BOSTON -- To a man, every Boston Bruins player as well as coach Claude Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli admitted in the immediate aftermath of the team's seven-game series loss to the Washington Capitals that the mental grind of their 2011 Stanley Cup run had carried over to this season and into the first round of the playoffs.
A week later, team president Cam Neely -- who as a player reached two Stanley Cup finals himself -- sympathized with the players, but said he didn't believe there was complacency on their part.
"I wouldn't say I sensed that. I just know mentally what kind of a mental grind it was last year for everybody," Neely said. "I mean physically our guys were in great shape, but mentally I think it was a bigger grind than anybody really expected."
But with that said, the passionate Neely also made it clear he expected more from his team regardless of how much hockey they may have played over the last two seasons.
"I felt like everybody, we could have got through this series," Neely said. "I don't think we played our best games at all in the games that we lost and even some of the games that we won I don't think we played our best hockey. That part is difficult to swallow because we all feel we should still be playing right now and you get out of the first round and you never know what happens in the second round."
Neely always strove to be the best as a player, and he expects the same from the current Bruins roster he oversees. While he agrees with Chiarelli that no major changes are in order, he is still not happy with the fact his team can no longer defend their title as champions.
"I've been learning patience, there's no question. But that doesn't mean I have to be satisfied with not winning," Neely said. "I don't think anybody up here is satisfied with not winning. You go a long time in this organization without winning a Stanley Cup and you win it and it's a pretty good feeling. You follow it up with going out in the first round, and it's something you don't want to happen again."
Neely is just as underwhelmed as Bruins fans, and in his eyes, the Bruins didn't bring all they have to offer in the series with Washington.
He's hoping the players feel the same way. As far as he is concerned, their mental fatigue was understandable but it's no excuse. He doesn't want the players to blame this early exit on that; instead, he wants the taste of losing to stick with them through the summer and motivate them to be better in the future.
"I certainly hope our players take this offseason to really understand and remember the feeling of what it's like to lose in the playoffs and not win that final game because we didn't have that at all last year," Neely said. "You know, what we went through and the Game 7s that we won. We were feeling the best you could possibly feel at the end of last year and from my perspective, I hope they don't like this feeling of how we finished the year this year and what the feeling is like when you lose."