BOSTON – It’s still too painful for Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli to look back at his team’s epic collapse in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

He’d prefer to think about the NHL’s June draft, when Boston has the No. 2 overall pick and a chance to select a scorer who can take the franchise into the future.

“That’s a feel-good story,” Chiarelli told reporters Tuesday, “so maybe you guys can write that.”

Less than a week after the biggest collapse in NHL playoff history, the Bruins emptied out their lockers and headed into the franchise’s 38th straight summer without a Stanley Cup. Chiarelli promised changes, but he vowed not to overreact to the way things ended and instead consider the way the Bruins qualified for the playoffs on the final weekend, then advanced to the second round for the second straight year.

“I think you have to build on stuff like that,” Chiarelli said, noting that only five teams have reached the conference semifinals in each of the last two years. “You look at deficiencies in our game and address them. But I don’t just look at deficiencies in that series. I have to look at the whole team.”

The Bruins’ deficiencies didn’t start hurting them until after they won the first three games of the best-of-seven series against Philadelphia. The Flyers came back to force a seventh game and then rallied again — this time from a three-goal deficit — to reach the Eastern Conference finals.

“I guess it really happened,” forward Patrice Bergeron said, standing in front of his empty stall in the Bruins’ locker room. “It’s a tough day, and you always want that day to never come. You always want to keep going.”

Only twice before has an NHL team come back to win a series after losing the first three games, and neither of them trailed 3-0 in Game 7. It’s the fourth straight Game 7 loss for the Bruins, the third year in a row they’ve lost a deciding game and the second consecutive season in which they’ve lost the seventh game of the Eastern Conference semifinals at home.

“We had four opportunities to win one game, and we didn’t accomplish that,” Coach Claude Julien said. “There is no doubt we have to live with this. But at the same time I have to start preparing for next year. And it can’t start soon enough.”

Chiarelli has decisions to make before then. Defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk are unrestricted free agents, along with aging forwards Mark Recchi and Miroslav Satan. Goalie Tim Thomas — the reigning Vezina Trophy winner — lost his starting job to Tuukka Rask midway through the season and the Bruins will try to trade him if anyone will take the three years and $14 million left on his contract.

But the Bruins will be getting some help, too.

They picked up the No. 2 overall selection in the draft when they traded Phil Kessel last year. That will yield either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, who tied for the Ontario Hockey League scoring lead this season with 106 points.


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