The Bruins were as close as you could get to being champions last year before falling short. This year they are once again in the hunt, with a team that has a mixture of youth and veterans similar to the last time they won The Cup. Here is a quick look back at the last time our Bruins finished at the top, the 2011 B's.
In order to strive for success, you must have a guide to point you in the right direction. For the Bruins, that came in the form of head coach Claude Julien, who was in his fourth year with the B's. Far before that, Claude was a solid defenseman who played in multiple leagues. The most recognizable leagues he played for was the NHL (a brief stint) as well the AHL (469 games).
After he called his playing career over, he then sought out a career in coaching. He started in the QMJHL, before becoming head coach of the Canadiens minor league affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, from 2000-2003. Julien was then promoted to head coach of the professional Canadiens, but was fired after three years. After a one year job with the Devils, he joined the Bruins. His first three years with the Bruins had them falling short every year, but not at the fault of Julien. Claude's genius fourth year would be the best in his career.
The Young Guns
This team was packed with amazing youth, and half of those key young studs still remain on the Bruins to this day. Milan Lucic was in his fourth year with the Bruins, like Claude. Also like Claude, Lucic has yet to climb to the same heights as the 2011 season. Lucic led the team in goals and was tied for first with overall points. He was even sixth in the league in shooting percentage. In the playoffs he wasn't as effective, but he didn't have to be thanks to 24 year old teammate David Krejci.
Krejci led the team in assists, and even was top ten in the whole league in that regard. He was spectacular in the playoffs, putting up 23 points in 25 games! Elsewhere at his position, Bergeron was attempting to return to his pre-2007 injury. He was third in goals and second in assists for the B's, while having his best season in the last four years. It was also his best defensive season up to this point.
Nathan Horton was acquired by the Bruins via trade the same year they won the Stanley Cup. This was his last season playing more than 50 games, but he made the most of it. Horton was a right winger who scored the second most goals on the team. In the playoffs he missed four games, yet still produced 17 points. He left in free agency a couple years later, but retired one year later. And of course, there was Brad Marchand. In just his second season, he produced 41 points during the season and 19 points in the playoffs. Of course, in a few years he would end up surpassing all of his teammates and become the most crucial player to the Bruin's success.
Mark Recchi played the last career season with the Bruins. He finished his career with a bang, winning the Stanley cup while being rather important. He finished the season with 48 points, and contributed with 14 in the playoffs. If nothing else, he was an impactful veteran presence which helped the younger players perform their duty. Chara was the Bruins best defensemen, making the All-Star team and winning the Messier award. We can't forget THE Tim Thomas, who won the Vezina trophy as the leagues best goalkeeper during the regular season. But his success wasn't just in the regular season, as he won the Conn Smythe Trophy for Playoffs MVP. Altogether, this squad had the perfect mix of personalities and experience to win the cup.
The Playoff Fight
The playoffs started out bad, losing the first two games to Montreal at home. The only goal came from Bergeron in the second game. But just as it started to look like a repeat of past years, Claude made changes and they rebounded. The Bruins won the next three games, two of which in overtime. But then Montreal evened the series at home, meaning the deciding game would happen back in Boston. Boston scored the first two goals in the first five minutes, but Montreal evened the score by the end of the second period. Chris Kelly gave Boston the lead, only to give up a power play goal in the waning minutes of the game. Another OT, and another win for the Bruins after Horton got one into the back of the net five minutes in. Then it was on to Philly.
Up to this point, the Flyers had a lot going for them. But the Bruins were on a roll. After just four games, the Bruins were moving on to the next round. They outscored their opponent by an insane 20-7, with only one close game. Tampa was a bit more difficult, to say the least. They split the first two games in Boston, before once again splitting the next two in Tampa. Game five was a relatively easy win, but like with Montreal, game 7 was going to have to decide the series. In an uneventful game, the Bruins came out on top near the end of the third, thanks once again to Horton. And just like that, they were in the big game.
Boston vs Vancouver in the Stanley cup. Vancouver was led by the Sedin brothers and Ryan Kessler on offense, and the superb goalie Roberto Luongo on the defensive end. Vancouver's star power propelled them to close victories in the first two games, but the Bruins absolutely crushed it at home. In games 3 and 4, the Bruins outscored the Canucks 12-1 thanks to a combined team effort lead by Marchand and Rich Peverly. But another close 1-0 defeat in game 5 put the Bruins on the brink of failure.
But that just adds to the magic of what happens next. Game six was a blowout win for the Bruins at home, but game seven was back at Vancouver. Two young men decided to make history that game, both of which are still carrying the team today. In that final win or go home game, both Bergeron and Marchand scored two goals to carry the Bruins to a Stanley Cup.
Just like back then, those two are within arms reach of fighting for the Stanley Cup. Once again, there is a perfect mix of old and young. Players like Chara, Marchand, and Bergeron are now the star vets, and Pasternak, Debrusk, Heinen, and McAvoy as the young guys looking to make an impact. Last year they were one game from another Stanley cup. I believe they will be even better next year, as this offseason they didn't lose any crucial players, and the young guys have developed even more. They have followed the formula from 2011 very well, even without trying to. That can only lead to success and strengthen the legacy of the 2010-2011 Boston Bruins Team.