Five Questions: Iginla set to chase elusive Cup
Jarome Iginla won't dare talk about it yet, not before playing his first game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Boston Bruins, but he knows his best shot to win a championship might be right now, this spring, with the deepest team he's ever played for.
The Bruins are the Presidents' Trophy winners. They have the ability to roll four lines and three defense pairs in front of a potential Vezina Trophy winner in Tuukka Rask. They also have a potential Selke Trophy finalist in Patrice Bergeron and former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara, who might be in line to win it again.
Nine players on the Bruins scored at least 40 points. Iginla and Bergeron led the team with 30 goals each. David Krejci had 50 assists. Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith scored at least 20 goals.
"I think we've got a really good team and a really good shot," Iginla told NHL.com. "I understand playing and watching over the years that you've gotta get some good breaks, but with this group we're going to work hard and there is a lot of experience, guys who have won before and have been close. There are a few of us new guys who haven't, so we're hungry too."
Iginla knows Boston is a popular pick among pundits everywhere, and that if the Bruins do win the Cup, Chara will likely hand the trophy to him after taking it out of the hands of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
He laughs nervously when that scenario is brought up.
"I've tried to keep myself from thinking about the big picture, because it doesn't help if you don't and you want to enjoy the ride too," Iginla said.
The ride starts Friday in Game 1 against the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN). Iginla spent 15 minutes on the phone Monday talking about the journey he's experienced so far in Boston.
Here are Five Questions with … Jarome Iginla:
Can you compare this Bruins team that you're on now with some of the other teams you've played for? Is it the best team you've been on? Is it one of the best teams you've been on? How do you measure it? Has anything surprised you?
"I think we're still writing that story. I think we're a really good team. It's definitely one of the best I've ever played on. It's one of the deepest as far as the depth at all the different positions. I think that it's definitely one of the most competitive groups of guys that I have played with.
"Before I got here I knew they were a very hard group to play against, but when you get here and you see it daily, I shouldn't say it doesn't surprise me because of how focused the guys are when they come to the rink and when it's time to be on, but maybe I'm pleasantly surprised. I did expect a lot, but it's good to see it up close, the whole group of guys, the group of leaders that really share in it. It's almost like everybody just does it. Chara, Bergie, Tuukka, Thorty [Shawn Thornton], [Gregory] Campbell, [Chris] Kelly, Looch (Lucic), Krejci -- the list goes on and on. They have built that culture of hard work to go along with the skill here. You can tell for years they've had a lot of really good habits."
I don't know if you necessarily needed a refresh or a restart after how everything went down at the end of your tenure with the Calgary Flames, the trade situation last season and losing in the playoffs last year, but has playing for this team rejuvenated you in any way?
"I would say the last couple of years have been pretty tough emotionally, and when I say tough I don't mean really tough because I know it's hockey, it's the NHL and it's still fun, but it's just about realizing things. In Calgary, we weren't getting it done and for the last couple of years it was about are we going to be rebuilding, or are we not? Am I going to be moving, or am I not? It was a lot of those things and the uncertainty, it gets to you a little bit. You try to stay focused, but it's nice when you don't have to worry about those things. A lot of guys do have to in their career and it was my turn to go through it last year, but it's the uncertainty that's tough. It's the uncertainty away from the ice too. I really did enjoy playing in Calgary and living there, but I wanted to win too. It was really nice this year to come and be settled at the beginning of the season, to get the kids in school, get training camp underway with the group and just know that I had that behind me. You have the fear of the unknown because you're not sure how it's going to be, but my wife has enjoyed Boston and my kids have loved their school and hockey here. It's been great. It's been fun winning too."
I wasn't going to go there yet, but it's a perfect segue to your answer. You've had such success this season playing on a line with Krejci and Lucic. You seem to have so much chemistry, and they will likely be back in Boston next season. It begs the question: Do you want to stay? Have you had those conversations with your family?
"Oh yeah, for sure we discuss what things are possible in the future and what we see. We've really enjoyed it here, there's no question. There is a nice mix of older guys and guys who are still young and coming into their prime. I think the Bruins are going to be a very competitive team for a while. It's been a lot of fun playing here. My family has really enjoyed it. We hope it works out that we can stay, but at the same time we know a lot of that is based on how things go in the playoffs. At the end of the year, teams always have tough decisions to make as far as trying to balance it now and think about the future. Still, a lot of it is out of our control and at this point in time, and during the regular season I was just trying to focus on playing and not worrying about it. Going through the last couple of years, I'm getting better at doing that. It's the NHL and however many years more I play, they're going to go quick and it's been a great experience this year and a lot of fun winning. I hope that it works out and I would love to be back, but I know there are so many things that go into it that are out of my control, so I just try to focus on playing and keep trying to win."
You're 36 and there were people wondering if Jarome Iginla could still bring it, could still do it. Thirty goals again, for the 12th straight 82-game season. Did you surprise yourself at all?
"I don't know. The long part of it is last year was a shortened year and it was actually going alright in Pittsburgh until we ran into the last series against the Bruins, and that's what everybody remembers. Yeah, it was a tough series. Yeah, I had a tough four games and we had a tough four games as a team. But I wasn't doubting whether or not I could play, it was just a tough stretch. But that's part of getting older. You always have to prove it.
"But even over the course of my career, and I think a lot of hockey players would agree, you're always trying to prove something. That's kind of what keeps you going, keeps you sharp. If you're a young guy and you just had a great first season, you're trying to follow it up and show it wasn't just a fluke. As you get older, you're trying to prove you can still contribute at a high clip to be counted on. There's always something, a little extra motivation. As far as myself, there's guys who are quite a bit older than me in the League and doing very well, so I like that part of it. I hope to play for longer still and hope to do well."
Your line has been together since Day 1, and that usually never happens because of how coaches tinker today. But Claude Julien hasn't had to tinker at all because the line has been so good. Why has it worked, and can you go back into your memory bank to come up with if and when you have experienced something like this before?
"It's definitely rare to be on the same line all year. The only one I can remember is the year I won the scoring title (2001-02) playing with Craig Conroy and Dean McAmmond, we had good chemistry and I don't even know if we played all year together. We have literally played all year together here, and I've never been through that right from training camp. It's been fun.
"There have been different times when we've gone through stretches where maybe we didn't feel we were as good as we could be and had to work on some stuff, but it's been good, especially being the new guy on the line working through it with the guys to build that chemistry.
"Claude gave us a chance. I definitely had a slow start, but the line was doing pretty good. Yet you're still wondering if they put someone else in there will he do better? I appreciated the opportunity. I've loved playing with them. They work very hard. They're talented guys. They take a lot of pride in the forecheck. Krejci is a great passer. Lucic doesn't get enough credit for his playmaking ability either because he's such a big and rugged guy, but I've been the beneficiary of some great passes from him this year too. He just keeps getting better and better. He's a quick guy, especially for how big he is. He causes a lot of turnovers."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer