Even without scoring, Jaromir Jagr still a force in pivotal Game 3 win

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer

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BOSTON -- Just as it's been for the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs, Jaromir Jagr could not find the back of the net for the Boston Bruins in their 2-0 Game 3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

And just as it's been for the entire playoffs, he was still a game-changing force for the Bruins.

If Monday was the first time you saw the Bruins play this postseason and you hadn't yet looked at a single stats page, you would probably have a hard time believing Jagr has gone nearly 20 games without scoring. It's a goal-scoring drought that is starting to reach historic levels for postseason play, especially for a player as legendary as Jagr. When his actual on-ice play is taken into account it's one of the most baffling stat lines in these playoffs.

Jagr said that coach Claude Julien wanted to get him on the ice for the empty net situation to help him get the monkey off his back, only to have Jagr respond with "I love the monkey, man."

And that pretty much describes Jagr perfectly right now. Even without the goals for himself he's still loose, confident, and refuses to get down on himself.

"How old are you?" Jagr responded when asked how he keeps himself from getting too emotional. "When you hit 30, then 40, you got to be cooled down at some point. That's the age. No highs, no lows. I learned that's the best way to do it. If you're too high or too low it's kind of stopping you anyways. So you have to be the same all the time, no matter what happens."

While Tuukka Rask will get the headlines for another shutout on Monday, and Daniel Paille will get attention for scoring another huge goal (and it was an awesome play), it was Jagr that was perhaps Boston's best player. He was simply everywhere, making plays in all three zones and creating scoring chances on seemingly every shift.

On Monday, Jagr generated four more shots on goal and nearly every one of them was a quality chance. But it's not just the chances themselves. It's the way he's able to win puck battles along the wall, help the Bruins control possession of the puck, and the way he protects it just like he has throughout his entire career. It's the fact that whenever the puck is on his stick there is absolutely nobody that's going to knock him off of it and get it away from him.

For as graceful and exciting as Jagr has been throughout his Hall of Fame career, his strength was always perhaps the most overlooked aspect of his game with the way he would able to shield defenders from the puck. He may not have the lightning quick speed, or even the same type of shot he did in his prime when he was skating circles around the rest of the NHL, but his strength is still an incredible sight to behold.

And when he wasn't doing all of that, he was still helping to make an impact. He set up Patrice Bergeron's power play goal in the second period with an absolute incredible air-born pass that had almost no room for error.

When Jagr described the play he gave a lot of credit to Boston big-man Milan Lucic for occupying Chicago defenders in front of the net, because as he put it, you can't leave him uncovered. That left Bergeron wide open on the other side of the net and left Jagr with two choices: Make a pass along the ice and go for Lucic's stick, or go through the air to set up Bergeron.

He went with the latter, and it turned out to be a thing of beauty.

Jagr was one of the biggest acquisitions any team made at the trade deadline and it almost didn't happen for them. Had they acquired Jarome Iginla from Calgary the way they originally wanted to there's almost no chance Jagr would be in Boston right now. Given the way Iginla fizzled in Pittsburgh and the way Jagr has made such a positive impact with the Bruins -- both on and off the ice -- it might be the best thing that happened to the Bruins all year.

And it's a big reason they're now just two wins away from winning their second Stanley Cup in three years.

 
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