It was a classy way for the Boston Bruins to move on.
They had just eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in an insane Game 7, rallying from down 4-1 with 11 minutes to play to score three late goals and ultimately win in overtime.
With the Leafs players still sitting stunned on the team bus in the bowels of the arena, Bruins coach Claude Julien took the podium down the hall and noted just how impressed he was with the Leafs in this series.
“You can’t walk away from here without honestly and sincerely giving the other team credit,” Julien said. “They had us on the ropes – we’re not going to sit here and lie, they had us on the ropes. They’re a team that believes in themselves. I saw a team with a lot of players getting out of their comfort zone and doing what it took. I have no doubt they’ll grow from that.
“The run that they gave us was unbelievable. At the same time, we talk about the respect of that team, we finished fourth, they finished fifth – they weren’t that far away from us. I think for people who thought it would be lopsided, they were certainly a team that proved that it wasn’t going to be a lopsided series.”
Julien finished with some praise for the job done by Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, who he had sparred with briefly earlier in the series over complaints about how the officials were treating faceoffs.
“I saw a team grow; I think Randy will tell you the same thing about his team,” Julien added. “As an opposing coach, I saw that team get better and better. We’re glad that we’ve gotten rid of them because they kept getting better.”
The Bruins players also offered some unprompted kudos to their opponents, with Milan Lucic admitting they had taken the Leafs for granted after going up 3-1 in the series.
“You’ve got to give Toronto credit for what they did in the series,” Lucic said. “I don’t think anyone really gave them that big of a chance and the way that they played, especially the last three games, they have a lot to be proud about. They’ve got to hold their heads up high.
“It kind of reminds me of where we were at [as a young team] in 2008 against Montreal, and we pushed them to Game 7. They’re going to have a good team in the future and I think that team and organization and city have a lot to be proud about.”
"They played phenomenal," defenceman Johnny Boychuk added. "We just took that momentum from them."