With Stanley Cup in sight, Jagr all in

With Stanley Cup in sight, Jagr all in
June 6, 2013, 10:00 am
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BOSTON -- Everyone has to buy in.

That's what it takes to be a Boston Bruin these days. And future Hall-of-Famer or not, there are no exceptions.

Regardless of how long it took for Jaromir Jagr to completely buy into what Claude Julien and the blue-collar Bruins were selling, the 41-year-old Czech now brings his work boots and hard hat to every game.

Jagr assisted on Thursday morning's double-overtime game-winner at the TD Garden, helping Boston to a 3-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals.

It marks his third assist in the last two games, as he also picked up two helpers in Monday night's Game 2 win in Pittsburgh.

Getting his name on the score sheet is nothing new to Jagr. The guy has over 1,600 points in his NHL career. He also has his name on the Stanley Cup. Twice. From back-to-back championships with the Penguins in 1991 and 1992.

He wants another taste of the Cup. Which is why he's ultimately bought into what the Bruins are selling. And because everybody -- including Jagr -- has bought into Julien's "a good offense stems from a great defense" philosophy, the Bruins are once again winning when it counts most. In the playoffs.

"I think with Jags, right now, he seems to be having a lot of fun with our group," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the Game 3 win. "And I think he's seeing what is being accomplished from doing that. Players want to be part of it. And although he's played a certain way his whole career, he's willing to do what it takes here to help us be successful.

"That's two games in a row now where I've seen him finish a good check, turn the puck over, and result in a goal. Certainly it doesn't go unnoticed, especially when you're a 41-year-old who has never been known for his more physical play, but for the type of game that those Hall-of-Famers and superstar players play. And right now, he's just doing whatever is asked of him, and that's a credit to Jags."

His most important assist in Game 2 came at the end of the first period, as he manhandled Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik at the blue line. Jagr stole the puck, fed it to Patrice Bergeron in the neutral zone, and created the rush that led to Brad Marchand's second goal of the game, which put the Bruins up 4-1 and was an immediate answer to Brandon Sutter's snipe that had cut Boston's lead to 3-1.

Jagr's hit on Orpik was a game-changer, much like his neutral-zone play in double overtime of Game 3 early Thursday morning.

Just as it looked destined to go to triple overtime, Jagr created the rush that led to Bergeron's game-winner with 4:41 left in double OT. Initially, Evgeni Malkin stole the puck from Jagr along the boards at center ice, but Jagr wasn't going down without a fight. And as quickly as Malkin stole it from him, Jagr turned and gave the Penguins star forward a good, hard stick lift and took the puck right back, before sending it to Marchand, who then sent it out front to Bergeron to end the game.

"That explains that everyone's buying in, everyone's doing everything in order to get the success and to get the wins," said Bergeron. "It doesn't matter where it is or who it is. Jags is the perfect example. He's pretty much a legend. He's a guy who's going to be in the Hall-of-Fame at some point, and he's doing the little detail right there just to fight for the puck. You notice that as a teammate, also. So it goes a long way. And we all need to do that."

"The way he battled there and got it back, he's so strong," said Marchand. "You can never count him out. He did a great job of getting that puck up and making a good play."

Before Game 2, there were rumors -- whether true or false -- that Jagr could possibly be scratched for an upcoming game in the Eastern Conference Finals if he didn't begin to produce. Before that Game 2, Jagr had gone six whole playoff games -- including an entire series -- without a single point.

Well, he wasn't scratched for Game 2, and as a result, he finished with two assists and was a plus-3. And in Game 3, he had an assist on the game-winner.

Nobody ever criticized Jagr for not working hard. The guy loves the game. He's always working, putting in extra time.

But the style of defensive hockey that the Bruins play. Well, it's not every offensive superstar's dream. Especially at the age of 41.

Yet, here they are, now five wins away from a Stanley Cup. And Jagr is now a key contributor.

He's having fun. The system is successful. The Bruins are winning.

They're winning because everyone has bought in.

Even Jagr.