It wasn’t a big deal when Mark Recchi re-signed with the Boston Bruins in the offseason. He did the same in 2009.
Recchi had modest goals for the 2010-11 season: mentor first round pick Tyler Seguin and other young players and be a veteran presence in the locker room.
But still swirling in Recchi’s mind was the objective he set for himself and the Bruins in 2009. He wanted to win one more Stanley Cup.
“I want to go out and finish it off right by winning another championship and help this team be successful,” Recchi said during a conference call after re-signing in 2009. “It’s been a great run. I think I want to give it one more chance.’’
“I really like the pieces that are there. Winning the Stanley Cup is not an easy thing. You want to give yourself every opportunity. I felt Boston was a great fit for me. We have the opportunity, if we do all the right things as players, to continue to grow as a team. I think everybody left pretty disappointed, which I really, really liked. Guys felt we left something out there. Guys will be that much more hungry this year.’’
Those comments were followed by a springtime second-round exit to the Philadelphia Flyers. It was Boston’s third straight second-round defeat, preceded by losses to the Carolina Hurricanes in ’09 and the Montreal Canadiens in ’08.
It took an additional year of commitment from Recchi, but he didn’t quit on the Bruins because he saw Boston had it in them to win the Stanley Cup. Recchi knew from experience what a Stanley Cup winner is made of from his previous championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins (1991) and the Hurricanes (2006). He saw in the Bruins what made Pittsburgh and Carolina champions.
Recchi saw it in head coach Claude Julien. Stubborn, to a fault, Julien believed in his defense-first approach and rotations even with the outside world screaming for knee-jerk changes. As fans and the media constantly suggested juggling the lineups like fantasy sports, Julien believed in his players to execute. When Julien made subtle or rare changes, he always pushed the right buttons.
Recchi saw it in Zdeno Chara, the 6’9” pillar of the Bruins. With three second-round exits circling Chara’s head like clouds around a mountain’s peak, people questioned whether Big Z had the character to be the captain.
Chara doesn’t display the fiery, engaging personality that’s appealing. He doesn’t make headlines with bold comments. Being one of the league’s best defensemen annually wasn’t enough.
Chara logged heavy minutes throughout the playoffs and, paired with Dennis Seidenberg, shut down opposing top lines. The job done on Vancouver’s high scoring twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin is Chara’s signature moment of his career. Big Z leads by actions, not words.
The best show of leadership by Chara was during the Eastern Conference Championship trophy presentation. After shaking commissioner Gary Bettman’s hand, Chara called his teammates over to surround the trophy for the photo op.
Recchi saw the potential in the rookies. Seguin was the headliner, but Brad Marchand immediately established himself as a player willing to do anything to win.
His all-out style of play earned Marchand the Bruins seventh Star Award for performing above and beyond expectations throughout the regular season. He carried his play through the playoffs, scoring eleven goals and eight assists.
Recchi saw it in the veterans. Patrice Bergeron was stellar with his two-way play all year. Milan Lucic, viewed as an enforcer-type power forward, became the leading goal scorer when Boston was in need of an offensive threat.
Nathan Horton upped his production in the playoffs, scoring two series-clinching Game 7 goals. David Krejci, better known as a deft passer and reluctant shooter, balanced his offense, scoring 12 goals and 11 assists. Shawn Thornton’s toughness and intimidation, Greg Campbell’s ability to kill penalties…contributions came from the entire roster.
With everything in place, Recchi knew where to fit on the team. He’s not the offensive threat he used to be, but Recchi was huge when it mattered most. After contributing six points through the first three rounds, Recchi had seven points in the Stanley Cup Finals.
More than anything else, Recchi’s presence in the locker room was invaluable, whether he was a mentor, a sage, or a lightning rod.
Going into a game in Montreal following Chara’s hit on Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty that ended Pacioretty’s season, Recchi publicly questioned how injured Pacioretty was to draw attention away from Chara. Recchi knew exactly what the Bruins needed from him and when they needed it.
So there was Mark Recchi on Wednesday night, taking his third and final dance with the Stanley Cup. Few believed the Boston Bruins would become Stanley Cup Champions. But Recchi knew they could.