Eight members of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins served as fan banner captains prior to Monday’s Game 1 of the 2019 final. Five more players who skated away with the Cup in Vancouver were unavailable to serve as captains but still present at the TD Garden.
Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask were all busy prepping for their third Stanley Cup Final together. And unlike their first two trips this decade, the B’s came away with a win in Game 1, coming back from a two-goal deficit to win, 4-2, over the St. Louis Blues.
The presence of yesterday’s heroes – minus some notable names like, say, Tim Thomas – served as a good reminder of just how special it is that Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand and Rask have been a part of three runs to the Cup over nine seasons in Black and Gold.
Should the Bruins stumble and lose four of their next six games against the Blues, however, it’ll be an undeniably bitter pill to swallow after going from hell and back in the six years between appearances on hockey’s grandest of stages.
How might another win affect the legacies of the principal members of the organization vs. another loss?
It's not like the Bruins cratered to the bottom of the NHL standings after losing the 2013 Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. They won the President’s Trophy with the league’s best record in 2013-14, only to be knocked out of the postseason by (wait for it) the Montreal Canadiens in the second round. The B’s missed the playoffs in each of the next two seasons, still putting up 96 and 93 points, respectively, before returning for a one-and-done bout with the Ottawa Senators in the spring of 2017.
Young reinforcements such as David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Jake DeBrusk are all playing in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time, but given that they’re all 22 years old or younger, it’s far too soon to talk about legacies.
On the flip side: Chara is 42. Bergeron and Krejci are 33, Rask is 32 and even Marchand is a sneaky 31. Let’s not forget that Rask was merely Tim Thomas’s backup in 2011 and still has to win a Cup of his own.
Chara and Bergeron in particular are already locks for the Hockey Hall of Fame and to have their jersey numbers retired at TD Garden, but their pecking order among the greatest players in Bruins history undoubtedly moves up with another Cup win. No one will ever touch Bobby Orr, but what if Chara and Bergeron suddenly have two Cups to Ray Bourque’s none (in Boston)? They’d have two more than Rick Middleton, Terry O’Reilly and current team president Cam Neely... and match John Bucyk, Phil Esposito and Milt Schmidt with a deuce.
Chara can become the oldest captain of a Stanley Cup champion and the first European-born player to captain multiple Stanley Cup champions. Bergeron, and his four (soon to be five?) Selke Trophies, has always been like George Harrison, stuck behind the Lennon/McCartney that is Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in the NHL. His profile across North America can only grow with a second Cup to his credit.
Krejci and Marchand would still lag behind Chara and Bergeron in the grand scheme of things, but not by much. It’s hard to envision a scenario in which their jerseys aren’t hanging from the rafters with a second Cup win.
Hall of Famers? It’s not impossible, particularly in Marchand’s case. Similar to how people may initially scoff at Julian Edelman’s credentials for Canton, take a closer look at what Marchand has become offensively. He had 85 points in each of the last two seasons before hitting an even 100 this winter, and is currently third behind San Jose’s Logan Couture in scoring with 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) during the playoffs.
Given that the Sharks are sitting at home watching their Bay Area neighbors play in the NBA Finals, Marchand could well finish as the leading scorer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs...
... much like Krejci has already done in his career, twice. He had 12-11—23 totals in 2011 and 9-17—26 figures in 2013. It’s not like the resurgent Krejci, who matched a career-high in points during the regular season this year with 73, has fallen off a cliff this postseason, either; at 4-10—14 right now, it wouldn’t be impossible for him to make another run at a 20-point postseason campaign depending on the length of the series.
Not that extending the series just to hit some superficial numbers will be the difference in Marchand or Krejci earning plaques in Toronto someday. Each player likely needs several more strong regular seasons to put themselves in that position, a true run at 1,000 career points (Marchand is at 262-297—559, Krejci at 194-449—643).
Nothing can ever take away the magical Cup run that was 2011. A second loss in the final, with Boston’s core getting on in years, means the rest of the final vs. St. Louis could be the last chance for the seemingly ageless Bruins to pad their legacies as some of the best ever in the eight-spoked B.