The Bruins’ historic season: Triumph to Tragedy


Courtesy NHL

The Boston Bruins found success as a team throughout this past season, but were defeated by the Florida Panthers on April 30.

Owen Cacciatore, Staff Writer

Despite their embarrassing first playoff round defeat to the Florida Panthers, the 2023 Boston Bruins were still the best regular-season team of all time. And that’s something to be proud of, right?

As Bruins fans still feel the pain of the B’s shockingly early exit, we need to hang on to what made this season one for the record books. This year, the Bruins were a team that was able to accomplish the feat of being the best team of all time for many reasons, mostly with their leadership in Captain Patrice Bergeron, team chemistry, outstanding goalies and trade deadline moves.

With the season starting with drama, many people were not sure if the Bruins would even make the playoffs. Don Sweeny, the Bruins’ general manager, started the year off by firing their head coach, Bruce Cassidy, who had taken the Bruins to the finals in 2019 and had won the President’s Trophy with them in 2020. Cassidy was fired because the coaching staff and fans alike believed he was unable to get the Bruins over that “hump” to win a championship. Sweeny replaced him with Jim Montgomery, who had taken the Dallas Stars to the finals in 2020.

The season got off to a rocky start. Between a new head coach with a seemingly washed-out team full of old veterans and goaltender Tukka Rask retiring in the offseason, no one was sure if the 2017 entry draft Jeremy Swayman or if the Buffalo Sabres’ former starter Linus Ullmark would start in net for the B’s.

In the offseason, the Bruins re-signed captain Patrice Bergeron, re-signed a veteran in David Krecji, traded for young center Pavel Zacha from the New Jersey Devils and signed left wing AJ Greer as a free agent. To some fans, these moves were nothing to get overly excited about at the time.

There were plenty of unknowns going into the season. The Bruins were predicted to finish ninth in the NHL in points at the beginning of the year based on static metrics. As a fan, I had doubts the Bruins would make the playoffs. There were no signs that the Bruins were going to be significantly better than they were before, and most everyone thought they were going to be worse. When the Bruins started the way they did, with 14 home wins. I still had doubts about how long they would keep up this success, especially at T.D. Garden.

But the B’s proved the doubters wrong in the regular season: they had 14 consecutive home wins and a total of four losses at home. 

Ullmark got the starting job at goalie and never looked back; he ranked first in wins, goals against average and save percentage all year. Swayman, when he did play, ranked fourth in all the same categories. Right wing David Pasternak had an MVP year, scoring the second most goals in the NHL. Also at right wing, Jake Debrusk had a breakout year, carrying the Bruins to many wins despite breaking his leg in the Winter Classic.

While already on pace to break the NHL record for most wins, the Bruins at the March 3rd trade deadline obtained forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Garnet Hathaway and defenseman Dmitry Orlov. All the veterans were having good seasons with their respective teams. I do not think there was a single Bruins fan who would tell you the team hadn’t earned the title of best of all time.

On March 11, 2023, the Bruins recorded their 50th win of the season in 64 games, becoming the fastest team to 50 wins in a season in NHL history. They also became the first team of the season and the third-fastest team ever to clinch a playoff berth in an 82-game season. The Bruins won their third Atlantic Division title (and their 27th overall) with a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 25. They won their fourth Presidents’ Trophy, which is the trophy for the best NHL team in the season, with an overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets five days later.

As a Bruins fan, I loved turning on the TV every other night and watching the Bruins beat whatever team they were facing. They were a fun and exciting team to watch all season. As the goalie, Ullmark scored a goal; Pasternak was going crazy all year, scoring highlight goals. Defensemen, Charlie Macovy and Hampus Lindholm, were among the top 10 defensemen in the league.

The Bruins set an NHL record for most wins and points in a season with 65 wins and 135 points, respectively, surpassing the records previously held by the 2018–19 Tampa Bay Lightning and 1995–96 Detroit Red Wings.

When the post-season started, the B’s were hot and I was excited to watch this team finally win the first Stanley Cup that I would be able to remember. After going up 3-1 in the first series, I was confident we would win.

 Then Bergeron got hurt, Ullmark stopped playing like himself and the Bruins lost game five of the playoffs in overtime at the Garden 4-3. The 

Then came game 6 in Florida—no way we’d lose to Florida again. I thought game five was a fluke. Then we lost 7-5. But they’re not going to lose game 7 at home… it just couldn’t be possible. But then the seemingly impossible happened. Like the rest of the Bruins faithful, I couldn’t believe they blew a 3-1 lead and were upset in the first round by the Florida Panthers, losing their spot in the playoffs in seven games. 

Besides a touch of senioritis, this game may have been the direct cause of some of my absences from school. I was shaken to the core. A team that was literally the best team of all time lost to the Florida Panthers. A team that almost missed the playoffs. The Bruins lost 3-2 in overtime. After being up 2-1 with three minutes left in the game. It is one of the worst choke jobs by a team I’ve ever seen, and as a fan, I was (and am) embarrassed and sad. If I were not a Bruins fan, I would find this hilarious because it is laughable how many chances we had to win this series. 

Yes, this extraordinary season ended like a cruel joke that still stings. And, yes, you can point all the fingers you want at all the different players and coaches, but in the end, like I say every year, there is always next year.