Throughout the 2013 season, the Boston Bruins encountered many ups and downs en route to their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in three years.
From the start of the lockout shortened season, to their heartbreaking Game 6 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Monday night, the Black and Gold saw plenty of obstacles on the ice. In between that span, they were 10 minutes away from another disappointing first round exit against the Toronto Maple Leafs. But their triumphant third period comeback against their Northeast Division rivals put the B’s in position to be two wins away from their second Cup in three years.
Let’s not forget that the Bruins limped into the playoffs, too. Thanks to their 6-6-2 stretch in the last month of the season, the Black and Gold plummeted to a second place finish in the Northeast Division, and wound up fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.
On the ice, they handled all the adversity in front of them and won the East. The Bruins’ off-ice performance, however, was just as impressive.
It all started with the 113-day lockout that finally ended on Jan. 6. One month later, the Bruins visited victims in Newtown to grieve with its members of the community after the tragic events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012.
Then, the Boston Marathon Bombings took center stage. As the tragedy hit many Bostonians, the Bruins, like many professionals, rallied together and stood together with those effected by the events. At the same time, the unit grew even closer together.
“This year was crazy,” defenseman Andrew Ference recalled in his last day as a Bruin. “With the lockout it wasn’t easy coming back to the locker room with the relationship between management, owners and players being really fractured at a time like that, especially in this market. I think this group did a tremendous job of getting past that, and getting beyond that and I think we had a great presence in the negotiations in explaining a lot of the things of why things were the way they were. So I think the first obstacle of getting over that was handled well by the team.
“The group of us saw what happened in Newtown and visited them to meet with those people and see the recovery. And then the stuff that happened in the Marathon, I mean, it was a tough year, but I think the guys handled it as best as they could. And they gained a perspective of what our role was in the city and what’s important in life and a bigger picture.”
Maybe it’s because Peter Chiarelli and company kept much of the core from the 2011 team in tact two years later. Maybe it’s because the more they knew each other, the closer they bonded.
In any event, the Bruins were appreciative of how close the locker room was during breakup day Wednesday at the TD Garden. And its something they will cherish for a long time.
“I think the group grew closer,” said forward Milan Lucic. “What we went through as a city with the Marathon stuff and with what happened in that Toronto series as well. Getting back to this point – right now it’s an empty feeling to not come out with the Cup. But if you look at, I think it was a lot of fun these last two months playing playoff hockey and meaningful games, and getting back to the Stanley Cup Final again. Our group is as tight as it ever was, and it’s a big reason why we all want to be back here next year.”
While most of the team will return for the 2013-14 season, there are some who donned the Black and Gold for the last time Monday night. Both Ference, who came to Boston in 2007, and Jaromir Jagr, who was acquired in this year’s Trade Deadline, admitted they have played their last game in Boston. The same can potentially be said for Nathan Horton, who, like Jagr and Ference, is an unrestricted free agent, and Tuukka Rask, who is an RFA. But Rask and Chiarelli have begun negotiations, which continued on Wednesday according to Rask.
But, even with some new faces, the expectations for next year’s Bruins will be high. And, as tight-knit as this team was the last few seasons, the locker room might get even closer in 2013-14.
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