Bruins All About "Team"
BostonBruins.com - After Tuukka Rask had gloved the final shot, the horn had sounded, the Bruins had swarmed, and the handshake line with the Pittsburgh Penguins had been complete, Captain Zdeno Chara skated over to accept the Prince of Wales Trophy, affirming their feat of becoming Eastern Conference Champions.
And just as in 2011, Zee brought his entire team over for the first picture.
He would not be the only one standing next to the NHL's Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly for the official photo that will be filed somewhere in the archives. Considering his effort in the dying seconds to somehow get a behind-the-back glove save on Evgeni Malkin's shot heading towards a wide open net, Chara deserved his moment as Captain. But still, as the Boston faithful chanted "We want the Cup! We want the Cup!" he had his teammates gather 'round.
The back story, of course, is that in 2011, Chara had mentioned to Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi before Game Seven against Tampa Bay, that he wanted to do a team picture with the trophy after they won, as he didn't think it was appropriate for him to be the one posing on his own.
When he skated to the trophy, the pair were responsible for making sure the rest of the team followed. It worked out as planned.
The Captain was later told that a team picture with the Prince of Wales Trophy like that had never been done before.
So on Friday night, following a sweep of the Penguins, by the time Chara had turned around from shaking Bill Daly's hand, the sea of his teammates in Black & Gold had already started filtering in around him.
(It should be noted that Blackhawks' captain Jonathan Toews gestured his team over before the trophy photo following their double overtime Western Conference clinching win Saturday night. It's really only fitting, considering the team effort it takes to come even this close to winning the Cup.)
Chara and the B's will tell you over and over again how every year is different and every round presents new challenges. But with the core intact from the 2011 Cup run, the mentality and character of those in the spoked-B remains the same - it's about the team.
"It’s a team game," Bruins' center David Krejci said following Friday's night's series-clinching win. "If you’re going to go far in the playoffs you need everybody to play well and everybody to step up."
Through the 12 wins to reach the Stanley Cup Final, 10 Bruins have been the wearer of the ritual "Player of the Game" Army Rangers jacket that signifies a player stepping up when needed most - exemplifying the slogan "Rangers lead the way."
If the B's had their way, the jacket could be given out to each Bruin in that dressing room following every game. On any given night in this postseason, we've seen a cast of players coming up big - sometimes likely candidates (see: Patrice Bergeron and his overtime prowess), and unlikely candidates (see: Adam McQuaid and his rocket of a goal for the Conference-clincher).
"For us, it just reinforces what we feel we’re all about. We’re all about team," said Bruins' Head Coach Claude Julien on Sunday afternoon, following his team's first practice in preparation for the Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"And we really respect that certain guys come up big and really get excited about the fact that guys like Adam McQuaid will score goals or Torey Krug will score goals and those players that you don’t hear much about when it comes to offense."
"I think our team really gets excited about those things because we do like sharing the glory from game to game, from player to player. It just exemplifies what our group is all about."
"We all love each other. We’ve been together for a long time," Krejci had said following the Game Four win. "We’ve spent time on and off the ice. And obviously the experience as well - we played some good teams a couple years ago, so it stays with you."
No "Superstars" Here
When Bruins' General Manager Peter Chiarelli addressed the media the day after the B's had clinched the Eastern Conference, he lauded Krejci for a quote he had uttered earlier in the week to reporters following the team's Game Three, 2-1, double overtime win.
"Krech had a real good quote after Game Three, where we don't have any high end starters. We have to play as a team and that's the way that we play," said the GM. "And I really like that quote."
"It felt really good with that quote because it's something that we have stressed for the longest of times, and you've all got to be pointing in the same direction. There can't be anyone that's above anyone else and [it may be] cliché, yes, but it's true."
"And it’s been applicable to this team for a long time. It’s just nice to hear a player who’s lights out this year too to say it, because it exists. It’s just nice to see him say it and have everyone else hear it, because it’s really applicable to this team."
David Krejci leads the NHL in postseason scoring with nine goals. His 21 points also put him tops in the league to go along with his plus-14 rating. He sat above Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin most of the playoffs before the Penguins were eliminated, and he put up four goals in the sweep, to their none. Those numbers alone would put Krejci as a high-end superstar, but he will never consider himself to be one.
Following the 3-0 shutout of the Pens in Pittsburgh for Game One, in which the center notched his first two goals of the series, he had sat at the press conference podium, donned in the "Player of the Game" jacket, his hat pushed down and half shielding his eyes.
And he was asked (after he had driven the superstars off the scoresheet), if he considered himself in the same breath as Crosby and Malkin.
"No," came the immediate response. "Those guys are the best players in the world at this moment. There's no one like those guys. On the other hand, we don't have guys like that, we have a team. We all play as a team."
Looking at this postseason, though, and Krejci's 23-point run en route to the 2011 Cup, how can you not consider his play in the same breath?
"I think he’s another one of those guys like a lot of guys on our team that they don't have to have credit," said Chiarelli. "They want to win."
And the funny thing about the quote the Bruins' GM liked hearing from his player? It didn't just come after Game Three. It comes whenever he speaks. It came following Game One. And it came at the end of the sweep.
"We don’t have the superstars on this team, and we might not have the best players in the world," Krejci had said after the B's punched their ticket to their second Stanley Cup Final in three years.
"But we might have the best team in the world. That’s how we play. We play as a team."