During Stanley Cup media day before this series started, Brad Marchand said he thinks about the 2013 Stanley Cup Final loss to the Blackhawks more than the 2011 Stanley Cup Final win over the Canucks.
Marchand and the rest of the Bruins are going to be thinking about Wednesday night's Game 7, a lopsided 4-1 loss to the Blues, for a long time.
"It’s a heartbreaker," Marchand said. "It’s tough to describe. You know, they just took our dream, our lifetime dream from us, and everything we’ve worked for our entire lives, and it’s 60 minutes away from that. You can’t describe it."
"I’ll never get over this," he added. "I’m not over ’13 yet. This hurts more than that. It’s not something you ever forget."
David Krejci, another of the Bruins' veterans who has tasted both victory and defeat at this stage, agreed that this was even worse than 2013. It's easy to see why: This was Game 7 as opposed to Game 6. The core of the team is older now and has even more appreciation for just how hard it is to get this far.
"Definitely hardest loss in my career for sure," Krejci said. "...Over 2013, this one hurts even more. It’ll be tough, but we’ll see what the future brings. But that will be really hard, really tough summer, and like I said losses like that it’s hard to get over. You just kind of have to learn how to live with it."
One of the toughest parts of this for the Bruins is that they were a genuinely tight-knit group that got along well and really cared about each other.
"Love these guys," Marchand said. "We had a hell of a year, and we came very close. I love every guy on this team. I’m very proud of everyone that worked their ass off all year to get to this point, and you know, we’re a hell of a group. We came together. We’re like a family, so it hurts, but yeah, love this group."
The young guys on the team felt the same way.
"We all love each other and we’re going to lean on each other to get through this," Charlie McAvoy said. "It’s tough. We had all the makings of a special group and we felt so special in here. It was really special to be a part of something like this, and then to not win, I feel really incomplete."
Then there's the fact that this veteran core is not getting any younger. While the Bruins should still be a very good team next year, there's no guarantee they'll get another crack at this. They reached two Cup Finals in three years earlier this decade, then needed six years to get back here.
Zdeno Chara is 42. Patrice Bergeron turns 34 next month. Krejci is 33, Tuukka Rask 32, Marchand 31. That group doesn't have six more years. Bergeron acknowledged that hard truth after the game.
"You work so hard to get to this point and, you know, it’s tough," he said. "There are guys that this could have been our last shot. This stings even more (than 2013)."
Coach Bruce Cassidy knows there wasn't much he could say to his team after the game.
"It's an empty feeling," he said. "...There wasn’t much to say. There’s nothing that I can really say in this moment, I believe, other than I was proud of them and they should walk out of here with their heads up. That’s it. There’s no long speech, there just isn’t. I’ll have an opportunity to catch up with the players in the next little while but right now they don’t want to hear anything from me."
Still, the oldest guy on the team found reason to be optimistic, as he so often does.
"Sometimes those downs make you stronger," Chara said. "And I believe this team still has potential to get back to the Final and get it done."
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