But there ought to be less emphasis on that and more on the notion that the Bruins―from the front office to ice level―were collectively driven to step up after Savard’s deletion from the depth chart.
Equally indispensable is the fact that, before his unfortunate struggles with post-concussion syndrome, Savard’s proficient play making percolated Boston’s recent resurrection.
Before his 2009-10 campaign was disrupted by Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke, he annually topped the Bruins’ scoring chart. And each year, the team earned more points in the regular season and played another round in the postseason.
For all those reasons, Savard is entitled to official credit for the 2011 championship. Few Bruins players still under contract have done as much as he has just to make them championship-caliber.
Savard’s first season in Boston—also the first for general manager Peter Chiarelli and captain Zdeno Chara—proved a false start in terms of returning the Bruins to relevance.
Nonetheless, Savard―one of only six holdovers from before head coach Claude Julien’s arrival―appeared in all 82 contests and stood out with 74 assists and 96 points.
In each of the next two years, he chalked up 63 helpers. His role as the team’s leading point-getter in 2007-08 was all the more emboldened by the protracted absence of Patrice Bergeron, himself a victim of a devastating concussion one month into the season. And in a near-upset of Montreal, Savard scored a memorable overtime goal and a team-leading five assists.
The following year, Savard appeared in all 82 games for the third time in four seasons. (Based on that history, wouldn’t you bet that, with a healthy head, he would have skated in all 107 regular season and playoff games this year?)
And with his 25-63-88 scoring transcript, he piloted the 2008-09 Bruins to first place in the Eastern Conference and their first playoff series win in a decade.
Guess who was Boston’s top scorer that spring?
More recently, for every failed attempt to restore normalcy after the Cooke hit in March 2010, Savard has generated one more highlight.
The first of those was in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, when he scored his fourth playoff game-winner as a Bruin.
And it’s hard to envision any documentary on this 2010-11 enterprise omitting the ovations Savard received from the TD Garden masses before and during his season debut Dec. 2.
Sure, over the ensuing seven weeks, Savard only mustered two goals, 10 points and a wholly uncharacteristic minus-seven rating with no power-play points. And the comeback proved foolhardy when a routine check by former teammate Matt Hunwick in Colorado re-aggravated the symptoms on Jan. 22, forcing him to formally shut down Feb. 8.
But before that, he scraped out 25 games played. That’s at least one more regular-season contest wearing the Spoked-B than every trading deadline acquisition that was made, in large part, to compensate his absence on the ice.
What Savard helped the start circa 2006-07, the likes of Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley came aboard to help finish. And at no point did they forget who had the baton first.
Before there was the Nathan Horton tribute during Game 6 of the championship round, there was Savard and Bergeron perched on the ninth floor at the Garden to start the Tampa Bay series. Not so much another spark plug of incentive for the active Bruins, but more of a reminder to the fanbase who their heroes have rallied around the entire time.
Why wouldn’t they? From the 5:07 mark in Game 3 onward, Horton had what the NHL might file under “extenuating circumstances” that kept him on the sideline in the climax of the run. Ditto Bergeron to start the previous round.
And ditto Savard since Jan. 22.
If the Bruins are still looking for another victory this season (as goaltender Tim Thomas implied in his first postgame interview on NBC) it must be to successfully petition NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to list “M. Savard” on Hockey’s Holy Grail.