Let’s keep this short and direct, like a Brad Marchand media answer: The Bruins should win the Stanley Cup.
The Black and Gold have the ultimate scoring chance in front of them, a primo opportunity to net hockey’s Holy Grail. The board has broken Boston’s way in the playoffs.
They can hoist the Cup without facing the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, or Pittsburgh Penguins on their way out of the East. They can win it without facing the Western Conference-leading Calgary Flames, the Nashville Predators, the Winnipeg Jets, or last year’s Cup runner-up, the Vegas Golden Knights.
They’re armed with home-ice advantage the rest of the way, and enter the Eastern Conference finals against the Carolina Hurricanes in good health, at least what passes for good health for hockey players this time of year, which is being available to stand on skates and hold a stick.
I’m not going to pretend to be Don Cherry here, but I know an open-ice opportunity when I see one. This is simply an opportunity too good for the Bruins to let go by the half-boards. It might be the last, best chance for Spoked-B building blocks Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, and Marchand to get their names inscribed on the hallowed hardware for a second time, adding to the glory of the 2011 Cup win.
Those players are beloved in Boston and respected around the NHL, but adding a second Cup to their career CVs is a legacy performance-enhancer. Going from one-time Cup winner to two-time champion is a line change any hockey player would want to make.
Winning two titles in the Hub of Hardware also is a distinguishing achievement. One of the great laments of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen Celtics is that they won only a single title. They were denied doubling their championship haul by bad injury luck — Garnett going up for an alley-oop in Utah in 2009 and coming down with a knee injury, and Kendrick Perkins tearing an ACL in Game 6 of the 2010 Finals — and the formation of a super team in South Florida.
Unless you’re in Foxborough, the title window is never as wide as it appears.
The Black and Gold must capitalize on a golden opportunity to bring home the silver chalice. That’s no disrespect to the resilient Carolina Hurricanes or any of the other remaining Cup aspirants. But the Bruins possess the best combination of offensive prowess, defensive discipline, and stingy goaltending remaining in these playoffs.
Oft-criticized netminder Tuukka Rask has reverted to franchise-goalie form. He closed out the Columbus Blue Jackets with the shutout he had been flirting with all series, and he’s playing at his highest level since the last time the Bruins skated for the Cup, back in 2013.
This postseason is like one of those juicy rebounds that Jack Edwards rhapsodizes about. It’s there just waiting for the Bruins to pounce on it. The Bruins will be hard-pressed to find a better chance to redecorate the rafters with this group than the one they have this spring.
Father Time appears to be gently tapping the 42-year-old Chara on the shoulder, just to let him know he’s in the room. Despite sporting a postseason-leading plus-minus of plus-9 entering play Thursday, Chara has been uncharacteristically prodigal with the puck at times.
Bergeron, who turns 34 in July, posted a career-high point total (79) this season. Krejci, who turned 33 last month, tied his career-best point total (73) despite dealing with a revolving door at right wing. Marchand, who turns 31 Saturday, is at the peak of his powers and registered the Bruins’ first 100-point season since Jumbo Joe Thornton in 2003.
The Bruins have the best line in hockey with Bergeron centering Marchand and natural-born goal-scorer David Pastrnak. They have young talents like top-pairing defenseman Charlie McAvoy and top-six forward Jake DeBrusk ably manning vital roles. They have a shrewd bench boss in Bruce Cassidy, who seems to have a good feel for the pucks pulse of the playoffs. He’s not allergic to integrating young players and can coax both production and accountability out of them. But he also knows when to turn to an old hand like David Backes.
The Bruins have married their past to their future for a blessed present, and there’s no time like now to cash in with another Cup. This is as good as it gets for the Black and Gold.
When fortune feeds you a one-timer, you better not whiff.
Hardship for the Bruins this postseason is not having McAvoy for Game 1 of the Eastern finals Thursday after he was suspended one game by the NHL for a check to the head of Columbus’s Josh Anderson in the series-clincher Monday. Head straight to Vegas if you had McAvoy getting suspended before Marchand this postseason.
The only Original Six team in the NHL’s final four, the Bruins have seen the Stanley Cup bracket busted in their favor, round after round.
It happened again Tuesday night in St. Louis. The one goalie in the playoffs playing better than Rask, the one goalie who could singlehandedly steal the Cup from them, is out. Dallas Stars netminder Ben Bishop put on a tour de force in Game 7 against his hometown St. Louis Blues with 52 saves. But he ended up the hard-luck, bad-bounce loser in a double-overtime thriller. Now the Bruins don’t have to worry about Big Ben or a revenge-minded Tyler Seguin on their way to the Cup.
As of Wednesday, their remaining obstacles were the erstwhile Whalers, the heavy and balanced Blues, Mr. Thornton’s talented and chronically underachieving San Jose Sharks, and the Colorado Avalanche. Any Bruins fans would have taken those odds before the playoffs commenced.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are always hairy — in player appearance, spectator blood pressure, and predictability. That’s what makes them the best playoffs in North American professional team sports.
Favorites have fallen, but it’s a wasted opportunity if the Bruins aren’t the last team standing. Anything short of a Duck Boat-boarding end will feel like an empty trip.