The Bruins enjoyed a well-deserved day of rest Sunday after a 3-1 Game 5 victory over the Rangers Saturday night at TD Garden to close out the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
It vaulted the fourth-seeded Bruins to a berth opposite top-seeded Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference finals.
But Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli knew none of it would have been possible had the team not flexed its organizational might against the Rangers.
At the start of the series, the Bruins turned to a trio of rookie defensemen — Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, and Dougie Hamilton — to help overcome the loss of injured veterans Wade Redden (undisclosed), Andrew Ference (lower body), and Dennis Seidenberg, who missed the first four games after suffering a lower-body injury on his first shift of Game 7 of the quarterfinals against the Maple Leafs.
Offensively, the Bruins’ depth was evident in the four lines coach Claude Julien rolled out against the Rangers. They got significant production from their fourth line of Shawn Thornton-Gregory Campbell-Daniel Paille, whose energy enabled them to post a combined 2-2—4 line in Game 5.
Asked what the depth said about the organization, Chiarelli replied, “It speaks volumes.’’
“I’d need a couple of hours to give credit to everybody,” continued Chiarelli, who met with the media Sunday at the Garden. “It’s part of a successful organization. From the [Providence coach] Bruce Cassidys of the world, whose team lost their two best players that we took away from them, to the Wayne Smiths [director of amateur scouting] and the Scott Bradleys [director of player personnel], to those scouts who pound the pavement, to our college free agents staff that Donny Sweeney’s heading and Ryan Nadeau [director of hockey administration/collegiate scout], who helped identify Krug, to our coaching staff, beyond the head coach.
“I’d like to give credit to everyone I can,’’ Chiarelli said. “But you’re right, to put together the depth that we like and we’re able to use, and to manage it at all levels, at the minor-pro level, at the amateur level, and this level is a hard job and it’s a testament to those that I work with.’’
Series poster boy
Bartkowski grew up in Pittsburgh a diehard fan of the Penguins, so much so he had posters of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, now a Bruins teammate, hanging on the walls of his room at his boyhood home.
“I asked my mom, actually, to see if she could find it and she couldn’t,’’ said Bartkowski, who will join the Bruins on a trip to his hometown to face the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. “I had a Lemieux and a Jagr poster.’’
Bartkowski wasn’t certain how he was going to handle the heavy request for tickets he’s likely to receive (“Family and a couple of really close friends will maybe get some tickets, we’ll see,’’ he said), but he was looking forward to the matchup against his boyhood favorite team.
“It’s going to be awesome; it’s going to be a blast,’’ he said. “Growing up there watching them, it was a lot of fun watching them. Now being able to play against them will probably be even more fun. So, I’m pretty excited.’’
Bartkowski might never have had the opportunity to face his hometown team had Jarome Iginla not scuttled a trade-deadline deal to the Bruins that would have sent the young defenseman to the Calgary Flames. Iginla wound up going instead to Pittsburgh and the Bruins wound up acquiring Jagr, the former Penguins star, from the Dallas Stars.
“He was in that deal because of John Weisbrod [Calgary’s assistant general manager],’’ Chiarelli said. “John knows Bart really well. I don’t know if anyone else on other teams knows Bart as well as Weis, because he was here. If you’re asking me am I happy because I kept him instead of getting Iginla, yes. Now, yes.
“He’s helped us. You’ve seen him emerge. But it also shows you that we’re willing to give up good players to try and help the team win now. We didn’t want to give up Bart, but that was the case at the time.’’
Closer than it looked
The Bruins went 0-3 vs. the Penguins during the regular season, despite outshooting Pittsburgh, 88-78. Boston’s penalty kill allowed the Penguins to convert twice on their 11 power-play attempts, while the Bruins were 2 for 8 with the man advantage.
“Although we haven’t had a lot of success this year against them, if you look at the games closely, they were battles for a while,” Chiarelli said. “So, that’s how I would anticipate the [upcoming] series.’’
The Bruins own a 9-10 playoff record against Pittsburgh, which faced Boston in the conference finals in two of the three years in which the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup (1991, 1992).
Patience a virtue
Chiarelli was asked about the range of emotions he experienced in his shortened season trying to evaluate player performance, particularly in the case of Milan Lucic, who ran the gamut of emotions himself in an up-and-down regular season. “I can’t act too rashly just because it’s going to be a different year because of all the things we’ve discussed — the short practice, the no practice, the every-other-day playing,’’ the GM said. “As it applies to Milan, I tried to keep that in check. He had some struggles there early, and really, up until the last little bit. But now he’s sometimes a man among boys the way he’s playing. He’s rolling.’’ . . . Chiarelli said the team seemed to have a brighter outlook, health-wise, entering the conference finals. “We’re pretty good, actually,’’ he said. “We’ve got Andrew out, but he’s making progress. Wade is close, if not ready. Just the bumps and bruises are minor. We got Dennis back. We’re in pretty good shape right now, knock on wood.’’ . . . With the numerous contributions already made by some Baby Bruins this postseason, Chiarelli did not discount the possibility of bringing up more players from Providence. “We may create a mini taxi squad,’’ he said. “We’re just toying with that right now. They’d be separate from the team, but just from a depth perspective we may do that. The next guys who play will be part of the group that’s already here. We’re tinkering with maybe putting a mini taxi squad together. You may see that in a couple of days.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.