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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins top Senators in first meeting in almost two years

Bruce Cassidy picked up his 200th win as head coach of the Boston Bruins, while Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winning goal late in the second period to lift the B’s over the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Jeremy Swayman (3-2-0, 2.22 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in five games played) made 25 saves on 27 shots against in the win for Boston.

Senators goaltender, Matt Murray (0-4-0, 3.10 goals-against average, .897 save percentage in five games played), stopped 33 out of 36 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 6-4-0 (12 points) overall and moved into 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while Ottawa dropped to 3-8-1 (seven points) on the season and remained in 7th place in the Atlantic.

Boston is 5-0-0 at home this season, which marks their best start on home ice since the 1990-91 season, when the B’s also went 5-0-0 at home to start the year.

The longest home winning streak is eight games, set by the 1983-84 Bruins on the old Boston Garden ice.

Cassidy, meanwhile, became the sixth head coach in franchise history to reach the 200-win plateau with the club, joining Claude Julien (419 wins, 2008-17), Art Ross (387, 1925-45), Milt Schmidt (245, 1955-66), Don Cherry (231, 1975-79) and Gerry Cheevers (204, 1981-85) in doing so.

Prior to Tuesday night, the last time the Bruins met the Senators in the regular season was on Dec. 9, 2019, in a, 5-2, loss at Canadian Tire Centre.

Additionally, the last time the Sens won in Boston was on April 6, 2017, in a, 2-1, shootout victory at TD Garden.

The two teams will face each other three more times this season.

The Bruins were without the services of Nick Foligno (upper body) and Anton Blidh (upper body) on Tuesday, while Cassidy made a couple of changes to his lineup after Saturday night’s, 5-2, loss in Toronto.

Jack Studnicka made his return to Boston’s lineup at right wing on the third line with Jake DeBrusk at left wing and Erik Haula at center, while Curtis Lazar took over Karson Kuhlman’s role on the right side of the fourth line.

Kuhlman joined Jakub Zboril on the short list of healthy scratches for the B’s on Tuesday.

Taylor Hall turned the puck over in his own zone on a blind pass while trying to generate a rush the other direction, but Ottawa took the puck to the net, generated a rebound and that’s where Zach Sanford (1) came in to clean up the garbage with his first goal of the season– giving the Senators a, 1-0, lead 1:14 into the first period.

Ottawa’s 10th captain in franchise history, Brady Tkachuk (3) had the only assist on Sanford’s goal in what was the earliest goal against allowed by Boston so far this season.

About a minute later, Charlie McAvoy cut a rut to the penalty box for holding and presented the Senators with the night’s first power play at 2:47.

The Sens were not successful on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Midway through the opening frame, Drake Batherson caught Charlie Coyle with a high stick and was assessed a minor infraction at 12:43, but Boston’s ensuing power play was cut short when McAvoy tripped up Alex Formenton at 13:14, yielding an allotted span of 4-on-4 action for the next 1:29– until Coyle slashed Nick Paul and went to the box at 13:42, however.

Ottawa was given a rare 4-on-3 power play for about 1:02 and used their timeout with 5:19 remaining in the first period to rally on the scoreboard, but the Bruins stood tall on the penalty kill as both teams resumed full strength 5-on-5 action shortly thereafter.

Sens defender, Erik Brännström, tripped Coyle at 16:27 and presented the B’s with another power play opportunity that went by the wayside as the first period came to an end with the Senators leading on the scoreboard, 1-0.

Through 20 minutes of play, the Bruins led in shots on goal, 14-11, and held the advantage in giveaways (3-2), hits (11-6) and faceoff win percentage (61-39).

Meanwhile, Ottawa dominated in blocked shots (6-1) and takeaways (4-3) heading into the first intermission.

The Senators were 0/3 and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play after one period.

Six seconds into the second period, David Pastrnak was assessed with a roughing minor after knocking down Thomas Chabot away from the play.

Ottawa did not convert on the resulting power play, however.

A few minutes later, Artem Zub delivered a quick, swift, cross check to Pastrnak and earned a couple minutes in the sin bin as a result at 3:46 of the second period.

This time the Bruins capitalized on the ensuing skater advantage.

Late in the power play, McAvoy worked the puck to Pastrnak, who wired a shot towards the net off of his teammate, Brad Marchand’s (5) chest and into the twine– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

Pastrnak (4) and McAvoy (5) tallied the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal at 5:12 of the second period.

About five minutes later, the Bruins were dominating attacking zone possession when Hall worked the puck to Coyle, who promptly set up Derek Forbort (2) for a shot from inside the faceoff dot to Murray’s right side– beating the Senators goaltender high, glove side, across the crease while pinching in from the point.

Coyle (3) and Hall (4) were credited with the assists as Boston snagged their first lead of the night, 2-1, at 10:58.

Less than a few minutes later, after Paul gingerly made his way off the ice with an apparent leg injury (he’d return to the action in the third period), Nikita Zaitsev (1) skated along the boards to get to a loose puck first and sent a shot through Swayman into the net to tie the game, 2-2, at 13:09.

Tyler Ennis (6) and Chabot (4) tallied the assists on Zaitsev’s first goal of the season and the Senators were surging.

A couple minutes later, Trent Frederic went down the tunnel after Josh Brown made a hit in open ice that knocked Frederic out of the rest of Tuesday night’s action with an upper body, as the B’s would later tweet prior to the start of the third period.

With tensions rising, it didn’t take much for Connor Clifton and Formenton to get tangled up while the puck was making its way to the other end of the ice.

Clifton and Formenton dropped the gloves and exchanged fisticuffs as a result in what was Boston’s second fighting major of the season– the first since Frederic fought Jacob Middleton on Oct. 24th, when the San Jose Sharks were in town in a, 4-3, win for Boston.

Rather than heading to the box at 18:10 of the second period, both Clifton and Formenton got a head start in the showers before the second intermission began.

Shortly after the fight, a scrum ensued when Murray froze the puck, leading Marchand and Chabot into a bit of a shoving match that resulted in roughing minors for each player at 18:24.

For the next two minutes, the Bruins and Senators would skate at 4-on-4 once more.

Less than a minute after fisticuffs were exchanged and roughing minors were dealt, Bergeron (5) settled an indirect pass from Pastrnak that ricocheted off of a broken stick before firing the rubber biscuit under Murray’s arm.

Pastrnak (5) and McAvoy (6) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the Bruins led, 3-2, at 18:40 of the second period.

Entering the second intermission, Boston was atop the scoreboard, 3-2, and in shots on goal, 29-17, including a, 15-6, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Ottawa held the lead in blocked shots (16-2) and hits (20-16), while Boston led in faceoff win% (58-42) and both teams split takeaways (5-5), as well as giveaways (3-3).

The Sens were 0/4 on the power play, while the B’s were 1/3 heading into the final frame of regulation.

There was no scoring in the third period, though there were a pair of minor penalties against Boston as the Bruins looked to hold off the Senators for the win.

Studnicka tripped up Zub at 2:11 of the third, but the Sens couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing power play.

Boston’s penalty kill remained effective in doing their job when Hall was sent to the box for hooking Brännström at 11:42.

Ottawa was down to their last hope with about 1:34 remaining in the game as head coach, D.J. Smith, pulled Murray for an extra attacker.

Despite his best efforts at hitting the empty net, Pastrnak iced the puck with 1:26 remaining, but Boston went unscathed in the ensuing defensive zone faceoff.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 3-2, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 36-27, despite trailing the Senators, 10-7, in shots on net in the third period alone.

Ottawa wrapped up Tuesday night’s action leading in blocked shots (19-4) and giveaways (5-4), while Boston exited their own building with the advantage in hits (27-26) and faceoff win% (58-42).

The Sens finished the night 0/6 on the skater advantage while the B’s went 1/3 on the power play.

The Bruins improved to 1-2-0 (1-0-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 1-2-0 (1-0-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 4-0-0 (3-0-0 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

Meanwhile, the Senators fell to 2-4-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when scoring first, 2-3-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 0-6-0 (0-3-0 on the road) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

Boston wraps up a two-game homestand on Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers before hitting the road for a Saturday matinee with the New Jersey Devils prior to returning home to face the Montréal Canadiens on Sunday.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Marchand lifts Bruins to 2-1 series lead in, 2-1, OT victory on the road

Brad Marchand scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Boston Bruins beat the New York Islanders, 2-1, in Game 3 of their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round matchup at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Thursday night.

Tuukka Rask (6-2, 2.04 goals-against average, .934 save percentage in eight games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against in the win for Boston.

Meanwhile, New York netminder, Semyon Varlamov (1-3, 2.83 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in four games played) stopped 39 out of 41 shots faced in the loss.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, surpassed Art Ross for the second-most postseason wins behind the bench with Boston, earning his 33rd career Stanley Cup Playoffs win as the B’s head coach. Cassidy trails Claude Julien (57 postseason wins with Boston) for the most in franchise history.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (upper body) and John Moore (hip) on Thursday.

Though Kase and Moore are shutdown for the year, Cassidy provided reporters with an update on Miller’s progress ahead of Game 3 and indicated that the earliest the Boston defender might return to the lineup is for Game 5.

Craig Smith returned to the lineup after missing Game 2 with a lower body injury.

Smith was slotted into his usual role on the right wing on the second line, while Jake DeBrusk was bumped back to the third line and Karson Kuhlman returned to being one of many on the list of healthy scratches at this time of year.

Cassidy made no other changes to his lineup for Thursday night’s action in New York.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players included Nick Wolff, Trent Frederic, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka, Moore, Kase, Jaroslav Halak, Steven Kampfer, Cameron Hughes, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Oskar Steen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Dan Vladar, Anton Blidh, Kuhlman, Jarred Tinordi and Miller.

Taylor Hall forced a turnover on a great backcheck that led to Matt Grzelcyk feeding Hall with a pass as the Bruins worked their way into the attacking zone.

Hall hit Smith (2) with a pass through the high slot for a catch and release goal on Varlamov’s glove side to put Boston up, 1-0, at 5:52 of the first period, while Hall (2) and Grzelcyk (3) tallied the assists.

Moments later, Rask made a big stop with his blocker on a breakaway by Anthony Beauvillier as the B’s held the lead.

Midway through the opening frame, Marchand caught Travis Zajac with a high stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 11:08, presenting the Islanders with the first power play of the night.

New York couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Heading into the first intermission, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 7-5, in shots on goal to the Isles.

The Islanders also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-3), giveaways (6-3) and faceoff win percentage (63-38), while the Bruins led in takeaways (3-1) and hits (13-11).

New York was the only beneficiary of a power play opportunity in the first period, though the Isles went 0/1 in the process. Boston had yet to see any action on the skater advantage after one period.

Neither team managed to score a goal in the middle frame, but David Pastrnak managed to slash Ryan Pulock at 8:12 of the second period– presenting the Islanders with their second power play of the night.

New York failed to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins remained in control of the scoreboard, 1-0, and led in shots on goal, 18-15, including a, 13-8, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston held the advantage in takeaways (3-1), but New York dominated in just about everything else, including, blocked shots (14-9), giveaways (9-6), hits (28-22) and faceoff win% (57-43).

The Islanders were 0/2 on the power play, while the Bruins still had yet to see any action on the skater advantage after two periods.

Andy Greene caught Charlie Coyle with a high stick and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night at 1:38 of the third period.

Boston did not score on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, Cal Clutterbuck checked Brandon Carlo into the boards as Carlo’s head bounced off the glass and left the B’s defender dazed and visibly confused as he was helped off his knees by the athletic training staff and escorted down the tunnel.

There was no penalty on the play and Carlo would not return for the rest of the night.

Cassidy told reporters after the game that Carlo was feeling “pretty good” and that the Bruins would have a better read on the extent of his injury in the morning on Friday.

Josh Bailey tripped Charlie McAvoy at 11:04 and the B’s went on the power play for the second time as a result, but once more Boston was unsuccessful on the skater advantage.

Moments later, while on a long shift and struggling to get the puck out of their own zone, the Bruins gave up a goal as Mathew Barzal (1) poked around enough to slip a puck through Rask and tie the game, 1-1, in the process.

Kyle Palmieri (2) and Pulock (2) had the assists on Barzal’s eighth career Stanley Cup Playoff goal at 14:34 of the third period.

With about 3:16 remaining in regulation, Rask denied Beauvillier on yet another breakaway– this time with Rask turning aside a backhand shot to prevent the Islanders from taking their first lead of the night.

Shortly thereafter, Sean Kuraly delivered a quick cross check that brought Palmieri to his knees and presented New York with one final power play at 17:45 of the third period.

Boston killed off Kuraly’s minor as the two teams were tied, 1-1, after 60 minutes of play on Thursday.

The Bruins led in shots on goal, 39-24, and had a, 21-9, advantage in shots in the third period alone.

Boston also held the advantage in takeaways (4-1), while the Isles led in blocked shots (22-13), giveaways (12-9), hits (37-33) and faceoff win% (55-45).

As there were no penalties called in the overtime period, the Islanders finished the night 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/2 on the skater advantage.

Rask kept Boston in the game early in the extra frame before McAvoy brought the puck from his own zone into the attacking zone, dropping a short pass to Marchand in the process while Marchand skated up along the wall deep into the zone.

Marchand (5) fired a shot from almost the goal line past Varlamov on the short side to the opposite corner on the far end of the net behind the New York netminder and into the twine, 3:36 into overtime.

McAvoy (7) and Patrice Bergeron (4) were credited with the assists on the game-winning goal as Marchand put the Bruins ahead of the Islanders, 2-1, in Game 3 as well as in the series by the same margin (2-1).

The goal gave Marchand his 102nd career playoff point (42-60–102 totals in 129 postseason games)– tying Phil Esposito (46-56–102 totals in 71 Stanley Cup Playoff games) for fourth place on Boston’s all time postseason scoring list.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-29, despite trailing New York, 5-2, in shots in overtime alone.

The Isles dominated in blocked shots (22-14), giveaways (13-10), hits (38-35) and faceoff win% (56-44).

The Bruins lead the series 2-1 heading into Game 4 Saturday night at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New York.

Puck drop is scheduled for about 7:15 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC, while those in Canada can tune to CBC, SN or TVAS.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Bruins eliminate Capitals in five games, advance to Second Round

After 14 seasons with the Boston Bruins, Zdeno Chara signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals on Dec. 30, 2020. He left Boston better than he found it and the Bruins handed the captaincy from their former defender to Patrice Bergeron on Jan. 6, 2021.

As the National Hockey League produced a format for the 2020-21 regular season and 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs it was revealed that the Bruins and their ex would get to meet each other eight times over the course of the season and– as fate would have it– at least four mores times times in the playoffs.

On Sunday night, Bergeron shook hands with Chara after the Bruins defeated the Capitals, 3-1, in Game 5 and eliminated Washington on the road at Capital One Arena– winning the series 4-1.

Chara, a 44-year-old veteran of the game, now faces the question of whether to retire or whether to return to the ice– wherever it may be for one more run, one more chance at getting a second Stanley Cup ring and his first since winning with Boston in 2011.

For Bergeron and the rest of his teammates, the Bruins’ journey continues as the transition from the old guard gives way to the youth, experience and new characters that have emerged.

There was life before Chara for Bergeron, who made his NHL debut in the 2003-04 season as an 18-year-old, and there is life after Chara, who signed as free agent with the Bruins on July 1, 2006, and played in a spoked-B uniform until the bubble burst in the 2020 Second Round in five games against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Unlike the dissatisfying taste in the mouth of those involved in the Eddie Shore trade with the New York Americans in Jan. 1940, this time around– though there were likely tears shed over the departure of a fan favorite in Chara and a legend in Bruins franchise history– it seems there will be a happy ending sooner rather than later.

Shore never played for an NHL team after 1940, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947, and subsequently had his No. 2 retired by Boston as a result after some amendments to strained relationships with Art Ross and others had been made– if not put aside for an evening, at least.

Chara won’t have to wait quite as long and there are no hard feelings to get in the way.

Whenever he retires, jot down the very first home game (as it should be) at TD Garden in that upcoming season to see his No. 33 raised to the rafters and add three years to the date from his retirement for eligibility to be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame alongside Shore, Bobby Orr and other legends of the sport.

Tuukka Rask (4-1, 1.81 goals-against average, .941 save percentage in five games) made 40 saves on 41 shots against in the win for the Bruins on Sunday.

Capitals netminder, Ilya Samsonov (0-3, 2.99 goals-against average, .899 save percentage in three games played) stopped 16 out of 19 shots faced in the loss.

Boston became the fifth team since the start of the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs to win a best-of-seven series in four or more consecutive postseasons.

They joined the Capitals (4 postseasons from 2015-18), New York Rangers (4, 2012-15), Detroit Red Wings (5, 2007-11) and San Jose Sharks (4, 2004-08) in doing so.

Boston also improved to 13-10 all time in Game 5s when leading a series 3-1. The B’s are now 21-2 in best-of-seven series’ when they have a 3-1 series lead, as well.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Jeremy Lauzon (upper body), Kevan Miller (upper body) and John Moore (hip) on Sunday with Steven Kampfer (arm) joining Moore on the list of B’s that won’t return before next season.

As a result of Miller missing Game 5 due to an injury sustained on a high hit from Dmitry Orlov in Game 4, Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made one change to his lineup from Friday night’s, 4-1, win to Sunday evening– inserting Jarred Tinordi in Miller’s spot on the third defensive pairing.

Capitals head coach, Peter Laviolette, meanwhile replaced Michael Raffl with Daniel Sprong on his third line alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov at center and Tom Wilson at right wing.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players for Game 5 included Nick Wolff, Trent Frederic, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka, Moore, Kase, Jaroslav Halak, Kampfer, Cameron Hughes, Jack Ahcan, Lauzon, Urho Vaakanainen, Oskar Steen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Dan Vladar, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman and Miller.

Just like in Game 4, there were no goals in the first period in Game 5 as the two teams traded penalties throughout the opening frame.

Both clubs were short a skater and played 4-on-4 for a pair of minutes when Garnet Hathaway and Taylor Hall received roughing minors at 5:09 of the first period.

The Capitals later had the first power play of the night when David Pastrnak tripped up Justin Schultz at 6:46.

Just as the Bruins got back to full strength, they went on the skater advantage as Wilson cross checked Jake DeBrusk and cut a rut to the penalty box at 8:47.

Late in the period, Brad Marchand roughed up John Carlson and was assessed a roughing infraction at 16:14, but Washington couldn’t convert on the resulting power play.

Nor could they prior to the end of the first period as Craig Smith tripped Alex Ovechkin at 19:31, though the skater advantage stretched into the middle frame.

After one period, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Caps outshot the B’s, 10-9.

The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2), hits (12-7) and faceoff win percentage (58-42), while the Capitals led in takeaways (3-1). Both teams had two giveaways each.

Washington was 0/3 on the power play, while Boston was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.

Mike Reilly sent a pass up to Pastrnak as No. 88 in black and gold proceeded to deke around Nic Dowd prior to cutting to the corner and pulling the NHL 94 wraparound the front of the slot move.

Pastrnak (1) slid the puck low around Samsonov’s left pad and gave Boston a, 1-0, lead at 2:28 of the second period.

Reilly (1) had the only assist on the goal and earned his first career Stanley Cup Playoff point in the process.

Less than a minute later, Sprong got a hold on Tinordi and was sent to the box as a result at 3:48.

The Bruins failed to convert on the ensuing power play, however.

Late in the period, Pastrnak took a hit at the attacking zone blue line to make a play to Reilly who, in turn, gave it to Bergeron as Bergeron (2) entered the zone and wired a snap shot from the high slot below Samsonov’s blocker and into the back of the twine.

Reilly (2) and Pastrnak (4) tallied the assists as the Bruins extended their lead to, 2-0, at 14:05 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action on Sunday night, Boston led on the scoreboard, 2-0, despite Washington holding the advantage in shots on goal, 30-13, including a, 20-4, advantage in the second period alone.

The Caps dominated in takeaways (7-2), giveaways (7-5), hits (24-19) and faceoff win% (52-48), while the B’s led in blocked shots (16-7).

Neither team had scored a goal on the power play through two periods as the Capitals were 0/3 and the Bruins were 0/2 on the skater advantage entering the second intermission.

Conor Sheary (1) scored on his own rebound off of a one-timed redirection 11 seconds into the third period to cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1.

T.J. Oshie (3) and Orlov (3) had the helpers on the goal as the Capitals jumped out to a hot start in the final frame.

Midway through the third, however, the Bruins rushed up the ice, had it broken up, but promptly forced a turnover that led to Bergeron (3) snapping a quick shot from the slot over Samsonov’s shoulder on the blocker side to give Boston another two-goal lead.

Bergeron’s unassisted goal made it, 3-1, for the Bruins at 12:25 of the third period.

Shortly thereafter, Reilly cross checked Oshie and was sent to the box at 12:45.

Washington thought they had a power-play goal to pull themselves back to within one as Lars Eller banked a shot off Rask and in from the goal line, but Kuznetsov had pushed Rask seconds prior to the would-be goal.

Despite Tinordi clearing Kuznetsov from the crease seconds later, Kuznetsov initiated the initial contact with the B’s goaltender and therefore negated the goal on the grounds of goaltender interference without a minor penalty attached to the play.

Late in the third, Sprong tripped Charlie McAvoy and presented Boston with one more power play at 16:18, but the Bruins took the opportunity to run the clock and play “keep away” from the Caps.

With 1:13 remaining in the action, Laviolette pulled Samsonov for an extra attacker but it was of no use.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 3-1, and eliminated the Capitals in five games.

Washington finished Sunday night’s effort on home ice leading in shots on goal, 41-19, including an, 11-6, advantage in the third period alone.

The Caps also led in giveaways (9-5), hits (36-26) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Boston finished the action leading in blocked shots (19-14).

Neither team scored a power play goal in Game 5, as Washington went 0/4 and Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins won the series 4-1 and advance to the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result where they will face the other MassMutual NHL East Division series winner between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders.

If Pittsburgh defeats New York in their series, the Penguins will have home ice in the Second Round. If the Islanders defeat the Penguins, the Bruins will have home ice in the Second Round.

In either case, as of May 29th, Boston will near or at full capacity at TD Garden in accordance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 reopening policy.

Fans in attendance will still have to wear a mask when they aren’t eating or drinking inside the stadium in accordance with the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols.

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Look To The Rafters: Boston Bruins (Part II)

In the early days of DTFR, we made an educated guess as to who each team might honor in the future regarding retired jersey numbers. Since then, the Vegas Golden Knights came into existence and more than a few jersey numbers went out of circulation across the league. 

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Boston Bruins might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters of TD Garden someday.

Boston Bruins Current Retired Numbers

2 Eddie Shore

3 Lionel Hitchman

4 Bobby Orr

5 Dit Clapper

7 Phil Esposito

8 Cam Neely

9 Johnny Bucyk

15 Milt Schmidt

16 Rick Middleton

24 Terry O’Reilly

77 Ray Bourque

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

Yes! Rick Middleton had his No. 16 retired by the Bruins on Nov. 29, 2018, after scoring 898 points in 881 games with Boston over 12 seasons from 1976-88.

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

30 Gerry Cheevers/Tim Thomas

The Bruins have never retired a goaltender’s jersey number, so why not make the first one count for two of the most prolific Boston netminders in the Expansion Era?

Boston has a chance to right a few wrongs if there’s any ill will leftover from Cheevers’ departure to the World Hockey Association (WHA) and back or Thomas’ debacle regarding his year-long vacation from the sport that led to being suspended from the team and his trade to the New York Islanders in Feb. 2013, while Thomas was resting at home reconnecting with (in his words) his family, friends and faith.

Last month, I addressed the pros and cons facing what might be a longshot at this point for No. 30 to ever be raised to the rafters at TD Garden in Cheevers’ and/or Thomas’ honor, but with Rick Middleton having his No. 16 retired last season– years after he hung up the skates and despite being on the outside looking in regarding Hockey Hall of Fame status, then there’s a chance the B’s overlook Cheevers’ sin and Thomas’ short tenure.

Nevertheless, both are Stanley Cup champion goaltenders and legends in their own right among Bruins fans around the Hub.

33 Zdeno Chara

The 2008-09 James Norris Trophy winner has played in 1,023 games in a Bruins uniform and amassed 148-333-481 totals in that span– so far. No, the 43-year-old defender and longest tenured captain in the National Hockey League is not done yet. 

Chara has indicated he’d like to go out on his own terms, whether that’s with another Cup under his belt or another full season– at least– if there’s ever another “normal” 82-game schedule again in the future.

In 1,553 career NHL games played for the Bruins (1,023 games), Ottawa Senators (299) and New York Islanders (231), Chara has 205 career goals and 451 career assists (656 points).

At 6-foot-9, he’s the tallest player in NHL history and though he might be tall in stature and a fierce competitor on the ice, Chara has a big heart off of it– taking charge in the annual pie donation at homeless shelters across Boston on American Thanksgiving, being one of the first You Can Play Project supporters and many other charitable efforts throughout the city, including, most recently, joining Black Lives Matter protests on the streets of Boston.

He joined the Bruins as a free agent on July 1, 2006, with Marc Savard as two centerpieces tasked with overhauling a floundering Original Six franchise on the ice and transforming the team into not only an annual playoff contender, but more popular than perhaps even the 1970s B’s teams throughout the New England region.

And even still, there’s some in the Bruins fan base that negate his workhorse effort, team leader mentality and humility.

Well, there was until he sustained a broken jaw in Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, then played in Game 5 on home ice with a cage and (presumably) in pain.

He’ll do anything to win another Cup since winning it with Boston nine years ago and ending the city’s 39-year Cup drought between raising Lord Stanley’s mug in 1972 and 2011.

37 Patrice Bergeron

Throughout the course of Bruins history there have been several individuals who have exemplified– with the utmost detail in every little thing they do– what it means to be a Bruin in Boston. 

Their names are Art Ross, Eddie Shore, Milt Schmidt, Bobby Orr and Patrice Bergeron.

Bergeron has spent his entire 16-year NHL career with Boston since being drafted by the Bruins in the second round (45th overall) in 2003. In 1,089 games, he’s scored 352 goals and amassed 517 assists for 869 career points. 

He’s also a member of the elusive Quadruple Gold Club, having won a Stanley Cup ring in 2011, two gold medals at the Winter Games for Canada in 2010 and 2014, a gold medal at the World Championship in 2004 and a gold medal at the World Junior Championship in 2005.

And if the Pentaple Gold Club was a thing, then Bergeron would be in that too– having been a member of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey championship winning Team Canada.

But enough about what he’s done away from the Bruins, eh.

If Schmidt was “Mr. Bruin”– or “The Ultimate Bruin” in his later years– then Bergeron is “Mr. Bruin Jr.” as the quintessential (likely) Bruin for life like how Schmidt lived and breathed (despite at one point coaching the Washington Capitals).

Bergeron recorded back-to-back 70-point seasons in his sophomore season and third NHL season, then suffered an almost career-ending– if not life threatening– concussion at the helm of Philadelphia Flyers defender, Randy Jones’ hit from behind just ten games into the 2007-08 season.

Bergeron’s season was cut short and his 2008-09 campaign was limited to 64 games when another concussion from a run-in with future teammate, then Carolina Hurricanes defender, Dennis Seidenberg, sidelined Bergeron for a duration of the season.

In 2011, Bergeron captured the Cup with Chara, Thomas and several other players who will be named in a moment that are possibly also deserving of the highest team honor in Boston– which raises a point about retired numbers in Bruins lore.

They come in bunches.

Nos. 2, 3 and 5 were all early pioneers of the franchise with No. 15 serving as a bridge between them and Nos. 4, 7 and 9. Then along came No. 24 before Nos. 8, 16 and 77 defined an era of Bruins hockey.

The same can be said for Nos. 33, 37, 40, 46 and perhaps 63 one day.

Anyway, No. 37 will go down in Boston sports history for more than a few reasons aside from his playoff overtime goals and everything else– he got better with age.

Bergeron turned in a career-high 79 points in 65 games played in 2018-19, and had 31-25–56 totals in 61 games up until the COVID-19 stoppage this season. He was on pace for 75 points had the regular season not met an abrupt end.

40 Tuukka Rask

No, Rask has “never won a Cup”. He has a Stanley Cup ring from 2011 and it doesn’t matter in the eyes of the engraver whether or not you were the starter or the backup when your name is etched into Lord Stanley’s mug.

Also, what hasn’t he done in Boston?

Rask has been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy twice (which was the same number of times Thomas was a Vezina finalist) in his career, winning in 2013-14 and yet to be determined this season. 

Oh, plus he ranks 1st in Bruins franchise history in wins (Rask has 291, Tiny Thompson is 2nd with 252), games played (Rask has 536, Thompson is 2nd with 468), saves (Rask has 13,711, Eddie Johnston had 12,375), save percentage (among goalies with a minimum of 100 games played as a Bruin, Rask has a .922, Thomas had a .921) and goals against average (again, among goalies with a minimum of 100 games played, Rask has a 2.26, Byron Dafoe had a 2.30).

Rask also leads all Bruins goaltenders in franchise history in points with 15 (all assists, as no B’s netminder has ever scored a goal). Cheevers is second to Rask in points by a Boston goaltender with 11 assists.

Want to talk about the two most important trophies in the league?

Cheevers and the Bruins made four Stanley Cup Final appearances together, winning in 1970 and 1972, and losing in 1977 and 1978. Boston also finished first in the regular season standings in 1970-71 and 1971-72, which preceded the creation of the Presidents’ Trophy in 1986, but was done with Cheevers in net.

Thomas won the Cup and the Conn Smythe in his only Stanley Cup Final with the team in 2011, but never backstopped the team to a Presidents’ Trophy season.

Rask, meanwhile, earned a Cup ring on the 2010-11 roster, dragged his teammates to the 2013 and 2019 Stanley Cup Final and helped them to the franchise’s second and third Presidents’ Trophy seasons in 2013-14 and 2019-20.

The Bruins have never retired a goaltender’s jersey number, but they’d be crazy not to retire Rask’s when his playing career is over.

And that’s not even mentioning the fact that both Thomas and Rask won the William M. Jennings Trophy in their careers. Thomas shared the award with his backup, Manny Fernandez, in the 2008-09 season, while Rask won the award with his backup, Jaroslav Halak, this season.

Crazy, right?

46 David Krejci

Imagine for a moment, if you will, a player like Bergeron, but only quieter and better at making everyone around him better because he has a golden stick when it comes to passing. That player is Krejci.

Krejci has 38 assists fewer than Bergeron in 178 games less in his career so far. Bergeron has 517 assists in 1,089 games, while Krejci has 479 assists in 911 career NHL games. Both players have only ever played for Boston.

A second-half of the season player, Krejci emerges in peak performance from about February onward and crests his prime in the postseason. As long as the Bruins clinch a playoff berth, Krejci remains a dark horse threat for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

He had 23 points in 25 games in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs and improved that to 26 points in 22 games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the run to his third Stanley Cup Final appearance, Krejci had 16 points across 24 games played through the seven-game series loss to the St. Louis Blues in 2019.

All of this is to say that Krejci is the other constant in the Bergeron-Chara Era (or is it really the Bergeron-Chara-Krejci Era?) and that he’s quietly amassed 207-479–686 totals in 911 career games with Boston from breaking into the league in the 2006-07 season through now.

Do not sleep on him. He deserves as much praise when all is said and done as some of the surefire players to have their jersey numbers retired when they hang up the skates.

63 Brad Marchand

Controversial? You got it.

But Terry O’Reilly has his jersey number hanging from the rafters of TD Garden, which means the “Little Ball of Hate” can get the same treatment as “Taz”.

Then there’s the fact that Marchand had 100 points last season in 79 games played– no, he did not miss any time due to any suspensions in 2018-19. He’s also had 85-points or more in the last four seasons dating back to 2016-17.

Since breaking into the league with a 20-game stint and only one assist in 2009-10, Marchand has gone on to amass 290-355–645 totals in 731 games from 2010-11 through the pandemic shortened 2019-20 season. That means he’s had 646 points in 751 career NHL games from the 2009-10 season through now.

After reaching 100 points last season in 79 games, Marchand had 87 points in 70 games this season. He was on pace for 102 points had the COVID-19 pandemic not interrupted those plans.

Instead of extending his four consecutive 30-goal seasons to five, Marchand finished short with 28 goals in 2019-20’s shortened regular season. He had a career-high 39 goals in 2016-17, and a career-high 64 assists last season.

Like Bergeron, Marchand appears to only be getting better with age and that’s only going to cement his status as an icon in Bruins franchise history. It might just be enough to push him over the edge and encourage Boston to hang his number from the rafters someday.

88 David Pastrnak

How did 24 other teams– yes fully acknowledging that some teams traded their picks to other teams that then had multiple picks in the first round before Boston selected 25th overall– pass over Pastrnak in the 2014 NHL Draft? How? 

In 390 career NHL games thus far, Pastrnak has 379 points. He has 180 goals and 199 assists in that span since breaking into the league in the 2014-15 season and not being sent back down to the Providence Bruins (AHL).

This season alone, Pastrnak had 48 goals in 70 games– tied for the league lead in goals scored with Washington Capitals forward, Alex Ovechkin– en route to sharing the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy and being the first Bruin in franchise history to have his name etched on that award named after the prolific Montreal Canadiens goal scorer from many years ago.

In fairness, the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy wasn’t a thing until the 1998-99 season, so B’s legends like Rick Middleton and Cam Neely never got a chance to win it (let alone Bobby Orr).

But Pastrnak is a star in his own right. He’s a star in the making that was on pace for 56 goals at the time of the stoppage and 111 points before the pandemic put an early end to the 2019-20 regular season.

Nevertheless, he set career-highs in goals (48), assists (47) and points (95) this season and has scored more goals than the prior season in four-consecutive seasons now (34 goals in 75 games in 2016-17, 35 goals in 82 games in 2017-18, 38 goals in 66 games in 2018-19 and 48 goals in 70 games in 2019-20).

As long as Pastrnak can stay healthy and maintain and/or elevate his play for the next four or five seasons, then he’ll see his jersey number in Boston’s rafters with their most recent prolific goal scorer with the last name “Neely”.

Final Thoughts

Since Chara created the current team culture, it’d be an insult to leave out any of the key core members of the last decade or so of Bruins hockey history. 

Sure, it might be a bit much to have so many jersey retirement nights upcoming and increasing the amount of jersey numbers taken out of circulation in Boston from 11 to upwards of at least 16, but to reiterate– the Bruins retire numbers in bunches.

These players define an era in B’s lore. These players are doing so as one unit– the way their current captain and perhaps greatest leader in the history of the team methodically designed, cultivated and produced the close-knit machine that is the Bruins organization on the ice and in the dressing room.

In a time with rightful public shaming and disgrace for not immediately stepping up and committing to help their employees in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, these players stepped up out of their own volition to do something their owner wouldn’t do without being provoked.

The very least that owner can do to keep in good faith standing with the club’s alumni and current players destined for jersey retirement night ceremony glory, would be to honor this extraordinary group of gentlemen with class.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #174- Coaching Conundrums

Some firsts, 100s, broken fingers and pointing fingers– who should be concerned about their job security behind the bench? Plus Cap’n and Pete are back.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Columbus Blue Jackets 2019-20 Season Preview

Columbus Blue Jackets

47-31-4, 98 points, 5th in the Metropolitan Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by Boston

Additions: F Marko Dano, F Gustav Nyquist

Subtractions: F Matt Duchene (signed with NSH), F Ryan Dzingel
(signed with CAR), F Mark Letestu (signed with WPG), F Artemi Panarin (signed with NYR), F Lukas Sedlak (KHL), F Sam Vigneault (signed with Cleveland, AHL), D Tommy Cross (signed with FLA), G Jean-Francois Berube (signed with PHI), G Sergei Bobrovsky (signed with FLA), G Keith Kinkaid (signed with MTL)

Still Unsigned: D Adam McQuaid

Re-signed: F Ryan MacInnis, F Sonny Milano, F Justin Scott, D Scott Harrington, D Ryan Murray, D Zach Werenski, G Joonas Korpisalo

Offseason Analysis: After going all-in at the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets went all-out on trying to keep their recently acquired talent in town– as well as their biggest stars Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky from leaving altogether.

Unfortunately for Columbus, that “high-end” talent had “high-rise” on the mind and then some.

Bobrovsky informed General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, that he didn’t intend to re-sign with the club early in the season, Panarin turned down more money for The Big Apple, Matt Duchene was building a house in Nashville anyway and Ryan Dzingel fell victim to coaching decisions that limited his playing time.

All of them left the Blue Jackets.

Whether you believe in their core (Pierre-Luc Dubois for Leader of the Free Universe!) or not, Columbus is going to face a setback this season.

Head coach, John Tortorella, is right in his analysis of the team in that the roster had something going en route to their playoff run that was cut short in the Second Round by the Boston Bruins.

Columbus was shaping up for something special– their first playoff series win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, at least– if not more this season and in the coming years.

As much as fans like Tortorella’s approach to speak his mind about everything, there are times when it backfires.

Dzingel didn’t betray the Blue Jackets organization by signing with the Carolina Hurricanes when he wasn’t getting ice time in the first place. Plus, he didn’t technically leave a “winning” team to go elsewhere to win if the team that he signed with (Carolina) made it further in the postseason than Columbus did.

The Hurricanes made the Eastern Conference Final. The Blue Jackets did not.

Sure, Panarin joined the New York Rangers and Bobrovsky joined the Florida Panthers, but both of those teams missed the playoffs altogether last season. Tortorella has a point to be made about those two players, however, his point is that of a TV analyst’s mindset.

When the Blue Jackets broadcast approaches Bobrovsky’s exit, they can talk about how he betrayed a “culture that was committed to Columbus/winning the Cup this season” or whatever.

They get paid to do that– to please the watchful eyes in Columbus’ ownership box.

When the mantra comes from Tortorella, he is seen as out of touch with his players– that he couldn’t get them to “buy-in” and win, not that he couldn’t communicate with them and coach them effectively for better or worse.

It’s bulletin board material that makes sports fans tune in to ESPN for other sports and NBC between periods.

What did Stephen A. Smith say now? Why does Mike Milbury look like he wants to punch Jeremy Roenick in the face?

Because of their opinions, their “hot takes” and their ability to sway fan bases to and from narratives driven by ratings, owners and us and them mentality.

Tortorella had a stint with NHL Network before becoming head coach in Columbus. He’s a quintessential analyst that’s deserving of respect for his musings.

But sometimes his coaching style intersects with his analytical mind.

Sometimes his brash statements don’t translate well with his message, the medium it’s on (TV, Twitter or the like) and sometimes we forget how Toe Blake, Scotty Bowman, Punch Imlach or Art Ross utilized their power to drum up the local media, verbally abuse their players, etc. from a different era.

Because it’s Tortorella, because he has a fire to win, because he’s already won it before and wants to win it again– there’s a whole host of reasons why people often react with such strong visceral opinions the way they do to Tortorella, Mike Babcock and others in the league.

Columbus has one thing on their mind from this offseason– moving forward.

Offseason Grade: F

Last season might have been one last hurrah for the Blue Jackets’ current setup. Kekalainen gave Tortorella all the pieces to push for a deep run, Tortorella botched the lineup at times, certain players couldn’t elevate their game at other times– it was all too soon for an organization and fans that have been yearning for playoff success for almost 20 years.

They didn’t make any changes behind the bench and Kekalainen still has his job. It was a risk worth taking, but now there’s consequences to pay at this season’s end if ownership doesn’t see growth in what’s left behind. Columbus failed to retain what could’ve been this offseason and their consolation prize was Gustav Nyquist.

A one-year setback won’t hurt them. Two years might.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #168- 2019-20 Season Preview: Pacific Division

The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was announced, a major shakeup in the Board of Governors may be ahead, extensions were signed, Jake Gardiner joined the Carolina Hurricanes and it’s time for our DTFR Podcast season previews (starting with the Pacific Division).

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #157- Play Gloria, You Jerks

Nick, Cap’n and Pete mourn the Columbus Blue Jackets, review the Vegas Golden Knights front office moves, Ken Holland to the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers new assistant coaches. Finally, the guys preview the 2019 Eastern Conference Final matchup between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, as well as the 2019 Western Conference Final matchup between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #127- Tip Of The Hat(s)

John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron both had hat tricks in the last week, so Nick and Connor discuss hat trick ethics and more, since celebrations are hot topics these days. Also, everything else that happened in the first week of regular season action.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

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DTFR Overtime NHL Nick's Net

DTFR Overtime: Just Killing Prime

On the most recent episode of the Down the Frozen River Podcast, @connorzkeith expressed the sentiment that the Boston Bruins have been wasting the prime of their core group of players– not including David Pastrnak, or really anyone since the 2014 NHL Entry Draft currently on the roster.

Rather, Connor suggested that the Bruins were once a dominant team of the early 2010s with a core group of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask that’s still very much left intact from their 2011 Stanley Cup championship, but that they’ve been wasting the arc of the aforementioned players’s prime.

Luckily, Down the Frozen River has an in-house Boston historian and I am here to set the record straight. This is DTFR Overtime and what I’ve thought about after recording the last podcast.


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Hockey is a game of inches and odd puck bounces. It’s a collective game of skill with an over-reliance on luck. Whatever you believe, you better believe in the Hockey Gods. It’s only fate, destiny and just a game at the end of the day, right?

Wrong.

The business of hockey has played a huge part in impacting the game of hockey as we know it– impacting teams and how rosters are constructed, directly through the introduction of a salary cap as of the last full-season lockout in 2004-2005 and indirectly, through many other external factors (family, injuries, et cetera).

It was because of league expansion in the 1970s and because of the rival World Hockey Association (WHA) that Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Derek Sanderson and the Bruins didn’t nail down a dynasty. Of course, the Montreal Canadiens also played a part in it in 1971, 1977 and 1978, but the B’s lost star goaltender, Gerry Cheevers, to the Cleveland Crusaders of WHA from 1972 through 1976– right after winning the Cup in 1972 and during Boston’s appearance and subsequent loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1974 Stanley Cup Final.

Cheevers alone wasn’t the only difference maker in a Bruins uniform that left the black and gold for the higher paying WHA.

Sanderson jettisoned Boston for the Philadelphia Blazers in the summer of ’72 for a $2.600 million contract that made him the highest paid athlete in the world at the time, though he went on to only play in eight games with the Blazers due to injury and returned to Boston after the WHA’s 1972-1973 season on a $1 million deal. From 1972 through 1974 with the Bruins, Sanderson only played 54 out of 156 games and was sent down to the Boston Braves of the American Hockey League before being traded to the New York Rangers in June 1974.

John “Pie” McKenzie, a gifted point scorer known by his unconventional nickname left the Bruins for the WHA’s Blazers as a player-coach after the 1972 Stanley Cup Final and never returned to the NHL. McKenzie finished his playing days with the New England Whalers in 1979.

In the 1980s and early 90s, injuries and the emergence of the Edmonton Oilers as a top team in the National Hockey League plagued the primes of Ray Bourque, Brad Park, Cam Neely and the Big Bad Bruins.

Boston lost the 1988 and 1990 Stanley Cup Finals to the Oilers. Boston lost the 1991 and 1992 Eastern Conference Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boston Garden itself was closed in 1995– and then Boston missed the playoffs in 1997 for the first time in 30 years.

Good teams aren’t meant to remain on top forever.

There’s a reason why the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in all professional sports.

Claude Julien, the winningest coach (419 wins) in Bruins franchise history– having surpassed Art Ross‘s 387 wins mark with the team during his tenure in Boston– led the black and gold to two appearances in the Stanley Cup Final and one President’s Trophy (just the second in franchise history during the 2013-2014 campaign).

In 2011, the Bruins rode the backs of Nathan Horton, Marchand and Tim Thomas‘s insanity in goal. In 2013, a more experienced Boston team rallied from a 4-1 deficit in a Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round and charged all the way to a six game series battle with the Chicago Blackhawks that ultimately ended in defeat.

Thomas was no longer part of the story after 2012. Rask took over the reigns and never looked back. Jaromir Jagr came and went in a largely forgettable time in the spoked-B.

But the Bruins could skate with the best. Until they missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.

In the Salary Cap Era, teams are built up and ripped to shreds by massive longterm contracts and dollars being improperly allocated throughout the roster.

Peter Chiarelli got the Bruins in a salary cap hell, what with their fourth line center, Chris Kelly, making $3.000 million in his final years as a Bruin. In the broad scope of things, that was the least of Chiarelli’s mismanagement that ultimately ended his time in Boston. Neither the Tyler Seguin trade nor the Johnny Boychuk trade alone could be what led to the Bruins going from a top team deep in every roster spot to a team outside the playoff picture looking in with some mediocre placeholders.

Brett Connolly and Max Talbot didn’t yield the same results in Chiarelli’s last season with the Bruins– tangible or intangible– than any of the bottom-six forwards (Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley, Kelly and Michael Ryder) provided for the 2011.

Just one year removed from a President’s Trophy season that ended with an early First Round exit to Montreal, the Bruins found themselves on the verge of an uncomfortable position that they hadn’t been in since missing the playoffs in 2006 and 2007. They went on to miss the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.

So the Bruins did the only thing they’ve ever known. They reset themselves while still carrying a core group of players.

In the 70s, Boston rebuilt themselves around Orr, Esposito and friends when Sanderson left (then returned and left again via trade), Cheevers departed and McKenzie stormed off to the WHA. They drafted Terry O’Reilly in 1971, Stan Johnathan in 1975 and acquired Peter McNab from the Buffalo Sabres after the 1975 Stanley Cup Final.

The new identity Bruins flipped Esposito along with Carol Vadnais during the 1975-76 season to the New York Rangers for Brad Park, Jean Ratelle and Joe Zanussi and still had Orr until his departure via free agency in 1976.

Boston still had Johnny Bucyk, Wayne Cashman, Ken Hodge and Don Marcotte as key aspects of their 70s rosters.

They could have dismantled a team that won two Stanley Cups (and should have won more, if it weren’t for the WHA) after the franchise’s slow start in 1975. They didn’t.

Hockey has never been kind to good teams with the right players at what seems like it’s the right time (just ask last year’s Washington Capitals). But that’s the nature of the sport. No matter how much of a powerhouse you build– with or without a salary cap, with or without expansion or injuries– you can’t control the way the puck bounces.

Some players stick around in the league for long enough to become seasoned veterans of the NHL and never sniff a Stanley Cup Final appearance, let alone the postseason. It took Ron Hainsey until just last year with the Penguins to make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut and it took Bourque and Dave Andreychuk at least a couple of decades each to win it all.

Just because Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Chara and Rask only have a 2011 Stanley Cup championship together doesn’t mean they’ve been wasting their time, killing the prime of their careers.

For Boston, they ended a 39-year Stanley Cup-less drought.

They’ve already won once more than thousands of others who were lucky enough to make it to the NHL.

And they’ve forever cemented themselves in the history of the franchise, as well as the City of Boston as adopted sons and representatives of the Hub everywhere they go and in everything they do related to the sport or not.

Fans want rings and that’s one thing, but to say they’ve wasted their primes is another. They’ve contributed so much on and off the ice for the youth movement once again creeping up on the Bruins. Pastrnak is destined for stardom. Charlie McAvoy is an apprentice to Chara as Bourque was to Park in 1979.

Even Kevan Miller‘s found a bit of a resurgence in his offensive game, going end-to-end to throw the puck in front of the net to find Danton Heinen like Orr did with anyone.

The torch gets passed on. We’re all in for the ride.

And you pray to the Hockey Gods that they’ll let you win at least once.