Many Boston Bruins fans remember the 2011 Stanley Cup run like it was yesterday. The Bruins won three separate Game 7’s en route to their first Cup since 1972, and there were a ton of incredible moments, from Nathan Horton’s game-winning goals to Tim Thomas’ sparkling performance in net.
However, just as Boston faithful remember the glory from 2011, they most likely still recall the horror that occurred the season before. Taking a 3-0 series over the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Bruins collapsed in epic fashion and lost the next four games. It was embarrassing for everyone involved with the club, including team legend and then-vice president Cam Neely, who was seen storming from his suite after the loss swearing this could never happen again.
Remembering the fact that the latest Bruins Stanley Cup win was a follow-up to crushing playoff failure is incredibly relevant as we enter the 2014 NHL postseason. After storming through the 2013 playoffs and meeting the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins saw a 2-1 lead late in the third period of Game 6 turn into a 3-2 loss in the span of 17 seconds. In less than half a minute, the Bruins went from a possible Game 7 to being forced to watch Chicago hoist the Cup on Boston ice. Once again, the Bruins’ playoff story ended in devastating fashion.
One year later, Boston enters the postseason as the league’s best team. The majority of the roster was around for last year’s collapse, and is no doubt looking to exorcise the demons. Will the Bruins respond to a heartbreaking playoff finale the same way they did in 2011?
They’ve certainly put themselves in a great position to do so. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli replaced Horton – who left as a free agent in the offseason – with future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla. The former Calgary Flames captain has added leadership as well as much-needed consistency to Boston’s first line. Former top draft pick Tyler Seguin, while offensively talented, struggled often in coach Claude Julien’s defense-first system. As a result, he was traded to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and other prospects. Though Seguin exploded for Dallas, Eriksson is a better fit for Boston’s scheme, while Smith has become the team’s surprise player this year. Chiarelli also resigned franchise goalie Tuukka Rask and top forward Patrice Bergeron. The team responded to all of these moves by winning the President’s Trophy for best record in the league.
Of course, you’re not likely to find anyone in the Bruins locker room willing to throw themselves a parade for regular season accomplishments. The entire season has been about seeking redemption, following up disappointment with a Stanley Cup just as they did in 2011. They return to the postseason this year with depth, talent and the same chip on their shoulder that was present during their Cup run.
Boston is hyped by many pundits as this year’s Stanley Cup favorites, but as they and any other team know, hype means nothing when the puck is dropped. The Bruins can talk all they want about bouncing back from last year’s tragic finale, but it’s what happens on the ice that matters most. They’ve spent all year focusing on recovering from the longest 17 seconds of their lives, and now their opportunity has finally arrived.