The Boston Bruins won 64 games in the regular season and playoffs in 2018-19, their most since 1971-72.
They needed one more.
The Bruins lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues and are beginning what they hope is a long road back. Only this time, they want it to end with the franchise’s seventh Cup and first since 2011.
“Yeah, that leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Bruins center Charlie Coyle said. “Obviously. You come so close and get nothing, it makes you want it that much more. And you can tell in (our locker room), you can tell guys are focused and ready to go. It’s definitely something we’re using as motivation.”
The Bruins at least can take solace in that their roster remains almost unchanged since June 12, the night the Blues won 4-1 and celebrated their first championship at TD Garden in Boston. Sixteen of their 18 skaters from that game returned, as did starting goaltender Tuukka Rask and backup Jaroslav Halak.
Their first line of left wing Brad Marchand, center Patrice Bergeron and right wing David Pastrnak remains deadly, their blue line has a mix of youth and experience and their roster is deep. Coyle is an example of that, as the former first-round pick is the team’s third-line center after being acquired before last season’s trade deadline from Minnesota.
The Massachusetts native and former Boston University player scored 16 points in 24 playoff games and expects to be even better in his first full season in Boston.
“You come halfway through the year, you miss a lot,” Coyle said. “Guys were getting called up last year, and I had no clue who they were. It’s hard to get names and all that.”
Coyle knows names now, and the rest of the team has an impressive amount of continuity. That has allowed fourth-year coach Bruce Cassidy and his staff to focus on the details at practice, such as the Bruins’ spacing in the offensive zone.
The goal is for that work to pay off in the postseason.
“We’re a resilient team,” Marchand said after the Bruins beat the Golden Knights 4-3 Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena. “We’ve shown that plenty of times, and there’s a lot of experience in here.”
James loves Connor
What a difference a year — and Connor McDavid — makes for Edmonton Oilers left wing James Neal.
The former Knight led the NHL with seven goals through Friday’s games after an underwhelming 2018-19 season in Calgary. That’s an Oilers’ franchise record for the first four games, besting Glenn Anderson (six) in 1987-88 and “The Great One” himself, Wayne Gretzky (six), in 1983-84.
McDavid deserves a lot of credit for Neal’s fast start to his first season in Edmonton. The center has the primary assist on three of Neal’s goals and secondary assists on two.
The Oilers are 5-0 with 10 points after Saturday’s 4-1 victory at the New York Rangers.
The San Jose Sharks brought back franchise legend Patrick Marleau on a one-year deal Wednesday. That means the two active leaders in NHL games played are both on their roster.
Marleau, 40, has played 1,658 games, fifth most all time. Center Joe Thornton, 40, has played 1,571, 12th most.
RJ’s best and worst
Review-Journal hockey writer Ben Gotz gives his best and worst NHL teams each week. Record and goal differential are through Friday.
1. Boston Bruins (3-1-0, +1)
Started the season with a four-game road trip and came out looking strong.
2. St. Louis Blues (3-0-1, +3)
The reigning champs’ first three games were against playoff teams, and they didn’t lose in regulation.
3. Carolina Hurricanes (4-0-0, +6)
The “Storm Surge,” and this team’s swagger, are definitely back.
4. Colorado Avalanche (3-0-0, +6)
They’re young but not scared.
5. Nashville Predators (3-1-0, +5)
Three power-play goals in four games? Who are these guys?
27. Columbus Blue Jackets (1-2-0, -7)
That mass talent exodus they had this offseason is showing up on the ice.
28. Los Angeles Kings (1-2-0, -6)
They have a win, but goaltender Jonathan Quick’s play is concerning.
29. New Jersey Devils (0-2-2, -11)
They had a 4-0 lead in their first game. It’s been downhill since.
30. Minnesota Wild (0-3-0, -8)
Their early schedule is tough, but they have to score more.
31. Ottawa Senators (0-3-0, -5)
They at least played the Blues tight at home.