On the eve of the Bruins first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1990 things couldn’t be better for Bruins fans.
Ask any Bruins fan how it was cheering for the Black and Gold during the early 2000’s, words like miserable and frustrating will commonly be used.
In seven seasons from the 1999-00 season to the 2006-07 season, (no 2004-05 season due to NHL lockout) the Bruins qualified for the postseason just three times. Two of those three playoff seasons the Bruins won the Northeast Division but were upset by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The first two seasons after the lockout were two of the worst in recent memory. With the struggles many fans abandoned the team they once loved when Bobby Orr was flying through the air and winning Stanley Cups.
The 2007-08 season saw the Bruins struggle again, but yet still earn a playoff spot as the eight seed. The B’s found themselves a first round date against their hated rivals to the north, the Montreal Canadiens.
After dropping the first two games in Montreal the Bruins came home to the Garden for Game 3, but it wasn’t much of a home game. I remember walking the through the concourse of the Garden amongst a sea of red, white, and blue, and no it wasn’t for our great country, it was full of Habs fans.
The B’s went on to win a thriller in Game 3, lose a heartbreaker in Game 4, and then blow out the Habs in Game 5 to stay alive for another day. Game 6 was back in Boston, and in my opinion it was that very Game 6 that put hockey back on the map in Boston.
An entertaining back and forth game that saw six goals between the two teams in the decisive third period was won by the Bruins; fans couldn’t believe that the underdog Bruins forced a Game 7 with the Canadiens. The Bruins would lose Game 7 and lose the series, but the fight and promise the Bruins showed during the seven game series was enough to bring the Bruins fans back.
The 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons had many ups and many downs for the Bruins. A few early playoff exits and a choke job for the ages left the Bruins and their fans hungry for the 2010-11 season.
The Bruins have used the same core of players from the past two playoff runs and built around those guys with successful draft picks, and timely trades.
Looking at the future of the Bruins over the next several years should make any Bruins fan smile. With their key core players locked up for the next few years, this may not be the only Stanley Cup Finals run we get to see here in Boston.
Patrice Bergeron: Without taking anything away from Zdeno Chara, Bergeron could easily be the Bruins captain. The best two-way-forward the Bruins have does it all for his team. Although three concussions have forced him to miss significant time Bergeron is always one of the Bruins top forwards year in and year out. The soon-to-be 26 year old is under contract for the next three years.
Marc Savard: At 34 years old Savard suffered two serious concussions in a span of ten months. Savard was shut down in February for the remainder of the 2010-11 regular season, and playoffs. Savard is under contract for the next six seasons, but with his recent head injuries, his career is in question. There is no doubt that when 100% Savard is a top forward in the NHL.
Milan Lucic: In October of 2009, Lucic signed a three year extension which keeps him in Boston for the next two seasons. Lucic had himself a career year during the 2010-11 regular season when No. 17 reached the 30 goal mark for the first time in his career. The 22 year power forward has been labeled “The next Cam Neely”
Nathan Horton: Days before the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins sent Dennis Wideman and the 15th overall pick in the draft to Florida for Horton and Gregory Campbell. The 26 year old who was the third overall pick in 2003 NHL Entry Draft had been up and down for the Panthers. Horton came to Boston and instantly found success. Playing in his first ever Stanley Cup Playoffs, Horton has been huge for the Bruins with two game winning goals, both in Game 7’s. Like Lucic, Horton is under contract for the next two seasons.
David Krejci: Krejci another great two-way-forward is a restricted free agent after next season. The 25 year old has spent five seasons with the Bruins. With guys like Krejci not coming too often it’s hard to see the Bruins not bringing him back after next season. Krejci has tremendous skill with the puck. The chemistry that he has shown with Horton and Lucic alone should be enough to keep Krejci in Boston.
Tyler Seguin: In the deal that sent disgruntled forward Phil Kessel to Toronto, the Bruins acquired the Leafs first round pick in this past June’s draft. That pick turned into the second overall pick which was used to select the 18 year old Seguin. No. 19 struggled in his rookie campaign, and was a healthy scratch for more games than anyone expected. After sitting out the first two series in the playoffs, Seguin got the nod to replace the injured Bergeron, and broke out in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, scoring three times, and adding three assists. What Seguin showed in those two games is what the Bruins and their fans hope to see in the future. Seguin’s rookie-contract his him in a Bruins uniform for the next two seasons.
Brad Marchand: The pesky rookie was a pleasant surprise for the Bruins this year as Marchand added 21 goals for the Bruins. A sixth round pick by the Bruins in 2006, Marchand has had success at the junior, and minor league levels. The 23 year old Marchand is a restricted free agent after this season, but no one expects him to not be a Bruin for the foreseeable future.
Zdeno Chara: After the Bruins traded fan favorite and Captain Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks, the Bruins needed a new face for the franchise. The Bruins signed Chara during the offseason in 2006 and instantly was named Captain. As the NHL’s tallest player Chara is known league wide as one of the best shut-down-defenseman. At 34 years old, Chara signed a seven year deal prior to the start of the 2010-11 season.
Dennis Seidenberg: During the 2009-10 season the German defenseman was traded from the Panthers to the Bruins in exchange for Byron Bitz, and Craig Weller. No. 44 instantly became a fan favorite with his knack for blocking shots like crazy. An injury to his arm forced him to sit out the Bruins two series during the 2009-10 playoffs. This season the 29 year old has picked up where he left off last season, and has been the Bruins best defenseman in their run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Seidenberg has three years remaining on his current contract.
Tuukka Rask: Last season Rask finally got the call up to the NHL. Rask stole the starting job from Tim Thomas and ran with it. In his successful rookie year, Rask won 22 games and posted 1.97 goals against average. Rask started his sophomore campaign off slowly and lost the starting job to Thomas. Rask the obvious goalie of the future for the Bruins becomes a restricted free agent after next season.
With their young talent locked up and things finally clicking in Boston, Bruins fans should be in line for years of entertaining hockey.