For Bruins, old Stanley Cup photos in locker room are inspiring
ST. LOUIS — Of all the photos, Charlie McAvoy’s favorite was the one hanging next to the door.
Frozen in a black-framed 16 x 20 was Brad Marchand, just past his 22nd birthday, his eyes closed and mouth open amid the shower of champagne and beer, hoisting the Stanley Cup. Next to him was his best pal, Patrice Bergeron, himself just 25, shaking a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and letting the foam fly.
“That one’s sick,” McAvoy said, his eyes growing wide as he admired it.
“The goal was finished. It’s a reminder of what we’re playing for, the elation of what it felt like.”
Standing in the corner near the exit, the young defenseman’s eyes scanned the room. Over in the far corner of the cramped visitors’ dressing room at Enterprise Center, near Tuukka Rask’s stall, was a photo of the netminder as a 24-year-old, white “Stanley Cup Champions” hat turned backward and a blue Bud Light bottle in his catching hand, getting doused by a sudsy waterfall poured from the Cup.
The Cup showed up in every shot but one. In photos behind McAvoy’s head, David Krejci kissed it as a 25-year-old. Zdeno Chara, then 34, lifted it to the rafters. Bobby Orr, then 24, drank from it in 1972. The exception of the six photos — one for each Bruins championship — was near McAvoy’s locker, a few feet away. A soaked Orr, seated and wearing a “1970 Stanley Cup Champs” shirt and a blissful smile, was about to sip from a magnum.
“A legend,” McAvoy said before Saturday night’s resounding 7-2 win in Game 3. “We’re kind of remembering the old and the new.”
In the visitors’ room in Vancouver eight years ago, equipment manager Keith Robinson and his staff hung photos of the Big Bad Bruins of 1970 and 1972, of Bobby, Espo, Chief, Cash, Pie, Turk, Cheesie, and the rest. It was at the direction of Chara, Bergeron and old hand Mark Recchi, who felt a little inspiration wouldn’t hurt. Chara and Bergeron brought back the tradition for this round, beginning at home. The photos traveled from Boston to St. Louis and were in place for Game 3, placed on the walls amid the equipment-stuffed stalls.
Those who weren’t there for 2011 — like the 21-year-old McAvoy — took a longer look. Winger David Pastrnak, 23, said he was “100 percent” inspired.
“You grow up dreaming of winning this trophy, and now you’re in the room with the guys that have already won it,” he said. “It’s extremely motivating for us.”
“Little reminders what it could be like, what’s here for us, what’s at stake,” said 27-year-old center Charlie Coyle. “It’s a great opportunity in front of us. You always catch yourself looking around, taking it in. It’s a good touch.”
Defenseman Torey Krug, whose Bruins debut came two years after the 2011 celebration, said the photos helped him focus on the task ahead: Games 3 and 4. He felt a little more dialed in, and a little more at home.
“It keeps things in perspective,” said Krug, 28. “You always want a reminder of what you’re playing for. Even though you’re at this stage and you know it, to see those pictures, they are pretty special memories, and hopefully we can replace those.”
Urho Vaakanainen ready
The way things have been going, Urho Vaakanainen knows he might not be a Stanley Cup spectator.
“If they need me, I’m ready,” said the 20-year-old Finnish blue liner, arguably Boston’s top prospect.
Vaakanainen had been one of the Bruins’ Black Aces, the crew of youngsters and extras who work out with the team at home. But with fellow left-shot Matt Grzelcyk knocked out of Game 2 with a concussion, Providence Bruins coach Jay Leach texted Vaakanainen on Thursday to tell him to pack up and get to St. Louis. On Friday, he was on the ice for practice as an eighth defenseman, skating with Steven Kampfer.
For Game 3, veteran left-shot John Moore drew into the lineup as Grzelcyk’s replacement. If either he or Kampfer were hurt later this series, the rookie might get the call. He would be the youngest Bruin to compete in a Cup Final since 19-year-old Tyler Seguin in 2011.
“It was good for Vaak to be around this time of year and get involved,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “That’s a little more about filling out practice and him getting a taste of what it’s like this time of year. He’s part of our future. It could be our immediate future if we get more injuries, or down the road. That will play out.”
Vaakanainen, who hasn’t spoken to Boston reporters since October, reviewed his first North American pro season in a chat with the Globe on Friday. It has been a bumpy ride: a concussion, a shoulder injury and the flu, along with a gold medal and lessons learned.
On emergency recall in October, he was playing in his second NHL game when Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki dropped him with an elbow as the rookie arrived for a net-front scrum. It took Vaakanainen off skates for nearly a month. Vaakanainen said Borowiecki came to the bench afterward and offered an apology. “Sorry guy, sorry buddy. I didn’t mean to,” he recalled the Senators alternate captain saying. “That was it. It was an unlucky situation. That happens in the games.”
After recovering from his concussion, Vaakanainen joined Team Finland for the World Junior Championship and was a standout, playing top-pair minutes for a gold-medal squad and chipping in four assists in seven games.
The 2017 first-round pick (18th overall, two spots ahead of injured Blues winger Robert Thomas) said he was playing “the best hockey I’ve ever played” when he returned to the AHL after the World Juniors, but then he dipped. “Mentally I wasn’t prepared,” he said. “I wasn’t taking care of the puck. I was making silly mistakes. Maybe five games in a row I screwed up a goal.
“It’s something I’m not used to. I feel like I don’t make a lot of mistakes. I value the defensive end of the game a lot. I was mad at myself.”
In March, he injured his shoulder and missed a couple of weeks, then returned in time for the playoffs — and to catch the flu, which hampered him during the postseason. He finished with 14 points in 30 AHL games, then went scoreless in four playoff games. He hasn’t played since April 26, when Charlotte knocked Providence out of the AHL playoffs.
“I could have been a lot better,” he said. “It is what it is . . . we’ve been working out and preparing ourselves. I feel good physically and mentally. We’ll see what happens.”
As he was speaking, a few reporters from his homeland began hitting him with rapid-fire Finnish. As they left, they exchanged with him the word onni — meaning luck and happiness.
Making a list
Bergeron’s first-period goal was his 100th playoff point, tying Johnny Bucyk and Rick Middleton for fourth-most in Bruins history.