BOSTON (AP) Two days weren't enough to relieve the Boston Bruins' pain after a six-game loss to the Ottawa Senators in an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
But the pain was dulled by the positives of a season that had them reach the postseason for the first time since 2014 and integrate several young players into their lineup to complement the veteran core.
''We definitely made a step forward, definitely in the right direction,'' center Patrice Bergeron said on Tuesday as the Bruins cleaned out their lockers at Warrior Ice Arena.
''The young players coming in are also contributing, and gaining some huge experience in the playoffs is something that you can't buy and something that's going to go a long way for them but also for us as a team.''
It didn't look as if the Bruins were going to gain that playoff experience when they were 26-23-6 and fired head coach Claude Julien on Feb. 7.
They replaced him on an interim basis with first-year assistant coach Bruce Cassidy, who led them to a 7-1-0 record in his first eight games and an 18-8-1 run to finish the regular season. Boston clinched its playoff berth with two games to go.
''Well it was for sure something that shook up the whole team, all the players, the whole organization,'' Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said.
''I thought that kind of brought a true realization that we need to be better and was kind of a big wakeup call for everybody. I think from that day we really started playing a little bit more together and we were getting results.''
The Bruins' first order of business will be to decide whether to bring Cassidy back as full-time head coach.
The players made it clear where they stand on the issue.
''We obviously had some success with Butch and it shows with the way that we played,'' defenseman Torey Krug said. ''The guys were excited to play for him. I think the guys in this room would echo that same message and hopefully it does happen. It's out of our hands, but the guys like playing for him.''
The Bruins only have three unrestricted free agents (forwards Drew Stafford and Dominic Moore, and defenseman John-Michael Liles), but have to get contracts done with restricted free agent forwards David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner.
After getting 70 points (34 goals, 36 assists) in 75 games, Pastrnak will be a priority. The Bruins can also negotiate an extension with the 40-year-old Chara after July 1. In the last season of his contract, Chara will count for $4 million under the NHL's salary cap.
Chara, who's been with the Bruins 11 seasons, would like to finish his career in Boston.
''There is a vision. I do have a vision. But as we all know, anything can happen in hockey,'' he said. ''As much as it's sport, it's so beautiful to have players staying with one team and retiring on that team, it's possible, but also it's something that you can't always rely on.''
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