Bruins motivated to avenge loss

BOSTON -- Complete and utter devastation.

That's what the Boston Bruins had to deal with following their historic collapse to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in May.

By now, everyone in the hockey world knows how the Bruins ended their season. Boston had the Flyers one game from elimination with a 3-1 series lead before Philadelphia forced a Game 7, eventually winning.

To add insult to injury, the Bruins held a 3-1 lead after the first period in that final game before losing 4-3. The scene in the Bruins' locker room that night was pure misery. It didn't help that the Flyers reached the Stanley Cup finals before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Now, four months later, the Bruins were back in their room at TD Garden for the start of training camp in preparation for the 2010-11 season.

There's hope the Bruins can learn from that implosion and use it as motivation for this season. At least that's what general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien told the players when they addressed the team Friday morning.

"One of the things we talked to the group about this morning was, not essentially turning the page," Chiarelli said. "This is always going to be in our memory, but we need to build on it. I don't think we are ever going to turn the page on it. We are going to build on it and we are going to respond to it."

Julien completely concurred.

"We owe our fans a lot," the coach said. "They've been obviously loyal to us, and going back to last year, with the way the season ended and to see the loyalty and the commitment that they're showing towards us, I think it's important for us to realize that and we want to reward our fans being that way."

Julien was referring to the fact that the total attendance for the two rookie games against the New York Islanders on Wednesday and Thursday at the Garden reached 25,000. That's impressive.

And if you asked each and every fan who paid the $5 ticket price for the rookie games, they probably would have said they want their money's worth once the regular season begins.

"What happened last year is something you never want to forget," Julien added. "It's something you want to keep in the back of your mind."

Julien finally said his peace with the players, and now it's time to focus on the upcoming season.

"It's not something you want to keep brining up day in and day out, and I think that's how we need to approach [it]."

Julien got his message across. He told his players that last season's debacle isn't something you can erase. The Bruins will always be remembered for the collapse. And the only way to remedy that is to win this season -- maybe even the entire thing.

"The way it ended was tough to swallow," Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said. "It was tough at first to understand what happened. We've learned the hard way."

"It was a terrible feeling when it first happened," defenseman Mark Stuart said. "Now it's switched to more motivation. At first it was a bitter and awful feeling, and now it's something we can use moving forward. If we didn't learn from it, it was worth nothing."

Management's message obviously got across to the players because each one said all the right things. However, this wasn't just lip service and boring cliches; the Bruins appear to be motivated.

Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask was between the pipes for the entire postseason, and while it's unfair to blame any portion of the collapse on the goaltender, he's ready to make up for that this season.

"We have to recognize what happened," Rask said. "You can't just not think about it because it's in your mind somewhere and you have to learn from it. If the same situation comes in front of us, we have to be more prepared and ready to take the challenge and not fail like that."

Julien made it a point to say he was impressed with the way the players arrived at camp in good shape and mentally focused on the task at hand. This year does feel different in a positive way.

"I feel like we've got a great team in here and I'm really confident in this group," Bergeron said. "On paper, it looks good. But we need to bring it on the ice, and that's important."

If not, it'll be complete and utter disappointment -- again.

"Don't forget about it, and store it in the back of your mind," Julien said. "Because at one point you need to use that to move forward with your team and as an individual."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.