The pregame ceremony was nearly perfect. The contest that followed didn't quite match that execution.
The Bruins put a stirring cap to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship when they raised the banner to the Garden rafters prior to Thursday night's season opener against Philadelphia. But the opening chapter to their new campaign didn't go quite as well, with the Bruins dropping a 2-1 decision to the Flyers in a lackluster performance.
"We didn't seem in sync," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We never seemed to go up the ice as a unit, and I think there were a lot of things in our game tonight that just weren't characteristic of our team. I think the guys realize it. I think we understand we've got to be a lot better than that next game. It's Game 1 of 82. As I often say, we'll learn from this, but we need to get better, and we understand that, and we will get better."
The Bruins actually started off fine. Feeding off the energy of the crowd after the emotional pregame ceremony, the Bruins came out flying and controlled play for much of the opening period. They jumped out to a 1-0 lead when they accomplished what last year's championship squad rarely did, and converted a power play.
Tyler Seguin sent a long pass out from the right side of the Bruins zone to Brad Marchand at the Flyers blue line, and Marchand got behind the Philadelphia defense and buried a backhander at 9:42.
That would be the only shot the Bruins would get past new Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (22 saves). And for a while, the Bruins had trouble just getting shots on him. They failed to capitalize on a number of early chances, with more shots missing the net than being stopped by Bryzgalov.
Then after that initial early surge, the Bruins flat-lined and Philadelphia took advantage, striking for two goals in the final 50 seconds of the first period to completely take the wind out of the Bruins' sails.
"Those two goals kind of hurt us and put us back on our heels," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "I thought the first period most of it was ours. The first 15 minutes, I thought we generated a lot of chances and we were playing well, but those two goals hurt us. We didn't find a way to come back and weren't playing our game in the second period. And in the third, I thought we did that, we had some good chances and we've got to find a way to score goals."
The Bruins were outshot 13-6 in the first and 12-6 in the second, but did manage to post an 11-4 edge in that category in the third. It wasn't enough to beat Bryzgalov, though, and the Bruins knew they had squandered an opportunity to start the new season off on the right note.
"We started out really strong and then things just weren't clicking as well as they were," said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who finished with 27 saves. "I think we have to approach this as a lesson, that every game is going to be hard. Yeah, we won the Stanley Cup, but that doesn't mean it's just going to happen now. We know the stuff, but we have a night like tonight, hopefully you learn from it and get back on track quick. We need to get in the win column."
The Bruins want a win, and their next game should be an easy one to get up for as Tampa Bay comes to town Saturday for a rematch of the Eastern Conference Final. But the Bruins are also not going to panic over one defeat with 81 more games left to play.
"We still have a great team," Marchand said. "It's the first game. We lost the first game last year, too. It's a long season. We're still trying to get back into things."
On Thursday, the Bruins may have gotten a little too into the excitement of the pregame ceremonies. That energy carried them through the start of the game, but it wasn't enough to sustain them over the course of the whole night.
"We all knew that it's going to be exciting and quite the ceremony, which it was, but the business part kicks in pretty quick," Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said. "I think off the start we did start fine. Guys' heads were in the right place, and there's nothing from the beginning of the night that affected our performance. It was just the hockey game was one of itself."