January 9, 2014

From NEHJ: Top 10 moments in 2013 for the Bruins

The calendar year of 2013 brought us some of the most unforgettable images in the storied history of the Boston Bruins. From their long-awaited return in January from the NHL lockout through their dramatic run to the Stanley Cup Final and up to the early stages of the 2013-14 campaign, it was a momentous 365 days for the Black and Gold. Here are 10 powerful photographs that sum up the past 12 months for the Bruins:

10. The Bruins are back

Eight months. Twenty-four days. That’s how long Causeway Street was void of NHL hockey thanks to the lockout. From the moment Joel Ward scored for the Capitals in Game 7 to knock out the Bruins on April 26, 2012, until the B’s opened their abbreviated season on Jan. 19, 2013, against the Rangers, the ramifications of the league’s labor dispute ran deep.

The backlash from fans was severe, as they’d just been put through the same torment eight years prior, which saw the entire 2004-05 season wiped out. In the meantime, arena employees and local businesses were hit hard, with nearly 20 home contests being lopped off every team’s schedule. When hockey finally reopened its doors, all might not have been immediately forgiven, but it was impossible for those affected by the sport’s absence to not enjoy every bit of happiness that night brought them.

9. Et tu, Iggy?

If you’re talking about strictly the bout itself, the throwdown between Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla on April 20 won’t go down in hockey history. But in the moment — and even more so looking back now — the fight was simply overflowing with symbolism. Iginla spurned the Bruins on a deal that would’ve sent him from Calgary to Boston, instead choosing to join the powerhouse Penguins in his quest for the first Stanley Cup of his NHL career. His last-minute decision to bail on the B’s forced a visibly-sleep-deprived Peter Chiarelli to hold a press conference explaining what went wrong in what seemed like a done deal.

So when Iginla made his first trip to the Garden as a Penguin, you can only imagine the scorn emanating from the crowd. Oh, yeah, and the team he left hanging, too. Nathan Horton stepped up to drop the gloves with the future Hall of Famer. In an ironic twist of fate, Iginla eventually did come to Boston as — you guessed it — Horton’s direct replacement on the first line.

8. Straying from The Code

It was a moment of sheer chaos, a boiling-over of frustrations, a loud declaration that said, simply, enough was enough. But what followed Shawn Thornton’s ill-fated confrontation with Brooks Orpik on Dec. 7 was the most frightening silence, as those on hand at TD Garden watched medical workers attend to an unconscious Orpik before carting the concussed Penguins defenseman off the ice on a stretcher.

After Orpik nailed Loui Eriksson with a questionable hit, and Pens winger James Neal intentionally kneed Brad Marchand in the head, Thornton grabbed Orpik out of a scrum, tripping him down to the ice and punching him twice in the head. The consequences of his uncharacteristic actions were severe for Thornton, who’s long been arguably the most respected enforcer in the NHL. The league suspended No. 22 for 15 games, placing a black mark on a career that’s seen Thornton show that tough and mean can go hand-in-hand with playing a clean, honest game. 

7. Punishing the Penguins

Aside from — duh — winning, the ultimate goal an NHL team has in Game 1 of a playoff matchup is setting the tone. Maybe it wants to show its fleet-footed forwards are going to cause nightmares for the opposition’s slow band of blueliners all series, or that a potent power play is going to wreak some serious havoc. Those are probably similar to the goals the Penguins possessed heading into the 2013 Eastern Conference finals. By the end of the series opener, however, the Bruins made it clear that they’d be the ones dictating play.

Boston’s physicality, feistiness and phenomenal goaltending led to a 3-0 win on June 1 in Pittsburgh. It took the B’s just a few periods to get in the Penguins’ heads. Pittsburgh was the better team on paper in the series, but it spent most of the four-game set looking rattled. With Tuukka Rask playing out of his mind and the Pens off their game, Zdeno Chara and the intimidating Bruins swept the vaunted Penguins right out of the playoffs.

6. What a story, Torey

Let’s play a good ol’ game of What If. If NHL GMs were more aware of the immense offensive talent Torey Krug had, the Michigan State D-man would’ve been taken in the NHL draft — presumably by a team other than Boston. If the Bruins missed out on him, Providence’s record for points by a rookie defenseman would still belong to someone else.

Oh, and Boston wouldn’t have had a young rearguard who could step in during the 2013 playoffs and, say, score four times in five games to almost singlehandedly dispatch the Rangers — an elimination that was shortly followed by the firing of their coach, John Tortorella (Melrose, Mass.). Boston likely wouldn’t have a Calder Trophy favorite on their roster this season, either, nor a puck-mover who could miraculously restore their power play to respectability and become one of the most fun players to watch in team history. Just 22, the magic seems to have just begun for Krug here in Boston.

5. Shocking summer swap

On July 4, after draft-weekend trade rumors seemed to be nothing more than an opportunity to publicly pressure Tyler Seguin into maturing off the ice, Peter Chiarelli decided to set off fireworks that garnered the entire hockey world’s attention. The Bruins GM dealt Seguin, Rich Peverley and P-Bruins defenseman Ryan Button to Dallas in exchange for longtime Stars forward Loui Eriksson, along with prospects Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow.

Four months after the swap, Seguin made his return to TD Garden in the first week of November. While a portion of the fan base hated the trade, the smattering of boos when No. 19-turned-91 touched the puck that night for Dallas seemed to reflect the Boston faithful’s frustration with Seguin’s playoff futility and unmet potential. Seguin got the last laugh that night, slowly skating by his former teammates after a shootout-tying goal that set up — of all people — Peverley for the game-winner.

4. No guts, no glory

Sometimes we take our descriptions of hockey players too far. Anyone who called Gregory Campbell a warrior on June 5, when Boston faced the Penguins in Game 3 of the conference finals, did no such thing. With Pittsburgh on the man advantage, Campbell was drilled in the leg by Evgeni Malkin’s cannon of a shot. The pain was written all over Campbell’s face. The grimacing was uncontrollable, not even for a single moment.

But a fallen Campbell put his glove back on and got back up to help the Bruins kill off the remaining minute of the penalty, all while the crowd cheered his name with immeasurable enthusiasm and pride. He was diagnosed with a broken leg and ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs. Campbell’s presence was missed, especially on the fourth line. The image of his agony and bravery, however, will live on forever.

3. Gone in 17 seconds

Hardly a soul could leave the building. The moment was too rare. The sight might very well have been a once-in-a-lifetime-glimpse at the most revered trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup. But what followed the oh-so-traditional chorus of boos for commissioner Gary Bettman, as he made his way down the carpet to present hockey’s Holy Grail, was something the TD Garden crowd never imagined possible as the final minutes ticked off the clock in Game 6 of the finals.

Chicago tied the game at two on a Bryan Bickell goal with 1:16 left in regulation. It was supposed to have forced overtime, where the Bruins had won time and time again in the playoffs. By the time the tying tally sunk in, Dave Bolland put one past Tuukka Rask to put the Blackhawks ahead. Fifty-nine seconds later, the B’s hopes of making it two Cups in three years were dead, as it wasn’t Zdeno Chara but Jonathan Toews on the receiving end of Bettman’s awarding of hockey’s ultimate prize.

2. Boston Strong

Whether you were there at TD Garden that night and enveloped by a crowd singing the Star Spangled Banner in unison, or at home watching in awe as Rene Rancourt deferred to the 17,565 fans and had the crowd belt out the second half of the national anthem, the moment was overwhelmingly powerful and the emotions were hard to fight back.

Boston took pride in its strength, and solace in the fact that the world could return to normal, all while weeping for those injured or killed at the finish line of the Boston Marathon 48 hours prior. The Bruins game against the Sabres gave a community a chance to come together in the most literal of senses. The outcome — a Buffalo win in the shootout — was an afterthought on April 17. Hockey was simply a distraction for a city taking its first steps toward healing.

1. Miracle on Causeway Street

Ten minutes of hockey. Twenty minutes real time. That’s how close the Bruins’ core and coaching staff came to being, well, blown the heck up. With Boston trailing by three goals in Game 7 of the first round against the Leafs and just half a period standing between the Black and Gold and yet another monumental playoff collapse, the looming meltdown inconceivably transformed into nothing short of a miracle.

After sending the game to overtime on a goal with a minute left in regulation, Patrice Bergeron stuck the dagger in the Maple Leafs, as his overtime strike gave Boston a 5-4 victory and sent the team on to the second round for a showdown with the Rangers. As a devastated Toronto goaltender James Reimer lay face down in his crease, Bergeron and his sidekicks — Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin — skated away with grand grins that reflected the disbelief and pure elation Boston’s players and fans felt in the moment.

All photos: Getty Images

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of New England Hockey Journal.