BOSTON – It was a properly understated storyline throughout the series, but it’s clear that Jarome Iginla figured into the motivation for some Bruins players entering the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The former Calgary Flames captain eschewed a chance to join the Bruins at the trade deadline by rejecting a deal that would have had him going to Boston, and instead chose to join Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. He augmented their team during the regular season and through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but he was invisible against the Bruins with zero points, four shots on net and a minus-4 in four games against Boston.
The 35-year-old Iginla looked slow on his skates throughout the series, was slow to react to pucks coming at him in front of the net, and generally looked like a player that’s slowing down a little bit as he approached hockey middle age.
“The Bruins played very well, they’re a very good team. I was fortunate to have that choice, and when you make it you definitely believe in the guys [in Pittsburgh]. We played some great hockey up until this last series,” said Iginla. “It also stings not playing well in this last series. These four games, I just didn’t play very well. That’s when you want to play your best for the team, and you want to find ways to contribute and be a part of these close games, and help it go the other way.”
Instead Iginla unintentionally helped it go Boston’s way.
Ironically, it appeared that Adam McQuaid’s game-winning shot in the third period might have been nicked off a diving Iginla before shooting up into the top corner of the net. After it was all over Milan Lucic was complimentary of the aging power forward, but also admitted that Iginla spurning the Black and Gold for the Penguins was a point of motivation for him.
“We kind of took it [as motivation], in that sense that when a guy chooses another team over your team, it kind of does light a little bit of a fire underneath you,” said Lucic, who finished with three assists and a plus-4 in the series. “Fortunately, we were able to turn it into a positive more than a negative. He’s a great player. He’s a legend, he’s a future Hall of Famer, and looking back at that day, he earned the right to make the decision he made. You can never blame a guy for going with his heart and making that type of decision. I’m not going to insult him in any way.
“He’s a guy that I always looked up to as a teenager seeing the way that he played. As a Canadian, seeing what he did in the Olympics and all that type of stuff, he’s definitely an idol of mine. He earned that right to make the decision that he made. I’m sure if he could go back he would make a different decision, but in saying that, he’s still a great player. He’s got a few more years ahead of him, and you wish him nothing but the best.”
While Lucic clearly wanted to respectful of a Calgary legend that the Bruins power forward grew up watching as a hockey-loving youngster in East Vancouver, it’s also obvious the Bruins players were a little miffed at the way things were handled around the trade deadline. Add it to the growing list of reasons why the Penguins got dusted in four Eastern Conference Finals games where Iginla was a complete non-factor from beginning to end.