Bruins and their fans lament as the puck stops here

The puck has stopped there, in Tampa. The Boston Bruins season is done, and we were wrong.

We thought the B’s and Merrimack’s Tim Schaller would skate right into the Stanley Cup Finals this season.

Why? Use Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals as Exhibit A. It was the perfect example of the Bruins forward thinking, that you can’t win if you can’t score. They used speed and tenacity.

And that was it.

Turned out it was an aberration. Tampa was playing that day, Apri 28, like it was a Monday morning at 7 a.m. They were half asleep, not into it, once they couldn’t score early when the Bruins could’ve been had.

And after that, the series changed. Tampa was more physical. They kept the Bruins from controlling the area in front of the net. The Lightning suddenly were faster. It wasn’t total domination, but Tampa made sure it came out fast and stayed that way in the four games.

So now what? Unfortunately it’s familiar territory for the Bruins as the second round for them has always been the toughest. One can argue, though, that this Bruins team overachieved; no one would have thought they’d have the regular season they did.

But, we keep having to learn the lesson over and over again – regular season does not translate to postseason. The Bruins lost three of four to Toronto during the regular campaign and the Bruins beat them in seven. Tampa lost to the B’s three out of four and beat the Bruins in five, winning four straight.

Who is to blame? Nobody, really. General manager Don Sweeney decided near the trade deadline to go for it, and you really can’t blame him. Rick Nash was available, so he made the deal, likely knowing it was just a rental. They’ll need to replace him with a younger version.

Cassidy is the right coach for this group, and he calls it as he sees it. The names are changing with the Bruins compared to the Claude Julien era, which is what you want.

“Guys wanted to do a little more instead of sticking with the program,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the series was over.

What was the program? Trying to keep the Lightning at bay with a good motion game rather than one on four, which the Bruins got caught up in. And Boston’s defensemen just weren’t the same after the second and third periods of Game 1.

And what of Schaller, who is an unrestricted free agent for the second straight year? That’s a good question.

In the Toronto series, he was a factor on the fourth line, especially during the first four games. He had a career regular season (career best 12 goals) and as an unrestricted free agent, could be in more demand than he was a year ago in the same situation.

This could be his one big chance to cash in to some degree. Would that mean a departure from the Bruins? It could be, if it’s strictly a highest bidder situation. It’s likely Boston won’t re-sign both him and Riley Nash, also a lower line free agent.

Does the benching by Cassidy for Game Three mean anything? It was only a one-game deal, and Cassidy had to do something to shake things up. If Cassidy and Sweeney agree with some media potrayals of Schaller as “the perfect fourth liner” they will more than likely try to re-sign him. All indications are this is where Schaller wants to be, but it’s not likely he’d agree to a one-year, $750,000 deal like the one he played under last year if more is out there.

Goaltending? Tuukka Rask will never satisfy everyone, and he didn’t have a great postseason. But until the Bruins can find someone better, he’s it.

The bottom line: The Bruins got younger, and they got better. Now they need to take things to the next level so the puck doesn’t stop in mid-May.

Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, tking@nashuatelegraph.com., or @Telegraph_TomK.