Boston Bruins: 14,279 Days…And Maybe not Counting Anymore
By Dan Rubin
Day 0 – The Boston Bruins defeat the New York Rangers, 3-0, at Madison Square Garden. Bobby Orr scores in the first period for second championship-clinching goal. Later in the game, Orr gets a 10-minute misconduct. While in the box, Wayne Cashman pots two in the third period, as the Bruins win their second Stanley Cup in three years. If not for Ken Dryden stonewalling the Bruins, this might be their third in a row.
Day 738 – The Bruins, depleted by a roster raid by teams in the World Hockey Association, drop Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals to the Philadelphia Flyers at the Philadelphia Spectrum. It’s the first Stanley Cup won by a team in the Expansion Era. It’s also one of the last hurrahs for the Bruins of that era, their last appearance in the Stanley Cup Final for 14-years.
Day 1,275 – The Big, Bad Bruins era comes to a shocking halt when Phil Esposito is traded to New York. He hated the Rangers and once told of this story in his hotel room by Bobby Orr and Don Cherry he asks if someone can open a window, so he can jump out of it. The trade isn’t awful; Brad Park is a solid defenseman. But Park was expected to pair with Orr to create the most destructive blue-line force in NHL history. It doesn’t happen.
Day 1505 – The Park/Orr tandem doesn’t happen because, less than a year later and after only one season, Orr shocks the hockey world and Boston to its core by signing with Chicago. He signs with Chicago despite the Bruins offering him an 18% ownership stake in the franchise in his contract. He signs with Chicago because his agent, Alan Eagleson, utterly screws the Bruins sideways by hiding their offer from Orr. Orr barely plays 30 games over the next couple years and he retires famously without ever cashing a Chicago paycheck. His departure from Boston marks the final blow to that era, and it closes the book on the most memorable time in Boston hockey history.
Day 2,709 – The Bruins1979 first round draft pick was some Canadian skater named Ray Bourque, who makes his black-and-gold debut. Bourque makes an immediate impact, assisting on a goal in his first shift against the Winnipeg Jets. Bourque goes onto fulfill the prophecy of being the next in line of Bruins’ great defenseman, supplanting Park when he retires. Famously, his #7 becomes #77, retired alongside the man he replaced in that famous sweater, Phil Esposito.
Day 5,139 – The Bruins fleece the Vancouver Canucks by trading an aging Barry Pederson for this young 21-year-old kid named Cameron Neely. Along with Neely, the Bruins receive the Canucks first round pick. They end up picking Glen Wesley with the selection. Pederson doesn’t really pan out as Vancouver would’ve hoped, and Neely revolutionizes the game of hockey by becoming the first “power forward” with blazing speed, a rifle shot, perfect finesse, and the biggest bag of knuckles the NHL may have ever seen.
Day 5,851 – The Bruins appear in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1974. Their opponent – the best team in hockey… the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Grant Fuhr. They rewrite records, dominating the Bruins through the first three games. In Game 4, the Boston Garden electrical unit pulls the plug on the playoffs before Edmonton has that chance. If nothing else, the Bruins allow Game 4 to suspend on home ice, then go lose Game 5 on the road for the first (and to date only) 4-0-1 series loss.
Day 6,578 – Boston-Edmonton, Part II. The Bruins have the NHL’s best record, and, by virtue, get home ice advantage against the newly tooled Oilers. Gretzky is gone, but the Oilers are still formidable. The first game drones on through regulation, then overtime, and then a second overtime. In the second OT, Glen Wesley has a wide-open look at Bill Ranford’s net. He misses. Bruins fans lament this for about 21 years (and counting). In the third overtime, Petr Klima, a player who accomplished nothing before and nothing after, pots the game winner. Edmonton goes onto win the series 4-1. It’s also Lord Stanley’s last trip to Boston Garden, since the Bruins fail to reach the Final until 2011.
Day 6,931 – Boston’s still riding high on talent, despite their failures to win the Stanley Cup in the previous attempts. That is, until Game 3 of the Wales Conference Finals, when Ulf Samuellsson derails permanently the career of Cam Neely with an egregious knee-strike check. Neely’s knee is never the same, and neither is his career. He never plays a full season ever again. It also begins the Bruins final swan song in the Conference Finals, as they fade into obscurity within five years.
Day 9,172 – With the first selection in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, the Boston Bruins select Joe Thornton from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. Thornton is the savior of the franchise, the next Esposito. He’s going to revolutionize the game, and his big-game abilities, when properly honed, will lead the Bruins back to Lord Stanley for the first time in what is now a 24 year drought. Three picks later, the New York Islanders select the first goaltender of the draft when they pick Roberto Luongo. Luongo immediately begins grating on Islander general manager Mike Milbury, especially when he goes looking for an apartment in the city on one game day, then promptly surrenders seven goals. Milbury ultimately trades Luongo to Florida in his second season (turning him into the draft pick used for Rick DiPietro). Mike Keenan eventually trades Luongo from Sunrise in 2006 to the Vancouver Canucks.
Day 10,161 – Languishing out of the playoff race, the Bruins acquiesce to their star player’s request for a trade. Raymond Bourque is traded to Colorado to allow him a last chance to win the Stanley Cup. In return for Bourque (and Dave Andreychuk), Boston receives Brian Ralston, Martin Grenier, Samuel Pahlsson, and New Jersey’s first round draft pick (which Colorado previously held).
Day 10,621 – Colorado defeats New Jersey, 3-1, at the Pepsi Center to win the Stanley Cup. Captain Joe Sakic receives the Cup and immediately hands it to Ray Bourque.
Day 10,626 – Bourque celebrates the Cup with a rally at City Hall Plaza in Boston. While a wonderful gesture towards the city he has a love affair with, the championship drought for the black and gold reaches an unheard-of low.
Day 12,179 – For the second time, Boston signs journeyman free agent goalie Tim Thomas. Signed as a depth-chart insurance policy, he’s expected to play in Providence while Hannu Toivonen grooms into the starting role. Andrew Raycroft, a former Calder Trophy winner, is also in the mix.
Day 12,256 – Still championship less since 1972 and still not reaching the Finals since 1990, the Bruins trade Joe Thornton for Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm, and Wayne Primeau. Thornton responds by posting a 100-point season and winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s league MVP. With a career plus minus in the playoffs of [-10] to this point, he tacks on another [-4] as one of the league’s worst clutch players in the playoffs. The Bruins, armed with the league’s collective bargaining agreement after the 2004-2005 Lockout, finish 13th in the Eastern Conference behind the ancient legs of Brian Leetch and Alexei Zhamnov.
Day 12,462 – The ineffective Raycroft is traded to Toronto to prospect goalie Tuukka Rask. The Bruins policy of fleecing Toronto is officially put into effect.
Day 12,840 – The Bruins sign former Vezina winner Manny Fernandez. He plays in a combined 32 games over the next two seasons for Boston.
Day 12,862 – Toivonen is traded to Chicago.
Day 13,127 – Boston defeats Montreal, 5-4, in Game 6 of the 2008 NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. In retrospect, it’s the first game where Boston hockey was truly relevant after a decade of toiling away. The third period takes the roof off the building as the Bruins come from behind to force a Game 7 in Montreal.
Day 13,517 – Carolina defeats Boston in Overtime in Game 7 of the 2009 NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Villain Scott Walker claims the winning goal as top-seeded Boston fails to make it out of the second round.
Day 13,644 – Embattled Boston forward/sniper goal scorer Phil Kessel is traded to Toronto for the Maple Leafs’ 2010 first round pick.
Day 13,749 – Boston hosts the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park. 40,000 fans jam-pack Friendly Fenway. Hockey in Boston is officially back.
Day 13,807 – Robert Luongo leads Team Canada past Team USA in the Gold Medal Game of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Luongo, the netminder playing in his home arena in Vancouver, gives up the game-tying goal with less than 30 seconds left in the 3rd period. Canada eventually wins when Sidney Crosby toasts Phil Kessel in overtime.
Day 13,882 – Boston blows a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 to Philadelphia. Philadelphia goes onto lose in the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago previously had defeated the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference playoffs in six games.
Day 14,229 – Vancouver wins Game 7 against Chicago in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. They had previously had a 3-0 series lead and barely squeaked by the defending champs with an overtime victory at home. During the series, Luongo was replaced by backup Cory Schneider, only coming back into the series when Schneider got hurt in his first start.
Day 14,239 – Boston advances to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the early 1990s.
Day 14,257 – Vancouver defeats Joe Thornton’s San Jose Sharks in Double-OT on a freak bounce goal to win the Clarence Campbell Bowl and the Western Conference Championship.
Day 14,260 – Boston defeats Tampa Bay, 1-0, on Nathan Horton’s late-third period goal to win the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Eastern Conference Championship.
Day 14,268 – Vancouver defeats Boston in overtime to take a 2-0 series lead.
Day 14,270 – Nathan Horton is brutally crushed to the ice by a Canuck in a hit so disgraceful, we won’t print the offending party’s name. Bruins rally to pot eight goals on Roberto Luongo, winning 8-1.
Day 14,272 – Bruins put four more up on Vancouver, chasing Luongo from Game 4, winning 4-0.
Day 14,277 – After Luongo calls out Tim Thomas, Thomas responds by stonewalling Vancouver’s offense. Luongo backs up his words by getting chased for the second time in the Finals.
Day 14,279 – June 15, 2011. Game 7. It’s a Wednesday night in Boston and the only thing that matters is if June 16th is Day 14,280 or Day 1.