CHICAGO -- The Boston Bruins live by the team-first concept, but that doesn’t mean certain individuals are more responsible for them reaching the Stanley Cup finals than others.
With Game 1 on tap, we present you with our five biggest contributors this postseason. Give us your Top 5 with this interactive ranker.
1. Zdeno Chara: The captain has been a beast on the ice during this postseason run. Despite only two goals and nine assists for 11 points in 16 games, Chara is averaging a career-high in the postseason with close to 30 minutes of ice time per game. The defensive pair of Chara and Dennis Seidenberg has shut down the opposition’s top lines, especially against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. The Blackhawks know the challenge they face against Chara.
“He’s a big boy, yeah,” said Chicago’s Brent Seabrook. “I don’t have to match up against him shift for shift like our forwards do, but he’s so smart and the way he plays with such a long reach, he’s a strong guy and he can move. He’s just a great defenseman and we’re going to have to really try to get pucks in his corner, work him and try to get some opportunities against him.”
2. Tuukka Rask: The goalie has shunned the naysayers and his performance is worthy of Conn Smythe consideration. Heading into the Cup finals, he’s 12-4 with a 1.75 goals-against average, a .943 save percentage and two shutouts. He’s been the most consistent player for the Bruins in the postseason and his performance can, and should, be compared to Tim Thomas’ in 2011. Boston is not in the finals without Rask. No matter if the Bruins win or lose this series, Rask will get a major payday this summer.
3. David Krejci: He has to be one of the most underrated and least talked about forwards in the NHL. He’s an elite superstar but doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Sure, he’s one of those players who becomes “bored,” as coach Claude Julien described it, during the regular season, but he’s at his best on the big stage. In 75 career playoff games, he has 29 goals and 39 assists for 68 points, while posting a plus-32 rating. This spring, he has nine goals and 12 assists for an NHL-best 21 points in 16 games, with a plus-14 rating.
4. Patrice Bergeron: Center is the true leader of this team on and off the ice. He plays the game the right way and, like Krejci, is too often overlooked in the discussion of elite players. He’s polished in every aspect of the game and is the league’s top two-way player. Like Krejci, Bergeron is a high-stakes player, one who takes his game to the next level in the postseason. If there’s one current player that should remain with one team his entire career, it’s Bergeron. He embodies what it means to play for the Bruins.
5. Cam Neely/Peter Chiarelli/Claude Julien: The organization’s management and coaching staffs deserve accolades, too. Chiarelli has done a fine job in this salary-cap era of keeping the core of this team intact and the future looks just as bright as the present. Julien hasn’t earned the respect he deserves, too. His system works and these players have fully bought into. He’s become an important part of the sports landscape in Boston and should be considered on par with Bill Belichick.