The Boston Bruins have no reason to hang their heads over how their 2017-18 season came to a close.
Not only did the Bruins exceed expectations, but they fell to arguably the most talented team in the NHL. A team they inadvertently helped shape as the campaign progressed.
After the Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the Bruins in Game 5 of their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series Sunday afternoon, head coach Jon Cooper explained just how much of an impact Boston has had on his hockey club.
“All right, I’ll tell you — I guess I can say it now. Boston set the bar for us,” Cooper said per, CBS Boston’s Michael Hurley. “And we played them three times late in the year, and the first two times we played them, they literally manhandled us. The scores were tight, the first one was 3-2 and then they beat us here, and it was men amongst boys. And we knew if we were going to go anywhere when we made the playoffs — or if we made the playoffs — that we had to be as good as Boston. And it happened. We beat them 4-0 (in the final regular-season meeting), and that gave us a little bit of confidence. Well, it gave us a lot of confidence.
“But they set a bar for us to be better. And ultimately, we carried that through into this playoffs round.”
It doesn’t appear as though Cooper is blowing smoke, as the Bolts have looked leaps and bounds stronger in the playoffs than they did during the regular season. Boston was one of the most physically and mentally tough teams throughout the campaign, and it evidently didn’t go unnoticed by its opponents.