When Jarome Iginla told the Calgary Flames he wanted to go to the Penguins at the trading deadline last season, it was because he thought Pittsburgh represented his best chance to finally take the Stanley Cup.
He (and they) didn’t quite make it there, running into a smothering Bruins defense and more difficulties in being traded than he might have anticipated.
Starting Friday, he gets another chance.
“Everybody wants to win,” Iginla said. “I want to win really badly. I know all the other guys, guys who’ve won before, it’s addicting, you want to win again, you want to be on top. That’s why we play.
“I’d love to win, but at the same time, it’s a lot of work to be done from now to then, and you’ve got to get good breaks, too, and things go well. But this is as good an opportunity as I’ve had.”
The playoffs, after all, didn’t come around every year in Calgary. In his 15-plus seasons with the Flames, the likely future Hall of Famer made the playoffs six times — and that includes the two games he played after being traded by Dallas to Calgary at 18 years old in 1995-96, his first games in the NHL.
But in only one of those seasons did the Flames get past the first round, making it to Game 7 of the Cup Final in 2004, losing to Tampa Bay. And that series included the Flames losing a heartbreaking 3-2 series lead.
Iginla added one more playoff run last season, with Pittsburgh, reaching the Eastern Conference finals.
The 36-year-old Iginla has played in 69 postseason games in 17 NHL seasons. By comparison, Milan Lucic, at 25 years old, has played in 84 in six seasons.
“I feel very fortunate to be here and on a team that just won the Presidents’ [Trophy],” Iginla said. “We want to go in and work hard and do the same things.
“Everyone tries to knock you off, and it’s kind of funny, you get to the playoffs, there’s no respect for anybody else, any other team. It’s everybody earned their spot to be there and feels they have a chance. It’s going to be fun to compete.”
Perhaps more fun than last season.
After Iginla had essentially been traded to the Bruins, he ended up with the Penguins, which turned out to be a poor fit. He switched to the left wing and never felt comfortable. He finished the season with 14 goals between Calgary and Pittsburgh, scoring five times in 13 regular-season games with the Penguins. He added four goals and eight assists in 15 playoff games.
He has bounced back this season, settling in well on a line with Lucic and David Krejci, as he scored 30 goals and added 31 assists.
“I think last year more than anything was just dealing with moving and the emotions and excited at the same time,” Iginla said. “The push down the stretch and, like I said, moving. You’re trying to get accustomed to the new team, and that’s what players go through, that’s part of it. But it’s nice not to have to go through it this year. It’s nice to be able to be settled.”
Not that, in the end, it was so bad in Pittsburgh. As Iginla repeated multiple times, it was just that last series, just that four-game sweep by the Bruins. That was the only bad part.
“It was a tough last series,” Iginla said.
With the Bruins locking up the top spot in the Eastern Conference, Iginla has gotten some rest of late, as he dealt with a “minor” issue. He sat out three of four games last week, and said he now feels “really good.”
“Fortunately I was able to get a little bit of time to get back to 100 percent,” he said.
And now starts the difficult part, heading into the postseason as the favorite. This, after all, was the reason Iginla had his agent call Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli last summer, why he wanted to come to Boston, even after everything that happened last season.
This was why: The playoffs. A chance at the Cup.
“I think every time you get a chance to be part of the playoffs, you definitely feel fortunate because it’s hard work,” Iginla said. “There’s 30 teams and only 16 make it and you play all year for that. It’s for this opportunity, to have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.
“I can’t wait to get going. As it gets closer, you try to control the emotions and the excitement and channel it the right way, but it is fun. It’s always fun to play hockey in the NHL, but playoffs are . . . it’s for real. It’s that much more.”