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Stanley Cup Final

Bruins rely on veteran core heading into Stanley Cup Final against Blues

Chara, Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Rask seek second championship with Boston

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Then, they were kids. Well, except for Zdeno Chara. 

Patrice Bergeron was 25. David Krejci was 25. Tuukka Rask was 24. Brad Marchand was 23.

Their faces were unlined. Their hair had not yet begun to gray. The aches and pains were not so pronounced. And all of them, except for Chara, didn't know what it was like to wake up in the middle of the night to a crying newborn.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blues series coverage]

 

The year was 2011 and the Boston Bruins were Stanley Cup champions. 

It is different now, even as those same players are in the same place, even as those five players remain the core of a Bruins team headed back to the Cup Final, this time against the St. Louis Blues, with Game 1 on Monday at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"It's been special," Bergeron said. "It's been a great bond. Obviously, we've been together for a while and, first of all, winning with all of those guys -- you create even more memories with that, but that being said, we have kids of our own now. It's been a long journey. It's been a lot of fun. 

"Obviously we're more than just teammates, we're close friends."

Video: Krejci on previous Cup runs, team spirit

Far from being peripheral pieces at this point in their careers, those five remain the foundation on which the Bruins have been built. They are the heartbeat, the soul, the conscience, the leadership, of the Bruins, two-thirds of the top line, one-half of the top defense pairing, the Conn Smythe-favorite goalie, the second-line center.  

"We're trying to follow along in the footstep that we've learned ourselves when we were younger players, and try to share that to the younger guys," Bergeron said. "The way that we've built this team is about everyone contributing, everyone being important, everybody's voice being heard."

Video: Bergeron on what to expect in Stanley Cup Final

It has made it easier for general manager Don Sweeney to do his job, to create around a core that has proven itself on the biggest of stages. He does not need to worry about the culture of his dressing room, the ways in which the young players -- they're never called rookies in Boston -- are being directed. 

"I think for me, having the ability to tap into that resource -- I'm not in the locker room -- but to have the pulse of that room, coming from guys that you trust, that are always putting the team in front of themselves as individuals, I think goes a long way," Sweeney said. "It sets the standard in what we try to accomplish organizationally on and off the ice."

It was something that David Backes, the former Blues captain, saw in his first few days with Boston in 2016. He saw the impact, the impression those players made on their teammates. He saw players with Hall of Fame credentials working the hardest, showing up, being there. 

Video: Backes on returning to St. Louis for Cup Final

He liked what he saw. 

"I think [it's] their blue-collar work ethic, still with all the success that they've had," Backes said. "I don't know what I was expecting, but the way that they continue to desire and outwork their opponents really impressed me. I thought with that fire still burning in them after all the success they've had, this is a special group and something we can build on."

For coach Bruce Cassidy, it has been even more important this past week, as the Bruins had to contend with a 10-day layoff that could have thrown off a less experienced team. But he watched the core group guide the younger players, massage the room, create urgency in practice and a commitment to getting their rest. 

It was just one more reason to value them, to see their fingerprints on everything this team does, on everything it is. 

Back then, back in 2011, they were young. They had their careers stretching ahead of them. Only the then-34-year-old Chara had a daughter, a two-year-old too young to remember her father lifting the Cup. Now, they all have kids. Two for each, with Krejci welcoming his youngest this season. 

"That has changed a lot," Krejci said. "Now our kids hang out together."

Now, they have more of their careers behind them than ahead as they head into their early-to mid-30s. They have lessons to impart, wisdom to share, even as they still are indispensable pieces of what the Bruins have to offer on the ice. 

The goal, though, is the same as it was then. They have won together; they have lost together. They're ready to add to their legacy with another title, another Cup, at the same time they hand over their young star status to the next generation, to David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk. 

As Krejci said, "We have been through a lot, that's for sure."

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