The Boston Bruins have done a tremendous job adding young talent to their veteran core in recent years, and this blend of experience and youthful energy has been a driving factor in the team reaching the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and others have provided much-needed depth in areas the Bruins were lacking after missing the playoffs in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
The influx of youth has been key to the team's success, but the foundation of Boston's success is built on the leadership of the veterans, many of whom have played for the organization for a decade or longer. The Bruins' veteran leadership group includes captain Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron first and foremost, along with David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask, David Backes, a 13-year veteran who captained the St. Louis Blues for many seasons before signing with the Bruins as a free agent in 2016, also is part of that leadership group.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy paid the group quite a compliment at Monday's practice.
"I think this leadership group is second to none," Cassidy said. "And I don't know if I'll ever have, wherever this career takes me, a group like this to work with. I've said that probably since my second week on the job here. Those guys are fantastic, and they sure make a coach's job a lot easier."
The Bruins coaching staff has done a great job developing the team's young players into reliable, productive performers in the regular season and playoffs. The veterans deserve a lot of credit for that, too, most notably Chara, who has mentored and helped groom Charlie McAvoy into a legitimate top-pairing defenseman.
"I don’t think it’s much different than Zee with Brandon (Carlo) his first year," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said over the weekend. "I think all young players need it. They need a guy they can look up to on a daily basis. These kids are really talented. Charlie is a really talented hockey player. He just doesn’t have the experience and the breadth of knowledge that Zdeno has. He hasn’t gone through it and lived it, so there’s ups and downs associated with that, emotionally, physically at a young age that you’re able to handle those things, and Zee’s able to give that calming hand when you need.
"And then allow him, give him the confidence to continue to play up to his capabilities and beyond maybe where’s he at. Play beyond where his experience would dictate. We all recognize Charlie jumping into the scene really early when he played in Ottawa without a regular season NHL game, and the talent is there. But the institutional knowledge that Zee brings to the table and the calming influence that he has for all of our players but certainly his partner. The amount that they play and the situations that they play, he can just impart knowledge that is invaluable."
The Bruins' leadership core has been in just about every scenario imaginable in the Stanley Cup playoffs. These veterans have played in and won many Game 7s, they've seen a 3-0 series lead disappear, they've come back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period of an elimination game, they've played in two Stanley Cup Final series and so much more.
There won't be too many situations that come up in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final that are unfamiliar to Chara, Bergeron, Krejci and other B's veterans. This level of experience helps give the Bruins an advantage over whichever team they play from the Western Conference.
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