At the time, it seemed like that game was the apex of frustration. OK, Shawn Thornton got Matt Cooke back 7 seconds into the game. Great. After that, they should have just packed up their stuff and headed to the locker room. It was a lifeless effort. Hell, Big Z had to pick a fight with Mike Rupp just to try and get some life back into the team. That failed, and the fight sucked, too.
I don't know if they'd been looking forward to that game for too long, or if it served as a wakeup call or what, but immediately after that, they started playing much better hockey on a more consistent basis. They had a very strong effort against the Rangers, resulting in a 2-1 win, then whipped the Thrashers 4-0 in what was laughably billed at the time as the biggest game in Thrashers' history. A 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay led to Tim Thomas's return to the net, and after Timmy's shutout of the Flames, three soft goals against Buffalo sent him back to the bench for good, save for the season-ending mop-up. They had that great win against New Jersey, where Tuukka outdueled Brodeur, then that bizarre loss to Florida, a game they would have won 99 times out of 100. An OT win against Toronto (which had the added benefit of burying the resurgent Leafs, and helping to ensure that we'd get the #2 pick), followed by a hard-fought OT loss to Washington, then the three game season-ending win streak.
In each of those losses, save perhaps the 5-3 loss to the Lightning, you can isolate the problem: Timmy lets in some soft goals, despite the team in front of him playing well. Wideman's dumbass penalty in overtime gives Washington a 4 on 3 power play, virtually assuring defeat. Scott Clemensen turns into Georges Vezina for a day and the Panthers somehow block 40 or so shots in front of him. (For God's sake, that entire game was played in Florida's zone!) In each case, again, aside from that 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay, the teamwide effort was very good, and the Bruins were not outworked in any game.
It's been the same in the playoffs. Only in the game 5 loss to Buffalo were the Bruins clearly outworked and outhustled, a game which, frankly, I think a lot of us saw coming. The Sabres were pissed off having been down 3-1, despite playing pretty good hockey for the most part. They were due. In any case, the Bruins were so up and down for most of the regular season, with an effort level that flatlined as often as not, and it's been a completely different team ever since that 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh. I don't know if that marked a turning point, or if it's just coincidence, but I'm leaning towards the former. You can write a 5 game hot streak off as coincidence. 10 games is still not a great sample size. But 20 games? Now you're getting to a point where you have to start considering the possibility that a team has established a new level.