The Top Storylines for the Boston Bruins' Western Canada Road Trip
One player will pay his first visit to one building since he finished percolating regular memories in the arena as a home competitor. Later, a multitude of players will pay a long-awaited visit to another building for the first time since using that arena to concoct the presumed No. 1 on-ice memory of their respective careers.
In between, one member of that historic team will act as Boston’s host for the first time since parting with his old employers via free agency.
There will be a reason beyond the boards and box scores to build up to Boston’s engagements with the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks. Click along for more details on each side story.
Tuesday: Captain Jarome Iginla Comes Home to Calgary
Granted, this figures to bear more of a direct appeal to Flames fans than anybody else. Even so, New Englanders who are at least out of high school are old enough to have their own memories to relate.
Not many stories of this nature come as close as this one does to when Ray Bourque dropped in on the FleetCenter in Colorado Avalanche attire on March 24, 2001. (Although, Daniel Alfredsson was an exceptional example just last week.)
Like Bourque in 1999-2000, Iginla was captaining a go-nowhere club in 2012-13 and still lacking a title to go with his multitude of other achievements. After a short and shortcoming attempt to address that craving in Pittsburgh, he pulled a reverse Bourque and signed with the Bruins for the sake of seeking a Stanley Cup.
The only drawback here is that it is the first installment of Boston’s excursion and will occur on a weeknight. It would have been more fitting if it happened on Saturday, when it could appear on CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada and a greater quantity of New Englanders would be able to tune in.
Regardless of how many viewers that this match musters in each market, the fact remains that the past and present lend extra appeal to both fanbases with an investment in the outcome. In turn, the other storylines that will follow in the other cities will be downhill by comparison.
Not to belittle those subsequent stories by any means. Speaking of which...
Thursday: Bruins Face Andrew Ference
An epitome of intangibles from the core group that brought the Bruins out of the basement and into the pool of Cup contenders, Andrew Ference shall face Boston for the first time as Edmonton’s new captain.
Once again, this game shoulders the disadvantage of taking place out West on a weeknight. In addition, the Ference sidebar will probably not appeal as much to the Oilers faithful as it will to Bruins followers.
Even so, for Ference’s old fans, it should function as an appetizer for the veteran blueliner’s Feb. 1 visit to TD Garden.
Among active forwards on Boston’s roster, only centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci remain from Ference’s first season with the Bruins in 2006-07. In turn, the sight of virtually any black-and-golder going into a corner as Ference’s adversary will be a strange, fascinating new visual for any viewers.
Besides renewing past acquaintances, the Bruins will also wage their first confrontation with Nail Yakupov, the No. 1 draft pick from 2012. In a strange twist, this comes two months after they first faced off with 2013’s top selection, Nathan MacKinnon of Colorado.
Yakupov and a multitude of still relatively unripe high-end strikers ought to make for a few interesting matchups with the various first- or second-year NHLers on Boston’s blue line. One side features Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, while the other will have either some or all of Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Kevan Miller.
Saturday: Back In B.C.
Fans of either team―and any interested observers, for that matter―can blame whoever they blame for the 2012 lockout for lessening the luster of this matchup.
Had last year’s schedule gone as originally slated, the Bruins would have visited Vancouver on Dec. 29, 2012. That would have marked their first contest at Rogers Arena since clinching the Cup there in Game 7 on June 15, 2011.
Instead, by Saturday night’s faceoff, almost exactly two-and-a-half years will have elapsed since then. It will have been nearly two full years, rather than one, since the only other rematch between these franchises, who battled in Boston on Jan. 7, 2012.
In that interim, one-half of the memorable goaltending card from that 2011 championship bout has gone to the Florida Panthers. One-half of the head coaching matchup is now serving the same role for the New York Rangers.
For those reasons, particularly the fact that Tim Thomas’ laps with the Conn Smythe Trophy constitute his last twirls in Boston attire on Vancouver ice, this will not be as compelling as it could have been.
With that said, not everything is lost as long as there are still some key holdovers on each side. That is the case as long as the losing franchise and fanbase still have yet to host another matchup at the scene of the crime.
If nothing else, this is the long-awaited and obligatory moment where each party puts the last stamp on the turning of the page. Vancouver’s insertion of head coach John Tortorella could even offer the matchup a second wind of intensity.