Revisiting the Bruins’ Final Shortened Season at Boston Garden

With the NHL agreeing to a shortened 56 game schedule this past week, the Boston Bruins look to repeat on an impressive 2020 campaign. Boston finished first in the Atlantic division with 100 points (44-14-12) and won a round in the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes. However, their season came to an astounding halt after the eventual Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning beat Boston in five games in the conference semi-final round. The Bruins will have a chip on their shoulder in 2021 and have had much success in previous shortened seasons in the modern era, so let’s take a look back at the 1994-95 team during a shortened season lockout.

1994-95 Lockout: Bruins Come Up Short

The 1994-95 NHL lockout was a long one. It started in the beginning of October of 1994 and went all the way to the beginning January of 1995, wiping out many months of the season. After months of uncertainty,  the league finally agreed on a 48-game season that started in late January and only saw teams playing within the conference. In Boston, the biggest story was that the Bruins were going to play their last season at the famous Boston Garden in 1994-95, which was their home the past 67 years. 

In the final season at the Garden, the Bruins finished with a home record of 15-7-2 and a 27-18-2 record overall, which was good for the fourth in the Eastern Conference. It was competitive season for head coach Brian Sutter’s club when Boston faced off with the New Jersey Devils in the conference quarter-finals. Boston dug themselves in a hole early in the series after two shut out losses, but battled back in Game 3 with a gutsy 3-2 win.

Cam Neely’s goal late in the second period pushed the Bruins over the hump in that game. Still, the Devils were in control of the series after a heroic Game 4 1-0 win in overtime on a goal from Randy McKay. New Jersey ended up winning the series and the final game ever played at the Boston Garden, 3-2, and hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time in its franchise history a month later. 

Bruin Standouts in 1994-95

Ray Bourque, Defenseman

You can’t have a standout list without Ray Bourque, it’s really that simple. The guy played 21 seasons in Boston, was a five-time Norris Trophy winner, and a 19-time All Star when it’s all said and done.

Raymond Bourque Boston Bruins
Raymond Bourque, Boston Bruins (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

In 1994-95, Bourque was second on the team in points with 43 points and second in assists with 31. While Oates had the last goal at the Boston Garden, and Bourque had the assist. 

Adam Oates, Center

Oates already established himself as one of the go-to guys for Boston earlier. In 1992-93, Oates led the league in assists with 97 and finished with 142 points overall which was good for third. 

Cam Neely
BOSTON, MA – 1990’s: Cam Neely #8 of the Boston Bruins skates after puck in game at the Boston Garden. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Two years later, the center played in all 48 games scoring 12 goals and dishing out 41 assists on the year. Oates is in the history books for the last Bruin to score in the Boston Garden in Game 5 versus the Devils.  

Cam Neely, Right Wing

Neely put the puck in the net for the Bruins that season. He led the team with 27 goals in only 42 games played and was third on the team in points with 41. The winger was clutch for Boston this year when he scored five game-winning goals including the biggest for the Bruins in overtime  the playoffs in Game 3 in the first round vs. the Devils. 

Bryan Smolinski, Left Wing

Smolinski was another guy who stepped up for Boston in 1994-95 in the goal department. He had 18 goals during the season, five of them being game winners. Smolinksi only spent three seasons in Boston, and went on to Pittsburgh the following year. The winger may have been a bit under the radar because the first three guys on the list are Hall of Fame players, but he came through big that year with some meaningful goals. 

End of Sutter Era

Sutter was let go by the Bruins after three seasons with the team. He led Boston to three straight playoff appearances, but the New Jersey Devils closed the door on the Bruins Stanley Cup hopes not once but twice during his tenure as coach. The other playoff defeat was to the Buffalo Sabres in his first season. Calgary hired Sutter the next year, and the Bruins hired Steve Kasper, who only last two seasons in Boston.

The following season, the Bruins’ new home became the TD Garden, which is still their home today. In his first season as coach, Kasper and the Bruins made the playoffs for the 29th year in a row, but the team came up short yet again. Boston lost to the Florida Panthers in five games in the Eastern quarter-final round. That 29-year playoff streak ended the next year, in 1996-97.