Ranking the Boston Bruins' Top 10 Moments in the 2013-14 Regular Season
Those transaction winds precipitated a round of returns to players’ previous domains. They did not, however, amount to much of a shift in the team’s regular-season achievements.
For the fourth time in six years, the Bruins finished first in their division, topping seven cohabitants in the new-look Atlantic. They went on to upgrade that feat to a first-place finish in the Eastern Conference and then the Presidents’ Trophy for the league’s best record.
Naturally, this week will see those accomplishments swept away and dumped out in the Zamboni snow. A fresh sheet is approaching in the form of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.
With that said, the Bruins will not commence their first-round series until this Friday. The five-day gap between the regular-season finale and the playoff opener yields a lengthy waiting period to assess postseason expectations based on the preceding 82-game log.
To pass the time in the eye of the 2013-14 tempest, here is a look back at the Bruins’ most momentous occurrences from the past six months. They range from game-eclipsing side stories to marquee wins and winning streaks that emboldened Boston’s league-leading 54-19-9 run.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com
10. Iginla Returns To Calgary
Bruins buffs went through this a little less than 13 years prior with Ray Bourque.
This time, Boston was the team employing another franchise’s former celestial captain who accomplished almost everything but win a Stanley Cup. Jarome Iginla, a 36-year-old veteran of 17 NHL seasons, is still chasing a title with the Bruins after nearly 16 full campaigns in Calgary.
With last year’s conference-only schedule, Iginla did not have a chance to pay a business trip to his old domain amidst his stint in Pittsburgh. As such, after transferring to Boston over this past summer, Dec. 10 was his first chance to skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome in visiting attire.
Iginla picked up a pair of helpers to bolster Boston’s 4-2 victory, but the two warm ovations that sandwiched the game defined the night.
9-7. Foes Still Friends
Three separate occasions saw the TD Garden conduct its own welcome-back moment for allies-turned-adversaries who manufactured their own memories as Bruins.
Two nights later, goaltender Tim Thomas was on hand for his Florida Panthers’ bout with the Bruins. An injury barred him from action that night, but he did scrape the blue paint on his team’s next visit on Jan. 28.
After Thomas’ tilt with the Bruins before his old rooters, four days passed before New England puckheads welcomed back one more former championship asset. Former alternate captain and exemplary stay-at-home defenseman Andrew Ference, who spent six-plus seasons in Boston, returned as captain of his hometown Edmonton Oilers.
Of the still-active members of Boston’s 2011 title team who have gone to other NHL organizations, only Nathan Horton of Columbus still has yet to skate as an opponent at the Garden. A shoulder ailment kept him out of action for the first three months of this season, including the entire Bruins-Blue Jackets season series, which ended in November.
6. Flaring In Philly
The Bruins erupted for six goals on six occasions this season (extending that output to seven in one game). Only two of those outbursts came at the expense of an eventual playoff team.
The first of those two occurred on a Jan. 25 journey to Philadelphia, where the top-six forwards and two-way defensemen took care of all of the offense.
Zdeno Chara piloted the power play with a pair of conversions to bookend the scoring. Iginla assisted on both of those goals, supplied one himself on another man advantage and buried a last-minute even-strength strike in the opening frame.
David Krejci’s assists on all three power-play goals gave him a playmaker hat trick. Krug rounded out the day’s multipoint club with a pair of helpers.
Amidst all of that, Reilly Smith connected unassisted before Patrice Bergeron converted Brad Marchand’s feed for insurance in the second period.
5. Krug Counters Crosby In The Clutch
The Pittsburgh Penguins were primed to pilfer a two-point package from TD Garden on Nov. 25. They deleted 2-0 and 3-2 deficits with the latter equalizer coming via presumptive Hart Trophy front-runner Sidney Crosby with less than a second left in regulation.
That would, however, only serve to delay the delight among the home crowd. The Bruins regrouped from the stunning strike and initiated a buzz around the offensive zone in overtime.
Torey Krug curtailed that segment, and the game, by venturing from his point perch to the faceoff circle, where he unleashed a 43-foot snap shot over the shoulder of Marc-Andre Fleury.
The 4-3 victory gave Boston a tie through the first two installments of its three-game season series with the Penguins. A 3-2 regulation win less than two weeks later gave the Atlantic Division leaders a 2-1-0 head-to-head edge on the Metropolitan Division monarchs.
4. Rask Robs The Rangers
Goaltender Tuukka Rask faced 40 shots or more in three of his 58 regular-season appearances. The New York Rangers induced two of those three sweats, amplifying the Finnish fortress’ challenge in countering celestial Swede Henrik Lundqvist.
The first of those instances came at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 19. The result was a 43-save performance on 44 bids in a 2-1 triumph.
Rask’s single-night save percentage of .977 that evening would go down as his best in any non-shutouts this season.
Per Allan Kreda of the New York Times, Bruins bench boss Claude Julien subsequently said, “Tuukka stood tall for us. He was poised, square to the puck and did a great job. We were able to hang on, but a lot of credit goes to him.”
Boston went on to sweep the season series with the Blueshirts, with Rask outdueling Lundqvist in all three meetings. The last of those matchups saw the Rangers pelt Rask with 42 bids at home, only to drop a 6-3 decision March 2.
By the way, the other game that saw Rask face 40-plus shots was another victory. He repelled 49 out of 52 biscuits from the Philadelphia Flyers in an eventual 4-3 shootout win March 30.
3. Krejci’s Buzzer-Beater
Rask had another early-season toil at the hands of the visiting San Jose Sharks on Oct. 24. His skating mates played like they had stiff, sore legs from engaging the Sabres in Buffalo the previous night. He, on the other hand, looked like the sharp stopper who got that previous game off.
Rask’s ensuing staring contest with Antti Niemi yielded 38 saves on 39 shots and a near-tie in regulation. The reason overtime did not happen was because Boston’s top forward line seized the spotlight in the waning seconds of the third period.
Krejci dished a breakout feed to Milan Lucic, who crossed four lines before forwarding the puck from the corner to Adam McQuaid on the point. Krejci camped out on the porch and deflected McQuaid’s bid through Niemi’s five-hole, stopping the clock at 0.8 seconds and granting the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
The formalities of dropping another faceoff to polish off that last eight-tenths of a second cemented what was then a season-high four-game winning streak. Boston improved to 7-2-0 overall at that point.
2. Royal Resolve
A Jan. 20 matinee versus Los Angeles started roughly 22 hours after the Bruins finished a 65-minute toil in Chicago. The Bruins, already without Dennis Seidenberg, lost the services of another defenseman in Adam McQuaid in that 3-2 shootout loss.
To compound the challenge, Julien gave backup goaltender Chad Johnson the nod against the Kings, another certifiable Western bigwig.
His pupils responded by sculpting a 2-0 lead on a variety of special teams goals in the first period. The Kings whittled the deficit in the middle frame and drew a 2-2 knot with 11:25 to spare in regulation.
Boston’s rebuttal came a mere 18 seconds later via Brad Marchand, whose second strike of the day stood as the clincher. Johnson held on to outduel Jonathan Quick and received some highlight-reel help from the blue-line brigade.
Kevan Miller’s hit on Kings captain Dustin Brown in the penultimate minute of regulation defined his day. The rookie defenseman threw five hits and blocked a shot to help fill the veteran voids and signed a contract extension the next day.
The 3-2 final all but raised doubt as to whether this was really the same team that had just spent part of a 22-hour interval between games flying from one time zone to another. It stopped short of instilling questions as to whether the Bruins were really lacking two leaned-on blueliners and starting their No. 2 netminder.
It all but obliterated any lingering questions as to the team’s resistance to excuses. That win started a 22-2-3 hot streak that stretched through the length of March.
1. Marching Through March
One of the two regulation losses during that hot streak was a 4-2 decision against Washington on March 1. It marked Boston’s second straight non-win coming out of the Olympic break, but would constitute its last pointless performance of the month.
Going into the day’s action on March 2, the Bruins boasted a 37-17-5 record. They stood at the summit of the Atlantic Division with a four-point edge on the second-place Montreal Canadiens.
Four weeks later, coming out of a 4-3 shootout triumph in Philadelphia, Boston was 52-17-6. Its lead on the Habs had stretched to 17 while the Penguins trailed by nine points for the No. 1 seed in the conference.
Although St. Louis had a game in hand at that point, it now trailed the Bruins by three points for first overall in the league. Neither the Blues nor anyone else caught up thereafter on that front.
The late-season runaway was the product of a 15-0-1 thrill ride. The Bruins outscored their opponents by a cumulative count of 57-22 in that span. The swept five sets of back-to-back games and claimed three-goal triumphs over the likes of Montreal (4-1 March 12) and Chicago (3-0 March 27).
None of those singular highlights manage to jut out because of the streak and the standings shakeup they collectively enabled.