BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins are heading to their second Stanley Cup Final in three years, and this time around they clinched the Eastern Conference title by defeating the supposedly superior Pittsburgh Penguins.
After all, it was widely accepted that Penguins general manager Ray Shero had won the trade-deadline derby by acquiring Douglas Murray, Brenden Morrow and, most controversially, Jarome Iginla, to supplement a lineup already featuring Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.
Regardless of whose story you want to believe, the fact is Iginla waived his no-trade clause for Pittsburgh and not Boston because he wanted the best chance to win the Cup and to play with two of the best players in the world. Now Iginla's headed to the offseason, and Bruins will gun for a seventh Stanley Cup against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Given the opportunity to gloat, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who quipped the Penguins were "a lock" after the Iginla episode, declined to rub Pittsburgh's face in Boston's four-game sweep of the Eastern Conference Final.
"Well, really, as I said at the time, those types of things happen once in a while, they just don't become public. You know, in my profession you learn to turn the page and go to the next thing and move on," Chiarelli said Saturday at TD Garden, the day after his team eliminated Pittsburgh with a 1-0 win. "Otherwise, if you dwell on things you're not going to be able to focus. So, I mean, it's satisfying that we won with the group that we had. I'm happy to see the contributions we got from Jaromir [Jagr] and the other players that we acquired. It wasn't anything extra. To beat a team of that caliber the way that we beat them was very satisfying."
The Bruins might not boast the star power of Crosby and Malkin, but they certainly have their share of talent. David Krejci leads the NHL in points (21) and goals (nine) in the playoffs. Goaltender Tuukka Rask leads with a .943 save percentage and his goals-against average after surrendering two in four games to the Penguins is 1.75. The top four in plus/minus in the postseason are Bruins.
Chiarelli is proud to have a group that's not reliant on stars but instead personifies the meaning of the word "team." Over the course of three rounds, Boston has received major contributions from almost everyone, including rookie defenseman Torey Krug, Game 4 surprise goal-scorer Adam McQuaid, and since-injured Gregory Campbell.
Chiarelli harkened to early in the Pittsburgh series when Krejci was asked compare himself to Crosby and Malkin and instead responded by pointing out the Bruins are a team, not a constellation of stars. It's a philosophy that could help the Bruins earn the four more wins needed to hoist the Cup.
"Well I felt really good with that quote because it's something that I, 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, an old cliché, yes, but it's true," the GM said. "And it's been applicable to this team for a long time. It's just nice to hear a player who's like 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.
"And you've got those role players that are such important parts, and you go down into your history and see these unsung heroes and they're all the kind of lower-line, lower-pair guys. And you have to have everyone pulling there, and for those players to know that they're on the same level and feels the same as what everybody else is very important."
The Bruins' teamwork has produced a win in nine of their past 10 games. They haven't trailed since the second period of their series-clinching Game 5 victory in the second round against the New York Rangers. Since they trailed 4-1 in the third period of Game 7 of the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins have outscored the opposition 32-12.
Basically, everything Chiarelli could've asked of his team the past couple weeks it has done.
"Well, I don't have many complaints," he said. "From top to bottom, we've been rolling. Our breakout has been relatively seamless. I think our neutral-zone forecheck -- there's been tweaks here and there -- has been terrific. Our forecheck has been terrific. So in all three zones we've been really good, defending we've been good, Tuukka's been terrific. We're generating a lot of chances, we're scoring when we have to, we're shutting down when we have to. So, it's hard to complain after the last two series.
"The challenge will be to keep it going in the next series, whoever we play. Both are good teams, both are different teams. It will be good to get the rest the next couple of days and regroup. I haven't seen a stretch like this in a while, the way we're playing."