October 30, 2011

From NEHJ: Savard deservedly etches name on Cup run

Marc Savard celebrates his overtime goal in Game 1 of the conference semifinals against the Flyers in 2010. (Getty)

For those that jumped on the Bruins bandwagon come playoff time (and there were plenty of them), the significance of Marc Savard getting his name on the Stanley Cup may not be nearly as gratifying as it is to those who have spent their entire lives bleeding black and gold. But to be fair to everyone who was late to the party, No. 91’s impact on the 2010-11 season — from a pure hockey standpoint — was minimal.

Due to multiple bouts with post-concussion syndrome, Savard suited up for just 25 regular-season games, during which he tallied only two goals and struggled to play at a level we’d all become accustomed to seeing from him. He didn’t skate in a single postseason game, nor was he on the ice in Vancouver after Game 7 to lift hockey’s Holy Grail. In fact, pop in the Bruins championship DVD and you’ll find Savard’s storyline is nothing more than a mere anecdote told in less than a minute’s time.

But for anyone with a scope greater than the past 18 months who saw “Savvy” in action before Matt Cooke changed his life in an instant, there are memories of a vibrant man who was brimming with passion, and one who possessed arguably more talent than any player to sport the Spoked-B in the past decade.

Savard’s accomplishments in his first two seasons in Boston are practically Herculean. Flanked by the defensively-stellar, but offensively-limited P.J. Axelsson and an aging, injury-riddled Glen Murray, the crafty playmaker racked up 174 points in the span of 156 games, including 96 points for Dave Lewis’ 2006-07 squad — regarded by many as the most inept band of Bruins in team history.

Ninety. Six. Points. Think about that. Milan Lucic and David Krejci led the B’s with 62 points last season. Krejci and Patrice Bergeron each finished with a team-high 52 the year prior.

Referring to Savard as special would be a wild understatement. After arriving as a free agent in the summer of 2006, fresh off of a career year with the Thrashers, the 5-foot-10 center established himself as one of the best setup men in the game. Savard finished with the third most assists in the NHL in each of his first two season before clocking in at sixth in 2008-09.

He had unrivaled vision on the ice. He could thread the needle through a sea of defenders and hit his passing target on the tape, sometimes even with his back turned to the play. And man, oh, man, did he do it with flair.

Savard regularly had conversations with his stick. He skated around with his tongue out. He rarely stopped smiling. And whenever the Bruins buried a big goal, Savard displayed such exuberance, such a profound joy in playing the game he loved, that many probably wondered if he might completely scale the glass during his celebratory leaps — none of which was more spectacular than after his game-winning tally in overtime against the Flyers during the 2010 playoffs.

A generation from now, when people look back on the Bruins return to respectability and eventual glory, they’ll remember Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas leading the charge and restoring a sense of pride to an Original Six franchise. They’ll remember the playoff heroics of Bergeron, Krejci, Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton. Savard was robbed of the chance to shine during Boston’s magical run, but No. 91 played just as big of a role in leading the Bruins from cellar-dwellers to Cup contenders as anyone.

There’s no consolation prize that could make up for having his career cut so unceremoniously short, nor enough words to truly emphasize what a shame it is that the gifted pivot likely will never get the chance to come down the tunnel and skate out onto the ice at TD Garden ever again. But for all that he did during his days with the Bruins, seeing Savard’s name engraved on Lord Stanley’s silver chalice should bring a smile to the faces of every true fan of the Black and Gold.

He certainly earned it.

This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of New England Hockey Journal. Jesse Connolly is the Bruins beat writer for New England Hockey Journal. He can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com