The Bruins aren’t quite there yet, of course, but the third Stanley Cup Final appearance in the past decade puts them in some pretty select company.
The Chicago Blackhawks are the standard-bearer with three Stanley Cup titles, along with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who also hoisted the Cup three times the past decade with their core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury, surrounded by a couple of vastly different-looking supporting casts.
Then there’s the two Stanley Cups for the Los Angeles Kings with a core of Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick. They're beginning now to hit some hard times as they grow older just as the Bruins did about five years ago.
Just getting to the Final three times in an eight-year span puts the Bruins in that conversation. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask were all a big part of those teams. It’s also a fitting return for a core still looking for that capping achievement to put them in the same conversation with those other dynastic teams after they fell short vs. the Blackhawks in 2013.
So, it’s a pretty important opportunity for the Boston legacies of elite players Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Chara and Rask. A second championship can put them in a higher category in NHL and Bruins lore. Chara is headed to the Hall of Fame once he retires regardless of what happens, but a second Stanley Cup could be the final accomplishment that punches the Hall ticket for Bergeron as well.
For a group that has grown up together and is now older, wiser and more established, it’s an exciting return to a place they weren’t sure they’d ever get back to again.
“It’s very special. It means a lot. We’ve basically grown up together [since] we’ve been around each other for so long. It’s been a fun ride along with this core group as the leaders. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs,” said Bergeron, who enters the Cup Final with eight goals and 13 points along with a plus-8 in 17 games in these playoffs. “Like I’ve said before, the older you get, you realize how hard it is to get to his point. You need to be thankful for that. But over the last few years, we’ve built something special with the young guys. They are a big part of this group and this team. They want to get better and they are big-time players. They relish every challenge, so it’s been a fun ride.”
It remains to be seen who they'll face after the St. Louis Blues evened the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks on Friday night, but the B’s will be in as good of a situation as they’ve ever been entering the Cup Final. They'll be healed and well-rested with 10 days off between their sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes and the May 27 start of the Cup Final at TD Garden. They got the short playoff series they desperately needed with the four-game sweep of the Canes.
For Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Chara and Rask, another Cup will be career-defining. For 13-year veteran David Backes, it will be even more so, and for younger players David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo and others, it’s just the beginning of what should be bright careers in Black and Gold.
“You don’t know when you’re going to get these opportunities. It’s something we’ve stressed to the younger guys that they’re pretty darn fortunate to be in the Stanley Cup Final now,” said Backes. “We were saying Eastern Conference Final before, but now it’s Stanley Cup Final. Some guys play their whole career and never get this opportunity.”
The bottom line is this: The Bruins are the prohibitive favorite after the Lightning, Capitals and Penguins, among others, all faltered and opened the door wide for another Boston championship opportunity. It’s up to them to walk through, but this is probably the best shot that Boston’s veteran core will ever have to win another Cup in their standout careers.
Each member of the Bruins core will get the chance to stamp the Bruins as one of the best, most dynastic teams of the past decade in the NHL, That’s really all any hockey player can ask for.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.