The mid-2000s represented something of a revival for the Boston Bruins. Following the trade of Ray Bourque, two seasons removed from the playoffs and the mind-boggling decision to let Bill Guerin walk away for nothing, the team had settled into a groove and were establishing an identity.
Joe Thornton was installed as captain, and he centered two hard-working wings — Glen Murray and Mike Knuble. Murray was a sniper on the big side, using his size to get in position, find the net and fire them home, averaging 35 goals over a four-season stretch when offense in the NHL cratered. And on the left, Knuble was an unglamorous, yet highly efficient grinder who cleaned up all the garbage around the crease. He went into corners, crashed the net and plowed his way to 30 goals in 2002-03 and 21 more in 2003-04. The three of them were dubbed the “700 Pound Line,” and they sparked a real excitement with a fanbase desperate for something exciting.
Crashing that party, meanwhile, was P.J. Axelsson. Axelsson never topped 36 points in a season, didn’t fight often (though that did happen), hardly spent any time in the penalty box for a top-6 forward. And for a time, there were a number of fans who didn’t think he belonged anywhere near the top 6. Certainly, they weren’t pleased whenever Knuble was swapped out of Thornton’s top line for Axelsson. 
But he was essential to that group’s success. Throughout his 11 years with the Bruins, it could be argued that there was no smarter player than Axelsson on the roster. That hockey sense and willingness to make the right play bailed them out of more danger than he’d get credit for on the stat sheet, or from those in the balcony. Continue reading
There is hardly the space to shower the correct praise upon all the Bruins who deserve it.
For example: Tuukka Rask is playing at a god-level, to a point that the “what took so long” crowd has conveniently overlooked that he’s been an excellent goaltender in this league for a decade now. Patrice Bergeron is as solid and skilled a player as one could hope to be. Brad Marchand is a professional jerk in all the best ways. David Pastrnak is a kid at heart who also happens to be a total sniper. David Backes is chasing a dream. Zdeno Chara is defying time and age and remains absolutely terrifying.
And those are the primary storylines as the Bruins line up against the St. Louis Blues in an effort to get their name on the Stanley Cup for the seventh time. Missing in there is David Krejci, quietly leading his line, playing in every scenario and generally being the silent stalwart he’s been since earning his place in 2007.
For a group that cherishes its history and loves to fete its longtime players, Krejci doesn’t get the attention he likely deserves. But through this most recent playoff run, he’s done nothing to damage his place in history. Continue reading
A few months ago I finally crossed “Searching for Bobby Orr” by Stephen Brunt off my reading list, and it was fantastic. It painted a vibrant picture of rural Ontario in the 1950s and early ’60s, and set the stage for how Bobby Orr was able to remake hockey forever. And it began at the earliest stages, when a coach with incredible foresight realized the benefit to taking his most talented young player and having him anchor his team, rather than merely placing him at center like any other coach would.
The result was the greatest player anyone had seen to that point, and only Wayne Gretzky has a true argument as a better one. For nine years, Orr was an offensive force from the blue line the likes of which the NHL had never seen, and he was as good at reading defenses and skating back to stop oncoming rushes as anyone.
Reading it made me wish I could’ve been born about 15 or 20 years earlier to watch Orr take over Boston and turn New England on its head. But it also pushed me to wondering about other eras of Bruins hockey, and then comes the inevitable sketching of imaginary rosters, all-time teams and the like. Continue reading
Posted in Boston Bruins
Tagged Bill Cowley, Bobby Bauer, Bobby Orr, Brad Marchand, Brad Park, Cam Neely, Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore, Gerry Cheevers, Johnny Bucyk, Milt Schmidt, Patrice Bergeron, Phil Esposito, Ray Bourque, Rick Middleton, Terry O'Reilly, Tiny Thompson, Wayne Cashman, Woody Dumart, Zdeno Chara