spooner. Bergeron was an elite player as always and Pastrnak and Spooner joined the team and made heavy contributions after the All-Star break. Both could end up being major pieces of the Bruins moving forward, but the fact that the Bruins relied on two rookies for most of their offensive production was a troubling sign in itself.

The question now is what’s next for the Bruins in their longer than anticipated offseason. The first shoe dropped earlier this week when the team fired General Manager Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli had been with the team since 2006 and was a major factor in building the rosters that won a Stanley Cup in 2011 and the Eastern Conference in 2013. His struggles this year were too much for the Bruins, however, and they are now looking for his replacement.

The Bruins will not decimate their core, but it is possible one or two longstanding Bruins could be dealt. Soderberg and McQuaid could very well join Campbell and Paille in playing elsewhere next season. Matt Bartkowski, whose tenure with Boston has left much to be desired, will also probably be wearing a different uniform next season. Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic have been floated as potential trade names and it is possible that one of them gets dealt this offseason. Malcolm Subban, the team’s young goaltending prospect, could also be part of a deal.

The major question now is the fate of Coach Claude Julien. Julien, who has one Stanley Cup ring with the Bruins, will remain as coach for the time being. But a new GM could choose to make a move for a new coach, which would allow Chiarelli and Julien to reunite next season; possibly in Toronto.

In retrospect, the 2014-15 Bruins have no one to blame but themselves for their failure to make the playoffs. Although they were not as talented as Bruins teams from the past five seasons, they still had more than enough talent to make the postseason. One major change along with several minor ones has already been made. It seems only as though there will be more changes coming and next season’s Bruins team could look quite different from this year’s squad. It will be a long offseason in Boston.

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Calgary is back in the postseason; can they take out their fellow Canadians in Vancouver to move ahead? (WWE Smackdown)

Now that the playoffs are upon us, it’s time for the annual Pick ‘Em competition. Especially with defending champion Los Angeles out of the bracket entirely, things have opened up far wider than they have in some time. It has the appearance of a tricky but entertaining bracket, so keep your eyes glued to the games.

As usual, picking the winner of each series is worth two points, while picking how many games each series will last is worth one point.

Though our panel is mostly in agreement as to winners, a steal of a victory here or there could still create an early leader, especially with series length choices a little more diverse.

So with that in mind, complete Round 1 picks are below, and be sure to come back once the round is complete for updated results. Continue reading 2015 NHL Expert Playoff Picks: First Round »

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Peter Chiarelli Fired (AP Photo)

According to a press release this morning, the Bruins have released General Manager Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli has been the GM for 9 seasons with pretty good success, and he is known as a well respected guy around the league. In the meantime, the front office will begin their search for a new GM “immediately.” The fate of Claude Julien and the rest of the coaching staff will depend on whoever the new GM will be.

Quick Hits:

He’s always been a controversial guy. During his 9 year tenure, he undoubtedly took a train-wreck of a franchise and brought them to perennially one of the league’s top teams. Well, for the most part. On the plus side, he has 8 consecutive playoff appearances, President’s Trophy, 1 Stanley Cup win, another Cup appearance, and a very strong core. However, he has shown some serious cap mismanagement with the way he cap-strung this team’s ability to make moves and obviously Neely and the Jacobs’ didn’t take too kindly to the Bruins missing the playoffs. Rumors indicate that Don Sweeney will replace him as General Manager.

What do you think? Was he fired too quickly or does he deserve this? Who would you want to come be the GM?

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In somewhat of a stunning series of events, the 2014-15 Boston Bruins missed the playoffs after dropping their final three games of the season this past week. While in the midst of a more comprehensive season review, it is interesting to look at three games that had they gone the Bruins way; would put the team in the playoffs beginning this week.

October 13, Avalanche at Bruins: In this Columbus Day contest, the Bruins met old-friend Jarome Iginla for the first time since his departure from Boston. The game was a grind-it-out affair with each team missing some chances as well as looking in a bit of a malaise during the matinee game. Continue reading Three Games That Could Have Changed the Bruins Playoff Fortunes »

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"Pro Wrestling," NES

The NHL season is now over, after the last playoff spots were clinched on the season’s final day. There were plenty of surprises along the way, which had a big influence on our Pick ‘Em.

The Bruins, Sharks and Kings all missed out and cost us in our standings, while the Canucks, Flames and Islanders all helped out a bit.

But in a tough season, who came out on top? Without further ado, the winner of the 2014-2015 NHL Pick ‘Em is… Continue reading 2014-2015 NHL Expert Picks Results »

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Ryan Spooner (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Bruins dropped a tough one last night against the Washington Capitals, unable to figure out Braden Holtby who’s been doing his Ken Dryden impression all season long against the Bruins. Seriously, the Bruins didn’t score one goal against the Capitals this year.

The Bruins now hold the 8th seed (second Wild Card spot), although they’re tied with the Senators in points with 95. They own the tie breaker because of the head to head match-up, but this won’t be an easy week. One good thing is that the schedule works in our favor. The Bruins play the Panthers and Lightning, both of whom we’ve done well against this season. Ottawa, on the other hand, has to play the Rangers and Flyers, and neither of those are easy match-ups. Continue reading Playoff Outlook and Bruins Weekly Roundup »

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Bruins forward Brett Connolly, who was acquired at the trade deadline form Tampa Bay, could see his first game action with the Bruins soon. Connolly, who was acquired for two second round picks, broke a finger in one of his first practices with the Bruins and has been sidelined since.

Connolly could figure in at right wing on any line. He also will be useful on the power play and has been slotting in to David Krejci’s power play role in practice recently. Coach Claude Julien would not confirm when Connolly would return, but all indications point to sooner rather than later. He took contact in practice for the first time since injury on Wednesday. The Bruins have also benefited from Krejci’s return from injury last week.

Connolly, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2010 draft, will most likely play alongside Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci but could end up with time on the fourth line depending on how the Bruins want to work things. It is not likely the Bruins will shake up the Milan Lucic-Ryan Spooner-David Pastrnak line that was been on fire lately, but that could change come playoff time.

The Bruins take on the Red Wings in Detroit Thursday followed by a home game against Toronto on Saturday.

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