WILMINGTON, MA – Rightfully pushed to the background because of the tragic events that unfolded this week, both unfortunate and inspirational, the Bruins will host the Eastern Conference’s top dog when the Pittsburgh Penguins roll into town for a rare Friday night home game at TD Garden.
The Penguins are red hot again riding a five game winning streak as they make their one and only appearance of the season in Boston.
Pittsburgh has already beaten the Bruins in their two previous matchups at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh this season, and can clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with a win over Boston on Friday night. Both were one goal games and both contests also saw the Bruins getting caught on the second night of back-to-back games, but the Penguins were also missing Evgeni Malkin in both of those games.
Above and beyond the challenge of playing the conference’s best hockey club while they’re still vulnerable without Sidney Crosby, it will also be Bruins’ fans first interaction with Jarome Iginla since he famously chose Pittsburgh over Boston.
That reverse of course for the former Flames power forward – and target of Boston interest – happened after Calgary GM Jay Feaster had originally told Bruins management they’d won the Iginla sweepstakes. So it will be interesting to see if there are any lingering hard feelings from any parties involved with Pittsburgh and Iginla ready to drop in on the Black and Gold.
Claude Julien was asked about the Penguins coming to town, and immediately went into an answer bracing against the Iginla questions in anticipation of them coming his way before Friday.
“There’s Iginla and [Brenden] Morrow as new [Pittsburgh] acquisitions that we haven’t seen yet, and [Douglas] Murray on the back end,” said Claude Julien. “So there’s more than just Iginla. But I know what you guys are getting to.
“He had an opportunity to make his choice [based on a no-trade clause] and he made his choice. That was his privilege. He took advantage of it.”
So there’s a curiosity there as to what kind of reception that Iginla gets in Boston. Will it be like a Phil Kessel or PK Subban level of animus where he gets booed every time he touches the puck?
That may be pretty close to reality for Iginla in Boston, although probably not as vitriolic as it might have been given the way things worked out with Jaromir Jagr becoming the big fish that Boston reeled in at the NHL trade deadline. Marchand remembered the dizzying sequence of events that led to the Iginla trade to Boston that wasn’t, but didn’t sound like it’s going to influence anything he does on the ice.
“I saw on the Internet that [Iginla] was in Pittsburgh when I expected him to be with us. It was a little bit of a shocker. I didn’t really know what the reason was, but that’s the way it goes sometimes,” said Marchand, who returned from a concussion in Wednesday night’s shootout loss. “Nothing is done until it’s signed and he’s over here. I’m sure there will be some fans that will be unhappy about the way it went down. I’m sure he won’t be welcomed in the building. But it’s also part of what makes these games even more fun.
“That’s how hockey goes. The [Bruins management] did a great job of bouncing back and getting a great player [in Jagr]. He’s one of the best players to ever play the game and he’s really helped our team so far since he’s been here.”
The Bruins fans at TD Garden will probably hammer the future Hall of Fame power forward with boos and a villain treatment like nothing that Iginla has never received before in his career as a hockey god in Calgary.
But for the B’s players it’s about simply wanting to make a statement against a favored Penguins club, and getting their own act into gear coming off an encouraging losing shootout effort against the Buffalo Sabres in an emotionally charged Wednesday night tilt.
The Bruins have lost three games in a row with the playoffs less than two weeks away, and the players came face-to-face with real difficulties in this world when things were turned upside down on Monday. So Iginla is not even a glint in the eye for most around the Bruins when he was once the apple of their eye at the trade deadline less than a month ago.