By Ethan Nash
Over the last decade or so, the Boston Bruins have been among the most successful teams in the NHL. They’ve claimed a Stanley Cup, been champions of the Eastern Conference three times and have now clinched a playoff berth in 11 of the last 13 seasons, only missing out in 2014-15 and 2015-16. But realistically, how many more chances do the Bruins have at capturing the greatest trophy in sports with their core group of players?
How it is
Let’s face the facts: just last March, Vezina Trophy finalist Tuukka Rask said he is unsure of his future after his contract expires following the 2020-21 season; Zdeno Chara is 43-years-old; David Krejci is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021; and even though Patrice Bergeron is still playing at a very high level and was just nominated for the Selke Award for the 9th straight season, he just turned 35. Brad Marchand is the only player still remaining from that 2011 championship team that the Bruins have locked up for an extended period of time – his contract runs through the end of the 2024-25 season, at which point he’ll be 36.
It’s certainly not fun to talk about, but last year’s loss in game 7 of the Stanley Cup hurts for many reasons. Aside from not winning it all, it felt like last season could have been one of the previous times this core group of players made a final run. After beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, the Bruins played the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes – both wild card teams – in the subsequent two rounds before facing the St. Louis Blues in the final. On paper, the Bruins were the better team, and despite the non-tripping call in game 5, the B’s should have been able to handle the Blues at home in game 7. But that’s not how hockey works.
Fast forward to this season, and the Bruins started hot right out of the gate. It felt like the 2013-14 season when the black and gold were coming off a Stanley Cup loss to the Chicago Blackhawks – they were a team destined to get back to the Cup Final and finish things off the right way. But instead of Carey Price standing in their way, this time, it was a global pandemic. Now we’ll have to watch from our couches to see if the Bruins can return to hockey’s biggest stage.
It all probably sounds negative, but it’s a testament to what the Bruins have been able to accomplish over the last 10 years with this leadership group. Other than teams such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, the B’s have established themselves as an elite team and a perennial contender for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Although the core group of Chara, Rask, Krejci, Bergeron and Marchand most likely won’t be playing together for too much longer, as long as they are, the Bruins and their fanbase should maintain that championship or bust mentality.