Believe it or not, the Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins
were likely conceived right here at Rogers Arena.
As the trade deadline approached at the end of February, Boston made a flurry of moves. GM Peter Chiarelli was looking not only for some specific help in skill areas, but additionally chemistry in the dressing room as the team began the home stretch for what it hoped would be a long run into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In the marquee move, Chiarelli scored veteran puck-moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle
from the Toronto Maple Leafs
. But, the supplementary additions of lower-line forwards Chris Kelly
and Rich Peverley
were also instrumental in the process.
Kelly and Kaberle made their debut at the start of a five-game, 11-day road trip in mid-February. Peverley joined the fold for the next game, which fell in Calgary. The third game just happened to be here at Rogers Arena and the Bruins were already taking on their new identity, earning a hard-fought 3-1 road win against the League's best team.
"Obviously, having a road trip out West helped guys get to know each other a little bit better probably than being at home," said veteran forward Shawn Thornton
. "They have just steeped in and done an unbelievable job for us. We have a really good room and I don’t think anybody ever feels uncomfortable coming into our room."
But, each of the players involved believes that the timing of the moves helped.
They had no time to worry about the every-day vagaries associated with a trade – relocation issues and the like – that can distract from a player's performance on the ice early in his tenure with a new team. Instead, they just packed a back and took off for an 11-day immersion course in all things Bruins.
"We came right out here for an 11-day trip, obviously the longest one of the season," Peverley recalled Tuesday, the day before he and the Bruins begin the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. "We had a lot of good dinners together, spent time together; obviously time I don't think you would get to know the guys at home. It was great to get to know guys. I think that was a really good building block for team chemistry."
The trade was the first of Kelly's career after a decade in the Ottawa system. He admits that the trade was a shock to his system, but he had little opportunity to ruminate on the way his life had changed with the phone call from Sens management informing him of the trade.
"That was a great time to come to the Bruins, having this Western road swing; it gave us an opportunity to get to know the guys better – go for lunch, go for dinner, just be around them a lot more than maybe we would be back in Boston," Kelly told NHL.com. "Obviously, to have the success we did on that road trip was special.
"I had to come out of my comfort zone. I was in Ottawa for so long and I grew up with a lot of those guys and had great, great friendships there and I will for a long time down the road, but to come to a team and only know one guy was difficult. But, the guys were great welcoming us. It is difficult going into a team so late. It wasn't just them adding players, there were some players taken away from this group and I'm sure there were some relationships there."
For the Bruins, the desire to win certainly outweighed any personal relationships. The Bruins room was filled with win-now vets that wanted to forget the disappointments of the past several springs and make a push deep into the postseason that they all felt was their destiny.
Anyone who could help with that quest was more than welcome, according to veteran defenseman Andrew Ference
"When you bring in guys that are going to buy into systems and be good team guys, it's easy," Ference told NHL.com. "We had the locker room. We had that really broad respect for the fourth-liners, the first-liners, right through the backup goalies. It is a very respectful locker room, so we had that and we brought in good guys, it was just as simple as that."
And, each of those players has impacted this postseason run, delivering the Bruins to their first Final in 29 years.
Kaberle, despite his critics, has helped with Boston's transition game and has 8 points this postseason. Kelly (11 points) and Peverley (8 points) have been a huge part of Boston's highly successful third line. Each also saw time on the second line in the Tampa Bay series. Plus, each is defensively sound and can win key faceoffs.
During the West Coast trip, including a three-day sojourn here in the middle of it, Boston had no idea how these moves would turn out come the postseason, but there were already inklings.
"I wasn't thinking about how far we could go, but I knew we had a chance to be a good team," Peverley said of his initial thoughts. "To be a part of this organization and to have this opportunity, I'm very thankful for it."
Kelly and Kaberle are also extremely grateful. For each of them, the move has delivered everything they could want from the life-changing upheavals they endured in February. Today, they are at the Stanley Cup Final, the goal of every hockey player.
Actually, Kelly isn't quite satisfied yet.
"It could still get a little bit better," he said, smiling at the thought of lifting the Stanley Cup sometime in the next two weeks.