- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli took the blame Friday for the team's premature exodus from the Stanley Cup playoffs, saying maybe he didn't do enough to bolster the defense at the trade deadline.
Since the Montreal Canadiens eliminated the Bruins with a 3-1 win in Game 7 Wednesday night at TD Garden, the inexperience on Boston's blue line has been a common theme in trying to explain why the Bruins lost.
"We have a young back line right now and I'm partially to blame if you want to assign blame," Chiarelli said during his annual season-ending news conference. "Maybe we didn't get enough at the deadline, maybe we overestimated the youth and where they were."
With veteran defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid sidelined due to injuries in December and January, respectively, Chiarelli knew he needed more depth on defense. The likes of Matt Bartkowski, Kevan Miller, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton were relied on to help carry the load, along with veterans Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk.
At the March 5 deadline, Chiarelli acquired defenseman Andrej Meszaros from the Philadelphia Flyers, and also claimed defenseman Corey Potter off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers. Boston had other undisclosed deals in the works to help bolster the blue line but none came to fruition.
Overall, Chiarelli was pleased with the development of the inexperienced defensive core this season, and hopes the playoff failures will serve as vital experience.
"They brought us to good spots and I think you'll see in the future that these players, these young defensemen, are going to be even better as a result of participating in this series," Chiarelli said.
When the NHL implemented the new bracket-style playoff format for this season, it was designed to create more rivalries in the postseason. With the way the Bruins, Canadiens, Red Wings and the Tampa Bay Lightning are built, it's possible these teams could face off in the postseason more often than not.
With that as a possibility, Chiarelli isn't about to change the Bruins' style or their roster in order to compete against future opponents. As the current roster is constituted, the Bruins have depth, experience and talent to win for the foreseeable future. Chiarelli said there will be some changes this offseason, but nothing drastic.
"This is a very good team," Chiarelli said. "There are some tweaks here and there but it is a very good team. Strong down the middle, strong to the nets, good character, good core, we've won the Presidents' Trophy, we beat Detroit in five, we lost in seven to Montreal. It's very emotional and it is my job to be unemotional about it.
"So this is a good team and there are some trends in hockey that we have to address in this team. It may be that they don't get addressed until fall or halfway through the year or July 1 or before. You have to let things unfold sometimes. But we're not going to make too many changes to this team, but there will be some changes."
Chiarelli & Co. have built the Bruins into a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Chiarelli has managed the salary cap wisely and has locked up the core of this team with long-term contracts. The potential is there, so even though the Bruins failed to accomplish the goal this season, coach Claude Julien doesn't think that wholesale changes should be made.
"All of a sudden we lost to Montreal, we need to overhaul that? No. I think we need to look at the things that we need to tweak here and there and make those kind of adjustments," Julien said. "And some of it will be minor adjustments. You can have some young players that are going to be that much better next year in those kinds of situations. So year to year, things change, and I can only speak as a coach and this is not necessarily what Peter thinks or may think or may not think, but you explode a team that's pretty good just because of the situation that is not based on one reason only, that could be dangerous."
As far as unrestricted free agents, forward Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton, along with backup goaltender Chad Johnson, and Meszaros and Potter will all be looking for new contracts this summer. It's likely Iginla and Thornton will be back, but the others could be signing elsewhere.
Iginla said he would to return to Boston because he believes this team does have the ability to win another Stanley Cup, and he would like to be a part of that.
"I think it's a team that has as good a shot as any to win," Iginla said. "I think next year, with this group, whether I'm here or not, they'll be a force here for a while."
Chiarelli's overall message to the team was a positive one. The Bruins earned the Presidents' Trophy as the best team in the league during the regular season, and three players -- Patrice Bergeron (Selke), Chara (Norris) and Tuukka Rask (Vezina) -- are finalists for top awards. Boston won its first-round series against the Red Wings in five games, before losing to the rival Canadiens in seven.
"We had a heck of a year in the regular season and I thought we had a really good first round," Chiarelli said. "But we're here to win it all so I'm disappointed."