Boston Bruins: 2013 Offseason Stock Wach for Team's Top Players
They were 76 seconds away from forcing a deciding seventh game, only to watch it fall it apart right in front of them.
After the game, Patrick Sharp carried his daughter in his arms while flashbulbs went off around him. Andrew Shaw bled down his swollen cheek while lifting the 35-pound trophy.
David Krejci spoke to Sean Leahy of Yahoo! Sports after the Game 6 loss:
"It felt like we had it, you know?," Krejci said. "It feels like we lost it. We had a Game 7 in front of us. It was right there. I felt we played a pretty good game, and we lost it. We just gave it to them, basically."
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk continued the sentiment:
"It’s a bad feeling. Bad, like an awful feeling. You can’t really describe it. As a player it’s probably one of the worst feelings you can get when you are up by one goal with a minute and twenty left and somehow you lose the game. It’s just like a total shock."
With that said, there's no doubt the B's are training hard in the offseason to make sure that type of collapse doesn't happen again, especially on home ice. They don't want Sharp or Shaw skating in jubilation over the spoked-B in the center of the ice at TD Garden.
But getting back to the Stanley Cup Final obviously is not an easy task. Just ask the Bruins themselves, who were upset by the Washington Capitals in the first round in 2012 after winning the Cup the previous season. No team has made it to the Final two years in a row since the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.
The Bruins, hoping to reverse that trend, reloaded for next season. They added Jarome Iginla, shipped often-criticized Tyler Seguin to Dallas for Loui Eriksson and re-signed two franchise players in Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask.
Here's a look at the offseason stock watch for the stars of the club and how that will affect Boston next season.
Stock status: rising
This past season, Rask proved he was the goalie of the future in Boston by posting great numbers in both the regular season and the playoffs.
According to NHL.com, the 26-year-old Finn posted a 2.00 goals-against average in 36 regular-season tilts and a blistering 1.88 in the playoffs.
He kept his team alive late in the third period of Game 7 against the Maple Leafs by making several big saves that allowed Boston to continue its comeback, including this stoning of Matt Frattin on a breakaway.
This offseason, Rask was rewarded for his great play with an eight-year contract extension that will make him a Bruin until the end of the 2020-21 season.
He's established himself as a top-10 goalie in the league and is entering the prime of his career. Invited to take part in Finland's Olympic orientation camp, he will face a tough battle for the starting job. Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom, San Jose's Antti Niemi and Nashville's Pekka Rinne have also been invited to the camp.
As Boston heads into next season, having a franchise goalie is one thing they have checked off. Signing Rask long term was the only option with his stock rising as quickly as it was.
Stock status: falling
By the end of the Chicago series, much was made about captain Zdeno Chara being on the ice for the majority of the goals scored by the Chicago Blackhawks. Big Z was on the ice for five of the Blackhawks' six goals in Game 4 and all three in Game 5.
But that stat is somewhat misleading. Why? Chara is the team's No. 1 defenseman and is going to be out there the majority of the time. It's no surprise that he's out there for goals because he logs so much playing time.
So why is his stock falling?
The 36-year-old Slovakian is up there in age. He doesn't move like he used to (which, on his large frame, wasn't all that great to begin with). The younger forwards the Bruins will face next season will be able to exploit him by using their speed to avoid his bruising physicality.
The fact that Chara was on the ice for a majority of Chicago's goals wasn't the problem. The issue was that Boston was giving up more goals than normal, and he deserves some of the blame for that.
He only has a few more years left in the tank, and the remaining seasons won't be as dominant as in past years.
Stock status: rising
After inconsistent play in the past two postseasons, Lucic stepped up his game this year, scoring seven goals and 19 points in the playoffs and throwing around his body on the boards and in front of the net like we're used to seeing. He was also a plus-12.
He scored the second of Boston's three third-period goals in its comeback against Toronto and put the B's ahead late in Game 6 against Chicago.
His value is high because of his clutch play and leadership. After his goal that brought the Bruins within one of tying the Leafs, you can see Lucic encouraging his teammates to keep going. He knew they still had something to give.
The executives at Hockey Canada think No. 17 has something to give, too.
The Vancouver native was invited to Team Canada's summer orientation camp to show what he has to offer in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Canada has the deepest pool of talent in the league, and an invite to the camp is an honor. Lucic has quickly become one of the best power forwards in the NHL and will only get better.
Even if he doesn't snare a spot on Canada's final roster, many teams would still love to have his services.
Stock status: rising
Krejci led the postseason in scoring for the second time in three years by finishing with 26 points in 22 games.
He anchored Boston's No. 1 line with Lucic and Nathan Horton and will continue to do so even though Horton is now a Blue Jacket. Expect veteran Jarome Iginla to fill the spot left vacant by Horton.
Krejci is consistent and never has any off-the-ice issues. He's one of the league's most underrated players, and if the Czech Republic has any chance at medaling next year in Russia, Krejci will be the catalyst.
ESPN Boston's James Murphy reported the 27-year-old signed a three-year extension back in 2011, and he is under contract for another two seasons. Boston would be crazy to trade him, but they could get some top draft picks if the idea ever crosses general manager Peter Chiarelli's mind.
And if you think the Bruins won't ship great offensive players to stockpile draft picks, just ask Phil Kessel.
Stock status: rising
Bergeron's stock right now is as high as that of the Razor scooter back in 2000. This guy is a deity in Boston and deserving of all of the praise.
He tied the score in the final minute in Game 7 against Toronto and then won it in overtime. He repeated the latter in in double overtime of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against Pittsburgh. Oh yeah, he scored the Cup-winning goal against the Canucks two years ago, too.
And if that wasn't enough, The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa reported that he played Game 6 against Chicago with a broken rib, a separated shoulder and a hole in his lung.
But wait. Should his health cause his stock to be falling?
Not at all. ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald last month reported that Bergeron was healing nicely from his injuries. McDonald wrote that Bergeron's shoulder wouldn't need surgery and that his ribs and lung were feeling better. Bergeron is expected to be completely healthy and ready to go for the start of training camp.
The 28-year-old Quebec native is a warrior and the heart and soul of the Bruins. He's one of the best defensive forwards in the world and will be on Team Canada next February. He shut down Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and dominated faceoffs against Jonathan Toews.
One can go on and on about everything No. 37 does. His stock has never been higher, and the B's knew that. The Bruins' brass signed him to an eight-year contract extension in July in the hopes that he will be a Bruin for life.