The NHL playoffs are the best of all of the four major sports in terms of teams taking their game and passion to another level. Seeds are thrown out the window as any team can win on any given night, and there is usually a strong dislike that develops between the two teams over the course of a seven game series, which only adds to the drama. There are plenty of comebacks that keep fans on the edge of their seats, including some from multi-goal deficits. Finally, nothing beats sudden death overtime on the road to the Stanley Cup.

Unlike the NBA playoffs, hockey is not about individuals; hockey is about the teams. There is not even close to the amount of complaining about the officiating, and you don’t just watch the last two minutes of each game — in the Stanley Cup playoffs there is 60 minutes of hard-hitting, fast paced, intense hockey action that no fan wants to miss.

With all that being said, it is a shame that the hometown Boston Bruins were eliminated in their first round series with the Washington Capitals.

But, is it really a shame? Does it really matter when the Bruins were eliminated?

That is one sentiment shared by some fans and members of the media on the Bruins following their Game 7 overtime loss last week. Joe Haggerty tweeted this late last week:

Love @mikefelger incensed w/Bruins because they were dusted in 1st round rather than 2nd round. What’s the diff if they weren’t winning Cup?

Haggerty isn’t the only media member in Boston that has said something similar to that, but comments like this raise the question of, why are the Bruins getting a free pass for their first round exit?

The 2011-2012 Boston Bruins deserve to be criticized. They finished the regular season as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, but fell in seven games to the No. 7 seeded Washington Capitals. Stars from last year’s Stanley Cup run, and the team in general, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand combined to score just one goal and dish out four assists in the seven games. Tim Thomas was not on top of his game, as he let in a few goals that even he would admit he should have stopped. Why aren’t these players’ performances being brought up in the media?

Instead of bringing up the players who struggled, some members of the media have said throughout the season how the Bruins won the Cup in 2011 and how hard it is to repeat as champions because the team endured a long year and extremely short off-season. To these people the Bruins probably weren’t going to win the Cup in 2012, so what does it matter when they were eliminated?

Does this make any sense? It doesn’t matter when the team was knocked out? If that is the case, then why even bother playing the games? Is winning the Stanley Cup once every 39 years good enough? Isn’t the goal of any team to establish a winning tradition? Winning the Stanley Cup every year just isn’t going to happen, but teams can be contenders year in and year out. And no, just getting to the playoffs is not contending. Getting to the conference final, now that is contending.

There have been a handful a teams that have advanced to the conference finals in back-to-back years, it has been done on many occasions even just since the year 2000. From 2000-2003, the New Jersey Devils made the Eastern Conference Finals two out of the three years, Buffalo made it in back-to-back years in 2006-2007, same with Pittsburgh in 2007 and 2008. That is just in the Eastern Conference.

In the Western Conference, Colorado made it three straight years from 2000-2003, Anaheim made it in back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007, and the same goes for Detroit in 2008 and 2009, as well as San Jose in 2010 and 2011.

Taking it a step further, three teams made it to the Stanley Cup finals in back-to-back years. After winning the Cup in 2000, the Devils were right back in the Stanley Cup final the next year, the Red Wings won it all in 2008 and were also right back in the finals the next year. The Penguins were runners-up in 2008 before winning it in 2009.

This proves that just because a team made/or won the Stanley Cup the year before does warrant grounds for any excuses to be made on the teams’ performance the following year.

The 2011-2012 Bruins should be remembered for their successful regular season, but disappointing playoff run. The 2011 Stanley Cup is in the past, and should not even be brought up. The best franchises contend for conference titles every single year, not win the Stanley Cup and refer back to it as an excuse for losing the next year and in the years to come.

Any questions/thoughts/issues are more than welcomed. Follow me @hannable84, and/or email me at


53 thoughts on “Why are the Bruins getting a free pass?

  1. I am going to get flamed for this but the short answer to your question is no one cares about Hockey.  Last year when I made a similar comment about why no one was paying attention during the playoff run I got flamed for it but I really think it is true. Are the ratings up…sure…but I am pretty convinced that was more causal viewership tuning in the “new” hit show than hockey actually attacking a knowledgeable fan base that would get incensed if the Bruins lost unceremoniously in the first round.  The new fans the Bruins attracted during their Cup run last year barely understood the game, they had little emotional attachment to the team, in essence it was a novelty act.  So this year I feel that when the Bruins lost in the first round of the playoffs these same fans said…”it was a nice run while it lasted”.

    Should their be more angst…yes.  The problems the Bruins had prior to the Cup win are still there…Claude’s system sucks if you need to score goals.  Its fine for defense but if you are going to live by that sword you will die by it.  In 2011 they took 3 series to 7th games and won them all.  There was the flukey sweep of the Flyers that was not characteristic of this team.  Prior to 2011 they had lost the previous 3 game 7’s they had played under Claude…all because of a lack of offense.  He does not open up the offense and allow his offense to attempt to pressure the goal.  It is frustrating to watch and prior to 2011 it was the main reason fans were calling for him to be fired.  Nothing has changed.  However the Cup gave them a free pass…for at least this year…especially with the Pink hats who do not know quality hockey from what they are seeing in Boston.  The result no angst or anger…that is clearly being saved for the Sox.

    1. Agree completely.

      When lots of Bruins fans I know (I stated above I’m not a fan of the team but watch most games because I love hockey), had them slated for a repeat, especially after they went from being last in the East to basically first with the 20-0-1 run, it was a matter of looking at the similar anaemic powerplay and play that was clearly not the best in the 4 weeks leading up to the playoffs.

      I’ll give more credit to Felger here:
      – How many guys have left the Claude system and become 30+ goal scorers? Ryder with Dallas is one I know from this year.

      Didn’t Cam also pen the famous, “You don’t win games 0-0?”

      However, don’t most teams, in any market, get a pass after winning the title in their respective sport, even if they bow out the next year before expected?

      1. I was just explaining why they got a pass. they won in 2011…the euphoria carried over until 2012. They lost a tough close series that could have gone either way. The run ended. Had they missed the playoffs or been blown out…then maybe there would be more anger. But to have anger you have to have an educated fan base that has higher expectations and can see why they are not being met…I do not believe the Bruins have such a fan base.

        1. Actually, it’s just the opposite. The Bruins do have an educated fanbase and that’s the reason why they’re so understanding about the nature of the beast that is playoff hockey.

          The pink hats that claim to love the Red Sox and Patriots but really exist only to tell others how much they love them and have no interest in genuine analysis or understanding of the game don’t really exist in the Boston hockey world. Which is a terrific thing. The fact that idiots aren’t bemoaning this loss as something tragic or shameful only serves to accentuate how many of those idiots exist with respect to the 2 most popular teams in town.

          Which is a horrible thing and Bruins fans are glad these idiots have no interest in hockey.

          1. If you are right then you are saying Bruins fans have no passion or soul. I don’t see either. I think there is no angst because there is only apathy outside the very small loyal fan base.

          2. Can’t say that’s right at all. It’s not like Ranger fans in NY who only like the team after realizing that they were #1 overall seed and finally waking up to the reality that the Knicks are barely able to make the playoffs in the East. That’s my take on the differences in fanbases.

          3. The lack of angst is because angst is stupid. And there aren’t a lot of pink hatters and what have you done for me lately crowd to bring the stupid when it comes to the Bruins.

          4. this in a nutshell.  I expect changes for the Bruins next year, but what good is rage and panic.  

  2. If Ken Holland made any of the comments that Peter Chiarelli did, he’d be polishing his resume.

    If Brian Cashman was “ok” with a 3rd place finish, how fast would one of the Steinbrenners make sure he was looking for another job?

    Yeah, in HockeyTown, the cup is the goal, but also look @ 21 straight years of playoffs–the longest in any professional sport. I don’t think they’re happy being bounced in the first but expectations were also not as high given the last few weeks of play.

    I know there is a mixed base of Felger fans here, but he did start asking the right questions.

    I’m not a Bruins fan but I would be ticked as a fan of those comments. The “Eeyore” defeatist mentality isn’t one you will gain many fans with.

  3. is it a “free pass” or is it more of cogent analysis of what went wrong? Seems to me that for once the coverage is more about what they didn’t do and less about simply assessing blame, which is lazy. Can we just stop defaulting to pointing the finger? I thought we were past this?

    1. Agree – the beat writers such as Fluto and James Murphy to name a few have given thoughtful analysis in explaining what happened (or did not happen) from the Bruins point of view.  Unfortunately, the knee-jerk reaction from the media in general of placing blame in a shrill fashion is what has become popular and maybe even expected by some these days.  I think another reason may be that the story of how/why they lost has been buried in the uproar over the tweets that were directed at Joel Ward.

  4. late, the Bruins and hockey in general is far more popular in Boston and throughout NE than the Celtics/NBA are. It’s not even close.
    I find the media in general gives teams a pass when they falter the year after winning a championship. If the B’s flame out early next season look for some strident criticism in the media and from fans.

    Besides, the media’s been so over the top vicious in going after the Red Sox I think they’ve got little venom left….for the moment. 

    1. Tim…

      For the record I hate Basketball and the NBA more than I hate Hockey and the NHL.  At this point anyone who does not think the NBA is one set away from the WWE is delusional.  Having said that I think the Celtics fan base is still larger than the Bruins (even if recent ratings don’t show it) because basketball is an easier sport to televise and grasp.  The 3 periods absolutely kill hockey.  I don’t believe this is a basketball fan versus hockey fan thing.  I think whether hard core Bruins fans want to accept it or not that interest in Hockey, although peaking the last 16 months in Boston…is still pretty low.  There is no anger or angst because there just are not enough fans left that understand the game and care enough to be outraged.  Fans should be looking to burn Claude at the stake after the Bruins went another year with the worst power play ever…seriously statistically it is the worst playoff power play ever.  Yet, there is no outcry.  The Sox and Pats will dominate the radio waves and the next time there will be any serious Bruins chatter will be in August…assuming there is a CBA.  

      Lastly, if Atlanta dumps the Celts…there will be no hand wringing on that front either because the NBA has gone out of its way to alienate its fans as well.

      1. Fans should be looking to burn the coach at the stake less than a year removed from a Stanley Cup parade? And you think it’s a bad thing that there aren’t more of these “fans” with respect to the Bruins?

        You and the kindred spirits you’re longing for to raise a ruckus are the worst kinds of sports fans there are.

        1. You misunderstand. I was merely explaining why I think there is apathy. I could care less about the Bruins as long as they are owned by the Jacobs. As for whether you think Claude should keep his job or not depends on whether you think last years title was because of him or in spite of him. I think it was in spite of him therefore I don’t believe the fans should not expect him to correct glaring mistakes like history’s worst power play.
          Lastly, I find it utterly amazing people look down on fans who are passionate enough about their team that they actually want accountability. I find lemmings like you and your ilk acceptance of mediocrity all that is wrong with professional sports today.

          1.  Firing your coach every season that a championship is not won is not ‘accountability,’ it is insanity. If you think the last 2 years of Bruins hockey is ‘mediocrity’ you are continuing to appear to be whiny and spoiled. Although I’m sure you will try to defend your joyless bitterness as having high standards. I’m not exactly sure what it says about you that you want sports figures to get on their knees and grovel to you if they don’t finish with a perfect season.

          2. It says that as the consumer of the product that the players and coaches understand that they have to put out maximum effort to win a championship. When they don’t then they should be apologizing to us…we should not be just wholly accepting of them. I have thought the last 5 years under Claude have been marked with mediocrity….at least when I cared enough to even think or talk about hockey. This is a team that has had no offense for 5 years. The accountability should come when the team is bounced from the first round of the playoffs when the expectation is a longer run. As you said they won the championship the year before…oh wait that means they get a pass this year in your lemming eyes. Evidently you are not alone. The premise for Ryan’s column was why…I point to you as exhibit A.

          3. If you think these B’s lost because a lack of effort and were mediocre these last 2 years, I’m trying to picture your demands once a Boston team has a last-place season. I’m guessing public hanging of every employee and dynamiting the venue to the ground might be enough to satisfy your bloodlust.

          4. They were 3rd in the league in goals this season. 5th last season. 2nd four seasons ago. Three top 5 offenses in the last 5 seasons. But yeah, someone told you (because you don’t care, that’s been made clear) that their power play struggled in the playoffs and therefore their offense is terrible.

            Just go away. It’s best for everyone.

          5. It would be best for everyone if you looked at the comments in terms of how the media and fans perceive the team. Yes I was told their power play struggled…because it did….because playoff hockey is different than regular season hockey. If you want to believe all is right with the Bruins and there should be no out cry…by all means stay on the sidelines and don’t say anything. I am sure somewhere Harry Sinden will be smiling knowing you don’t care enough as a fan to demand excellence.

          6.  A Stanley Cup and then another good team the following year is not excellence? You sound like a 16-year old kid from Wellesley whose parents bought him a Lexus, but cried and whined because it was 2 years old and not brand new.

          7. Do you remember being a Boston sports fan in the 70s and 80s? And you are saying a team that won the Stanley Cup last year is mediocre?

            This accountability of yours…does it involve rending of garments and wearing of hairshirts? Tar and feathering? Perhaps being ridden out of town on a rail?

            And the idea that a team should apologize is childish. What do they have to apologize for? That they lost in overtime in the 7th game? How entitled are you? Have you ever had to work for anything, that you think a losing sports team needs to apologize to your sorry ass? Dude, life ain’t fair. Sports ain’t fair, either. And sometimes you can try all you like and still come up short. I’m sure once you’re on your own you’ll learn that.

          8. I remember being a sportsman in the 70’s and 80’s…god am I old. I also remember Eddie Andleman making his reputation holding the Bruins accountable. I remember the apathy towards the Pats, as well as empty seats at Shaeffer Stadium because no one cared enough to hold the Sullivan’s accountable. I remember Red saying publicly, we are the celtics…our fans have a right to expect us to win championships. Most importantly I remember when bill Parcells came to town and started to change the thinking about what is acceptable and what isn’t. I don’t understand why you don’t think you are owed anything for your allegiance, dollars and support. I guess we are just different.

          9. No, not lemmings. You’ve made your status as an entitled fan abundantly clear on these pages for a while now. You’re owed explanations for everything you can possibly think of.

            I don’t know what accountability means. I suspect what you mean by it is that the Boston teams couldn’t possibly be beaten by other teams, but it has to be some sort of lack of effort, strategy or personnel mistakes on the part of your beloved. So you’re angry, and you want ACCOUNTABILITY. Good for you.

          10. Because you don’t know what accountability means I will explain it. When a team we are a fan of fails to meet expectations that are set by the team, media and fans based on the salary expenditures, ticket prices and media coverage then we the paying public are owed an explanation, apology, and if need be someone held accountable. That is one of the main reasons why Bruce started this website…it is not a forum to discuss x’s and o’s, although sometimes it degenerates into that, rather it is a forum to discuss media coverage and fan perceptions of the teams. Accountability in that frame work means that the media is doing it’s job, forcing the team being covered to explain its actions…or lack of action.
            You don’t need to care about accountability…in which case I wonder why you read this website and not the fanboy sites that just cover the specific team you are interested in. It is the nuance of how the teams are covered, of bias in the coverage, of who skates and who doesn’t that interests me…If all you care about are results and player transactions I don’t think you are in the right place.

          11. I am not saying anything he has not said publicly about why he started the site. I am not speaking for him, I am simply restating something he has said many times. Besides, I have known Bruce a long time…he has no problem calling me out either publicly or privately if we disagree. It has happened before and it will happen again. I don’t think I overstated my bounds.

          12.  I would then like you to provide me a link to any ‘Boston Sports Team owes fans an apology’ posts Bruce has penned. As those articles made such an impression on you, and you two are so tight, that should be easy.

          13. That is not what I said. Bruce has articulated that this site is about looking at the media, its accountability and how it holds the franchises accountable to the fans. I made the statement the franchises owe the fans apologies. The franchises make their money by promising a certain product. When they do not deliver it they should be held accountable. That was my argument.

          14. OK bunky. I’ll make this simple. Most of us like what Bruce does because we have a general disdain for the media. Because they’re idiots, and we have a general disdain for idiots.

            People like you, who think that other people owe you an apology for something that has absolutely nothing to do with you, are also idiots. So we have disdain for you as well.

            On the accountability definition you so eloquently listed above, we still don’t understand what you want. Saying they’re sorry would make them “accountable”? Saying they made mistakes would make them “accountable”? That’s something you need as an adult? I pity your family, anyone you try to call a friend and  your coworkers (presuming you have a job) for having to deal with you on a regular basis.

            You don’t get it. You won’t ever get it. I’ll try to make it clear though just in case. The games aren’t about you. The teams don’t exist to serve and please you. The teams exist for entertainment value. If you don’t like it, do something else with your time. Go post on forums where people try to hold Lindelof “accountable” for the stupid ending of LOST.  It has as much logic behind it as what you’re doing here. But at least if you’re over there, the rest of us won’t have to read your drivel and blathering.

          15. Where we disagree is in the end result of accountability. Different teams, different situations, different outcomes. I do agree with you the owners of the teams supply entertainment. I think how that entertainment is valued by the consuming public allows them to profit off of their entertainment product. Where we disagree is what happens when the expectations of the fan base are not met. What’s funny is this whole argument started because Ryan asked a simple question “why are the Bruins getting a free pass?” I answered simply and honestly…because the fan base of the Bruins that would be knowledgeable enough to actually criticize how this team was built and coached is too small to voice an opinion or for the media to cater to. In effect i argued that no one cares about the Bruins.
            I stand by that observation. I equally stand by the observation that when a team does not win a championship they should be held accountable. In the case of the Patriots, management usually jettisons players or coaches who did not perform and they move on. They show by their actions they care. They have a track record over the last 11 years that shows they will get it right and so the fans support them. In the case of the Red Sox this year and last, no such good will exists for a lot of reasons so the media and fans are clamoring for apologies and changes to show that Management hears that the fans want a champion. Its not that complicated, however unlike you my enjoyment of the product on the field is directly affected by how the fan, in this case me, is treated by the organization. The media fits into this equation because they usually arbitrate or even champion for the fan. Ryan was wondering why they weren’t in the case of the Bruins first round collapse.

          16. Apathy? Accountability? Dude, you realize we’re talking sports, right? I think maybe you should stop being late to dinner and hang out with some real, breathing people

          17. We are not talking sport…we are talking the coverage of sports by the local media and why is shaped a certain way.  When you understand the conversation then you can sit at the adult table.  Until then stay quiet in the corner like a good little boy.

          18.  for a guy that has shown no understanding at all of sports, the media, and how they intersect, you are remarkably condescending…

          19. I understand that you demand “accountability” and “apologies”. I understand that the Boston Sports Media is the best in the country at appealing to the lowest common denominator. I also understand that people demanding angst either have never actually faced a real life crisis (i.e., homelessness, bankruptcy, a spouse with a fatal ilness, etc) or some one not yet in middle school. Dude, for me sports is a pasttime, that’s all. There are no moral lessons. There is no “angst”. “Angst” is wondering where you next meal is coming from, or how long your wife can live. Sports is fun, Junior, or should be. If you can’t understand that, I feel sorry for you.

  5. Bruins had only the 5th most points in the conference, so angsting about a 2nd seed losing to a 7th is pretty silly. The two teams were evenly matched, they played a tight series where every game was decided by one goal, and unfortunately the Caps got a random goal in OT to win it. The rush to flame the team and organization after such a series is pretty silly to me. 

  6. I think a big part of the reason is that the Bruins don’t have a very knowledgeable fan base.  And the coverage by shows like Gresh and Zo seem to reflect that lack of knowledge.  For example, Milan Lucic was a piece of crap in that series, and he’s been a piece of crap for large stretches at a time during his career, but because he isn’t afraid to drop his gloves, many of these “bandwagon” fans are quick to look the other way rather than point out his shortcomings.  I keep thinking of Andy Gresh after game 2 telling all of us that the Capitals just “POKED THE BEAR!!! NOW THEY ARE GONNA SEE THE REAL BRUINS.  YOU JUST DON’T DO THAT TO LOOCH.”   The coverage from many in the media seems to resort to the lowest common denominator because that is where a lot of the fans are coming from.

  7. Ryan, have you already forgotten that the run to the 2011 Cup was not some glorious unstoppable march of destruction? The Bruins got taken to 7 by a lousy Habs team and nearly lost that series a couple of times, and had to survive a couple more 7 game series. The very nature of 7th games means that losses such as the one to the Caps can very well happen. 

    1. Someone, I forget who, also pointed out that 2 of the 3 teams the Bruins faced last year, who pushed them to 7, were roughly the same teams as last year.

      Both of those teams were horribly out of the playoffs by March. One of those (who we think is overrated) got bounced in the first, within 5, but I think LA is also this year’s Bruins.

      The thing with the Flyers? They got the wakeup call and shook the team up big-time. Space Cadey BryzLetsAlotOfGoalsInAlof is still there but is the reason why they will probably not be there, at the end.

  8. This is nothing but trolling.  If Bruin fans were screaming for blood and the media was roasting them I’m sure we’d be getting “why have Bruin fans turned on the club so soon after a title?”

    The Capitals are a good team that had a lot of injury issues during the season.  After seven close games they won in overtime in Game Seven, it’s not like the Bruins went out and laid an egg.  They won the division, they battled in the playoffs but lost.  It happens.

  9. The Bruins ran into a Caps team that got healthy at the right time. The Caps also benefited from a hot rookie goaltender who only looked like a rookie occasionally. The Bruins played hard, and it was obvious to people who watched the series. I don’t think players like Lucic and Marchand unperformed. They just got stopped cold by a goaltender who was in the zone.

    Combine that with the fact that the Sox are a disaster so far. The media can grind out more ratings and more page views from “Sox Suck” stories than they can from “Bruins lost a tough 1st-round series a year after winning the Cup for the first time in 40 years.”

  10. Because they won the whole damn thing last year.  That earns a lot of goodwill from people who aren’t reactionary idiots.

    1. A good analogy is the 2005 Red Sox.  They lost in uglier fashion in the 1st round to the White Sox, but the media and fan base were generally circumspect (which is rare).  Of course, the Patriots generally don’t get the same grace period after a championship, at least from the media.

  11. Ryan,

    Not sure if this warrants a media post, but the obvious chatter across both Boston and other media is the Rondo-RefGate incident. If you have enough of a commentary/post, maybe throw it up? Or maybe wait until discipline (or lack thereof) is announced?


    1. Once a ruling comes out, I will probably get a post up, if not then it will be a major emphasis in the links tomorrow morning. It is a busy time of the year for me with finals this week, the final issue of my school’s newspaper that I am editor-in-chief of going to print tonight, as well as the continuous job search. 

      1. Ryan,

        No rush. I haven’t seen much “difference” in coverage here so maybe it’s not even worth it if other than all of us doing our usual rants/raves posts.

        I think the verdict is that we’re happy it’s only one game, as are most media analysts.

  12. Did you miss people HAMMERING Milan Lucic and David Krejci? The “Bruins” as an organization are getting a “pass” because by and large this wasn’t Chiarelli/Julien’s fault. A couple players are getting it pretty good from where I sit, which is the correct reaction.

  13. The wrath of Felger and his Boston cohorts?  Please who gives a hoot what these jerks think.  Nobody is entitle to championships not even
    Boston fans.  Some other pretty fair teams lost in the first round (Penguins,= Cannucks – Red Wings – Black Hawks).  The B’s played better than thos eams and if they had a healthy Bergeron not to mention
    Horton could ne won.  The media let them off easy? GOOD God!

  14. Waaah!  My team doesn’t win every year!   Waaah! How we can we accept that from them?  Waah!  It’s not a sport or entertainmnet, it’s how I measure my manhood!  I DESERVE a champion every year, statistically impossible or not!   Waah!  Let’s all crap all over them because they make me feel less secure in my manhood without NEW championship t-shirts to wear

  15. I honestly cannot believe I’m reading an adult try to justify demanding apologies from professional athletes that don’t perform up to his standards.

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