BOSTON -- The Bruins will continue their drive for a second Stanley Cup in their last three seasons on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. One of the mains reasons that this current team is still playing is that the young core, specifically Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand, stepped up their level of play in the third period and overtime of that miraculous 5-4 come-from-behind win against the Maple Leafs. That continued in the next round against the Rangers.
Following that win over the Leafs, Lucic acknowledged that he and his teammates felt that if they had lost to the Leafs, there might have been changes made in the offseason.
“When you’re looking at the clock wind down with half a period left at 4-1 you start thinking to yourself, ‘Is this the end of this group here?’ Because it probably would have been if we didn’t win this game, but you’ve got to have bounces,” Lucic said following the game. “You’ve got to have luck. You’ve got to have everything go your way and that’s what happened there in the last 10 minutes of the third period.”
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli made it clear in the offseason that he believed in the young core of the Bruins and in their importance to the future of the franchise. In a span of a week last September, Chiarelli locked up Marchand (4-year, $18 million extension), Seguin (six-year, 34.5 million extension) and Lucic (three-year, $18 million extension).
But all three forwards have been up and down at times this season. Lucic was a healthy scratch for a game late in the regular season against the Penguins and struggled to find consistency for much of the season. While Seguin and Marchand had more success in the regular season, both of them struggled at times in the first round against Toronto. Seguin registered just one point in the entire seven-game series, but it was a big one, coming on Patrice Begeron’s game-winning goal in overtime.
As the season wound down, three NHL scouts even labeled the team’s youth and specifically those three players as a “complacent” in interviews with ESPNBoston.com. But it appears they learned their lesson in the Toronto series and are now focused on rewarding Chiarelli for his faith.
“I don’t think we played our absolute best against Toronto,” Marchand acknowledged after practice Friday. “You do sometimes get complacent when you’re in certain situations and maybe we thought that since we beat Toronto a lot over the last few years we’d roll through them. But they played extremely well and it could be them here now instead of us if they get the lucky bounce in overtime. I think we all realized what was at stake and we believed in each other as Peter believes in us and it’s paying off now.”
As Marchand pointed out, he and his teammates realized after that series just how lucky they are to be playing for a team like the Bruins, in the playoffs, let alone the conference finals. They want to show their gratitude by going even deeper, and not just this year, but consistently in the future.
“We’re very honored to be in this system. We know it’s a treat to be here and we know we have something very special with this group,” Marchand said. “It’s not every team or every season that many players have a shot to come in and realize they have a shot to be a contender and we have that here. The fact that he [Chiarelli] sees what our team can do and they believe in us that much means a lot. They haven’t changed it up a whole lot and they locked this core in. So yes we definitely feel an onus to live up to the expectations and make sure we deliver. None of us want to leave here; we all love it here and one way to make sure we remain together is to go very deep into the playoffs and that’s what we’re doing and want to keep doing.”
Seguin also alluded to that Game 7 as the wake-up call and expressed his appreciation for the faith Chiarelli has shown. The 21-year old forward loves the bond he and his teammates have with each other and wants it to continue through more playoff wins.
“It’s a great feeling just knowing that he [Chiarelli] has that trust and confidence in us,” Seguin said. “We’ve become such a tight group of guys here. I haven’t been on any other NHL team but guys that come in from other teams to play here say that we such a close team and it’s a lot of fun to play here. I think that’s a great feeling to have and that guys always fight for each other here. Look at Game 7 against Toronto and we were scared there that if we lose the game ‘what’s going to happen to this group?’ but we kept fighting for each other and came back.”
Seguin was asked if he felt that he has to elevate his game to show Chiarelli just how grateful he is?
“Yeah that’s why I scored a couple games later [after Game 7 against Toronto],” Seguin joked. “No, but I just think we have so much pride in this team and each other that that’s what makes us a tight group and a good hockey team.”
Chiarelli also hasn’t been shy in showing his trust in his coach either, as he inked Claude Julien to an extension last year and then following the Toronto series made it clear Julien’s job is safe as long as he is in charge.
"I feel strongly about our coach, and his job is safe," said Chiarelli following the Toronto series. "As long as I'm here, his job is safe.”
Julien returned the praise recently and credited Chiarelli’s managerial skills and faith in this team as a main reason they’re back in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“You know it becomes harder when you win. We won a couple years ago and he’s managed to keep the core and most of the players around,” Julien pointed out. “He’s done a great job. I’ve said it all along, to have an opportunity to coach a team that’s deep because of the players he’s provided us with, that’s a credit to him and his group. The coach is as good as the people that surround him; that means the assistant coaches, but also means the players, and obviously management. That’s always been the case; it’s not something that’s new.”