ST. LOUIS — Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk wasn’t sure if he could do it.
Forward Noel Acciari may never be able to.
Veteran David Krejci, having been to the Stanley Cup Final twice before, gave himself a head start.
“I maybe cheated,” Krejci said with a smile. “Maybe not.”
A tradition that is said to have started with the 1980 New York Islanders was welcomed with open arms in Boston this postseason. The concept is simple: No shaving until elimination. The deeper the Bruins go in the playoffs, the longer the bearded men in the locker room have to delay dusting off their razors.
For some, that’s not a problem.
A small contingent of players has mastered the quasi-lumberjack look.
Sporting thick brown facial hair that seamlessly joins his sideburns to his jawline to his mustache, defenseman John Moore says he’s in the conversation for best on the team. Other names considered to be at the top include Krejci, 35-year-old David Backes, and 42-year-old Zdeno Chara.
“When we went in the final eight and six years ago, I was younger, so I didn’t have a good one,” Krejci, now 33, said. “So, I’m like, ‘OK, I have a good feeling about this team, I’m going to give myself a headstart and see how it’s going to look if we make the Final.’ And here we are. There’s no rule you have to shave the day before the playoffs.”
The elder statesman on the team, of course, aren’t the only ones who rock more than just a collection of patches.
Forwards David Pastrnak and Sean Kuraly both have respectable showings. As does Grzelyck, who, like Krejci, gave himself a bit of a headstart and was surprised to learn that he could grow a full beard.
“I don’t know if I like it, but it’s pretty cool,” Grzelyck said. “Growing up watching the Stanley Cup, it’s one thing that kind of gravitates you towards the playoffs. You’re always checking in on the players’ beards. I’m just happy that I can grow a little bit.”
Not everybody is as fortunate.
Rookie Connor Clifton openly admits his scraggly look is “terrible.” Defenseman Brandon Carlo calls his “pretty patchy.” Forward Marcus Johansson says his is “not great, but it’s there.” Left wing Jake DeBrusk wishes his was “a little bit more greasy.”
The honor for worst on the team, however, was split between two players: Acciari and Danton Heinen.
“I don’t even know if Danton has anything on his face,” Carlo said.
Heinen doesn’t disagree.
“It’s the longest it’s ever been, though,” he said.
Acciari argues Heinen’s actually isn’t that bad, his light blonde hair just makes it difficult to spot. Acciari’s spotty showing, on the other hand, is there for all to see.
“This isn’t what you call a beard,” he said. “I just can’t grow a beard. I can’t do it.”
Regardless of the quality of their final products, the Bruins seem to be big fans of the tradition — as long as, in the words of Moore, “certain guys take the hygiene seriously.”
“I like it,” Kuraly said. “I think it’s cool. When you grow up and you’re watching this, it kind of shows the war of attrition that you’ve kind of been through to get here — and how long it takes by how much some players’ beards are growing.”
“You look around and you see guys lift up the Cup, it looks like they’re kind of grizzled and they’ve been through a lot,” added Grzelcyk. “You look around the room, and you see guys that just remind you of the playoffs.”
That being said, some are still itching (literally) to get rid of their beards — or whatever semblance of one they might have.
“I can’t wait to shave it, to be honest,” Pastrnak confessed. “It’s ginger, I don’t like it.”
“The longer it gets, the more red it gets,” said Clifton. “Brown hair, red beard just doesn’t look great.”
The ceremonial pruning might be a gradual process for others.
“I might play around with it,” Grzelcyk said. “If I go shave it all off at once, I’m probably going to look like a 10-year-old, so maybe I’ll keep it little by little.”
Either way, there’s no doubt players will happily put off shaving a few more days if it means forcing a Game 7 for an opportunity to hoist the Stanley Cup back in Boston Wednesday night.