They were built to win. The already-loaded Pittsburgh Penguins added to their arsenal when they brought Jarome Iginla into the fold at the trade deadline.
People in Boston cried foul because reports had surfaced that Iginla was coming to the Bruins. Instead, the Bruins wound up with ex-Penguin Jaromir Jagr.
Before the Eastern Conference finals started, many pundits said the Penguins were too talented, too strong, too deep, too offensively gifted not to win the Stanley Cup this year.
The Bruins, however, turned the tables on their black-and-gold rivals and swept them out of the playoffs.
Last night at TD Garden, it was a 1-0 squeaker with the only goal coming at 5:01 of the third period.
In the four games, the Penguins never led and were shut out twice. Their high-scoring forwards flat-lined. Sidney Crosby? No points. Evgeni Malkin? No points. James Neal? No points. Zip, zilch, nada from their best and brightest.
“I don’t know, for whatever reason we weren’t able to capitalize,’’ said Crosby, who finished the series with 13 shots. “We had chances tonight, open nets. Their D blocked it or one jumped over [Kris Letang’s] stick on a wide-open net. There weren’t times when we were worried, to be honest with you, or we felt like we were losing momentum.
“There were times when you get three or four shifts where they were hemming you in and you feel like they have a lot of pressure. There wasn’t really any point besides that second game where we felt like that. We felt like we were getting chances pretty consistently. They were few and far between for both teams but they capitalized and we didn’t.’’
Iginla had a rough time with his new team in this series. He was able to generate more than one shot on goal in only one game — and that was two in Game 2.
“There were some close games, we tip our hat to the Bruins, they’re playing great hockey,’’ said Iginla. “They’re playing tight and they’re also opportunistic. They play hard and they played well. They had a very good series and they won the close games. Obviously we’re very deep but we went cold at the wrong time. I had a very tough series, there’s no question about that. I don’t know what the answer is. I just couldn’t get anything going.
“We believed we were going to find a way to win those close games and we didn’t and they did. They’re moving on and they played great hockey.’’
For coach Dan Bylsma, there is bound to be plenty of scrutiny in the aftermath of such a stunning outcome. Team ownership and management felt it put the Penguins in a position to succeed at the highest level. Instead, a sweep in the conference finals will almost certainly be viewed as an abject failure.
“Our team is a team that considers itself capable of winning a Stanley Cup, put together to win a Stanley Cup,’’ said Bylsma. “That’s our expectation from Day 1. That’s how we build through the season. We certainly feel we were a team capable of winning the Stanley Cup. Coming up short from that, no question it’s disappointing. No question, you feel like that with the expectations that we have on ourselves, that the team has for this group, no question you’re going to look at this as a missed opportunity.
“Evgeni Malkin shot the puck over and over and over again and had great scoring chances. He’s going to have felt he missed an opportunity and didn’t get the goals we needed, five-on-five or on the power play. I don’t think there is a player in there that’s going to feel that they didn’t struggle at a certain part of the game with the looks at the net and scoring opportunities.’’
Malkin was credited with just one shot in Game 4 but he had 21 in the series, including 10 in Wednesday’s double-overtime loss in Game 3.
“I tried,’’ said Malkin. “I tried. Of course, if you can’t get shots, you can’t score goals. But it’s tough because sometimes I’m not scoring and I start to get nervous. Sometimes, I have a good chance but maybe I try to shoot quicker but just sometimes I need to wait and shoot it into an empty net.
“We lost, 4-0. It’s very bad. We scored two goals in four games, it’s not enough. It’s my mistake that I scored zero goals. It’s not good for me. My job is to score goals.’’