BOSTON – Jaromir Jagr couldn’t help but smile widely when he was asked how different a player he is now than when he last played for the New York Rangers five years ago.
The subject pops up now because the Bruins are set to host the Blueshirts in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and because Jagr spent four years in New York City including an amazing 2005-06 campaign when he put up 54 goals and 123 points for the Rangers. That was when the 41-year-old Jagr was at the tail end of his hockey prime, and about a year before he disappeared to the KHL before emerging again in the NHL last season with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan and Henrik Lundqvist are the only current Rangers players that were on the New York roster when “The Jagr” last skated for the Blueshirts, and the future Hall of Famer insists he’s a much different guy these days. Right now he’s got four assists along with a minus-1 rating in seven playoff games for Boston, and is a long way from his winters on Broadway.
“I have a lot of good memories in New York. All of the years, we made the playoffs. In the first year nobody believed we could make the playoffs, and we did it. My first year was Hank’s first year and Tom Renney’s first year as a coach,” said Jagr. “We had such a good group of players and we surprised everybody. Such good memories in that hockey time for me.
“But now it’s a different story. I’m not good now. I was a lot better hockey player then, when I was in New York. Of course I’m different. I am honest. I cannot lie.”
One person on the Rangers that Jagr has the utmost respect for is the guy that he’s going to be attempting to make life miserable for: King Henrik. He was already one of the NHL’s best when Jagr played with him, and he’s dominated the Bruins with 21 wins in 30 career games against Boston including 21-7-2 record, a .943 save percentage, a 1.67 goals against average and six shutouts during a long string of puck-stopping dominance against the Black and Gold.
“He’s just a good goalie. I never studied the goalie position and I’ve never been a goalie coach, so I don’t know why he’s good,” said Jagr. “He’s because he stops most of the pucks. He’s tough to score on and he doesn’t make mistakes. As far as he goes, the team goes. It’s always been like that since I was there. He’s the most important guy on that team.”
Despite the gaudy numbers and Jagr’s advanced age, the Bruins have to hope they can get some vintage performances from the mulleted one while choosing to keep him on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to begin the series.