How they reached the Stanley Cup Final: Boston Bruins
The Bruins were so close to elimination in the first round but are headed to the Cup Final now. A look at how they got here.
The Boston Bruins are back in the Stanley Cup Final just two years after winning it all in 2011, the franchise's first Cup in 39 years. How did it happen, how did they get here?
Only this season could a team that started 14-2-2 be overshadowed, but that's what happened. The Bruins were on fire out of the gate and it seemed hardly anybody took notice, what with the Blackhawks earning points in 24 straight games and the Ducks tearing it up in Anaheim. However the Bruins were setting their own foundation for a good season.
The funny thing about the Bruins, especially in the early going, was that they were winning even though it didn't look like they were playing their best hockey. There were questions about some players and their health/fitness coming out of the lockout -- I'm looking at you, Milan Lucic -- but they were getting by. More than getting by.
Eventually it did start to catch up to the Bruins and they found themselves in a dogfight with the Canadiens for the Northeast Division crown. Matters on that front became even more complicated when the city of Boston was struck by tragedy with the bombings at the Boston Marathon. That resulted in two Bruins games being postponed and the franchise's focus being elsewhere besides hockey. The B's finished tepidly and fell just a point short of the Habs, settling for the No. 4 seed in the East, completing the season with a 28-14-6 record and going into the postseason as a team that looked to be trending the wrong way.
GM Peter Chiarelli wasn't one of the busiest GMs in the NHL at the deadline. In fact, besides signing his own players to extensions, he hasn't been a terribly busy GM over the past two years. Of the 21 players that were part of Boston's Game 7 win in Vancouver two years ago, 17 players still remain. That's a tremendous amount of consistency, particularly of a championship-caliber team.
That didn't stop the Bruins from doing something, though. The biggest move was of course getting Jaromir Jagr from the Stars for a relatively cheap asking price of two prospects and a pick. That came after the Bruins believed they had landed Jarome Iginla. I'd say the move worked out pretty well for the Bruins as Jagr hasn't been scoring but has been a good player while Iginla, with the Penguins, looked lost against Boston.
The other trade that Chiarelli pulled off was getting Wade Redden from the Blues for just a conditional draft pick. He has given them some more depth on their blue line and for the cost has been a pretty nice addition.
He also made a waiver claim to pick up Kaspars Daugavins from the Senators. It hasn't been a move that has paid a ton of dividends but now it's starting to look worthy. Daugavins slotted in for the injured Gregory Campbell last game and played pretty well. He'll probably be counted on the rest of the way. Finally they signed European forward Carl Soderberg but he hasn't played much at all.
The first round brought a date with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team the Bruins have simply tortured over the years. It looked like things were going smoothly for the B's as they jumped out to a 3-1 series lead but then Toronto made life miserable. Nobody will forget the game of the playoffs, Game 7 in Boston.
The Bruins looked like they were down for the count, down three goals in the third period. Then began one of the greatest elimination-game comebacks you will ever see. Boston scored one relatively early but was still down two with 1:30 to play. Then they scored twice in the next minute to improbably force overtime where Patrice Bergeron ended it and the B's moved on by the skin of their teeth.
That comeback was a clear turning point because since then, the Bruins have been nearly untouchable. In the next two series against the Rangers and Penguins, the Bruins lost just one game. They took the gentleman's sweep route against the Rangers before dumping the gentile approach and going with the all-out sweep of the Penguins. In total, the Bruins have won nine of their last 10 games. In the past two rounds they outscored the opponents 28-12.
It was all made possible by their continued focus on a strong defense and the man on the last line, Tuukka Rask. The goaltender was simply sensation in the last two rounds, especially against Pittsburgh. But don't forget the Bruins have skill, too, something that gets overlooked far too often with them. The line of Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton has been awesome and Bergeron has been playing really well while Brad Marchand is getting going.
The Bruins have finally hit their stride.
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