The Boston Bruins have undergone many changes since their Stanley Cup win over the Vancouver Canucks in 2011. However, that doesn’t mean they are strangers to the big stage.
The Bruins moved into the modern era of hockey after parting ways with former coach Claude Julien whose defensive-minded approach brought the Cup home to Boston eight years ago. Now, with Bruce Cassidy behind the bench, the Bruins have taken on a whole new look.
They have iced a younger, faster team to match what has become a younger, faster game, all while holding onto the physical edge that dubbed them “The Big Bad Bruins” so many years ago. While veterans like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci have acted as the fulcrum of Boston’s transformation through the past decade, the Bruins’ newest faces have provided their share of big-game flare. During their time as Bruins, both the vets and the youngsters have learned what it takes to win in the playoffs and, just as important, how it feels to lose.
2010: The Philadelphia Nightmare
In the second round of the 2010 NHL Playoffs, the Bruins had a 3-0 series lead over the Philadelphia Flyers. After falling one goal shy of a sweep in Game 4’s overtime loss, the boys in orange suffocated the boys in black and gold. The Flyers went on to outscore Boston 10-4 in the remaining three games of the series and toppled the B’s in Game 7 to pull off one of the greatest upsets in hockey history.
Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, Chara, Bergeron, and Krejci, the only remaining members of that 2009-10 Bruins team, suffered the ultimate heartbreak. Needing just one win to clinch a Conference Final berth, they lost four straight.
To say the collapse was crushing is an understatement. The Bruins, who at the time were the only major sports team in Boston without a championship in the 21st century, had fallen short once again. The hope that they had inspired had been tossed aside and New England’s dream of their first Stanley Cup since 1972 was out of reach. It was a lesson the Bruins wouldn’t soon forget.
2011: Stanley Cup Glory
The 2010-11 Bruins’ first postseason test came in the form of their bitter rival: The Montreal Canadiens. After dropping the first two games of the first-round series at home, Boston crawled back with three straight wins. Montreal answered by taking Game 6 in order to force a seventh game. With a Nathan Horton overtime winner, the B’s advanced and got the rematch they were hungry for.
Just one year removed from the pain inflicted by Philadelphia, the Bruins swept the Flyers with a 5-1 exclamation point in Game 4. They had officially exorcised their demons.
After a hard-fought 1-0 win in Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, Boston had punched a ticket to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1990. In a back-and-forth battle with the favored Vancouver Canucks, the Bruins got their hands on the Cup thanks to a 4-0 Game 7 shutout by Tim Thomas.
The B’s prevailed in three Game 7s and won four of the five games that required overtime throughout their run. They learned from their mistakes of years past and came up big when they needed to most. After a 39-year drought, the Cup was brought back to Boston.
2013: Game 6 Collapse
After an abbreviated 2012-13 regular season, the Bruins were set for a first-round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boston had a 3-1 series lead after a Game 4 overtime victory, but the Maple Leafs took Games 5 and 6, both by scores of 2-1.
The Game 7 that followed tugs at the heartstrings of those in Toronto to this day. The Leafs saw their 4-1 lead vanish in the latter half of the third period as Boston sent the game to overtime thanks to a Bergeron tally with 51 seconds remaining in regulation. Just over six minutes into the extra period, Bergeron struck again to propel the Bruins to the second round.
Boston took down the New York Rangers in five games in the second round before seamlessly skating by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final via a sweep. In their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in three years, the Bruins were matched with a team who became a dynasty: the Chicago Blackhawks.
After a triple-overtime loss in Game 1, Boston took Games 2 and 3 to net themselves a 2-1 series lead. The Blackhawks answered with two straight wins of their own; the Cup was in the building for Game 6 and Chicago had a chance to claim it.
The game was tied heading into the third period. Milan Lucic broke the stalemate with a goal with 7:49 to go in regulation. However, another collapse was in store. With 1:16 to go, Bryan Bickell tied the game at two apiece.
Infamously, Dave Bolland gave his team the lead just 17 seconds later. After being just over a minute away from forcing Game 7, the Bruins watched as Chicago celebrated in front of the Boston faithful. Many blamed Rask for the loss, having given up two goals in such a short span.
The ghost of the crushing blow has lingered over Rask ever since. Bruins fans have added to the weight of that loss, continuously looking to those 17 seconds when judging Rask’s rank against other top-tier netminders in the league. It’s a demon that Rask could exorcise by adding his name to the Cup once more on Wednesday night.
Bruins’ New Faces
The majority of today’s Bruins haven’t experienced that level of heartbreak, but they’ve learned what it takes to make it this far, mostly due to postseason losses of their own.
After taking out Toronto in another seven-game series in 2018, Boston took Game 1 of their second-round bout with Tampa Bay. They would go on to drop four straight and allowed the Lightning to advance in just five games.
However, this postseason run has been remarkable. The Bruins found themselves down 3-2 in the first round series against the Maple Leafs but fought their way to a seventh game. They took down the boys in blue in Game 7, marking their third such win in the two teams’ last three postseason collisions.
After going down 2-1 in their second-round series with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston won three straight to end the series in six games. They then swept the Carolina Hurricanes before taking Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, tallying eight-straight playoff victories.
The Bruins found themselves in a 3-2 series deficit entering Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues. On Sunday, they took the decisive matchup by a score of 5-1.
Bruins vs. Blues Game 7
Now the Bruins are face-to-face with another Game 7. Young men like David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Jake DeBrusk have contributed heavily to Boston’s successes throughout the past few seasons. Now in their early 20s, these players are just one win shy of etching their place in hockey history.
The veteran core has contributed as well – both on and off the ice. Chara has been a silent leader since suffering a broken jaw in Game 4, but his courage to continue playing through the pain has set an example for his teammates. Bergeron has been more vocal, giving a rousing speech that got the Bruins fired up prior to Game 6.
This combination of young firepower and veteran poise is why the Bruins find themselves on the verge of their second Stanley Cup title of the decade. It’s a group of puzzle pieces that have fallen into place to create what has been a complete team effort throughout their 2019 playoff run.
These Bruins have felt the devastating pain that comes with a playoff exit and have felt the jubilation of Game 7 victories. They know what it takes to raise the Cup on Wednesday – now they have to take it to the ice.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.