Bruins get first shot at Stanley Cup since 1990

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Bruins get first shot at Stanley Cup since 1990

ByArtMartone
CSNNE.com

You'd have to be in your mid- to late 20s to remember the last time the Bruins were in the Stanley Cup Finals, and at least in your 30s to be able to appreciate it. They were quick fodder for the Edmonton Oilers -- losing in five games, just two years after being swept by the same team in four -- and an amazing thing has happened as time has past.

The 1990 Bruins have been taken off the hook.

"They had no chance," is the conventional wisdom nowadays. "Edmonton was an overwhelming favorite." "They were lucky to be there."

No, no, and no.

All that was true in 1988, the last year of the dynastic GretzkyMessierKurriFuhr Oilers. That team may have finished second to Calgary in the Smythe Division that year, but they swept through the playoffs in a mere 14 games -- sweeping Calgary in the quarterfinals and needing only five to beat Winnipeg in the opening round and Detroit in the semifinals before knocking off the Bruins in a four-game sweep -- in winning their fourth Stanley Cup in five years. The B's truly were overmatched that time around.

But they weren't in 1990.

First off, Boston was better in '90 than it was in '88. Ray Bourque was in his prime. So was Cam Neely. Andy Moog had taken over as the No. 1 netminder and led the way as the B's allowed the fewest goals in the league. The Bruins were a league-best 46-25-9 that season, good for 101 points . . . 11 better than Edmonton (38-28-14), which again finished second. After a nailbiting seven-game opening round playoff series against Hartford, they needed only five games to beat Montreal in the quarterfinals and four games to beat Washington in the semifinals.

The Oilers? Wayne Gretzky was gone, having been traded to Los Angeles after the '88 Cup. Grant Fuhr, who battled injuries and substance abuse problems during his final years in Edmonton, played in only 13 games. They were good, but they weren't the team they'd been just two years earlier.

Game 1 was in Boston, and the Bruins overcame a 2-0 deficit with two third-period goals in forcing overtime. But -- with an open net to shoot at, as Oilers goalie Bill Ranford had been knocked down and was out of position -- Glen Wesley, standing alone in the slot, fired a shot over the crossbar in the first overtime period. A sure goal, and a Game 1 victory, was instead . . . nothing.

And when Petr Klima, who'd been nailed to the bench for most of the game, scored in the third overtime after 1 a.m., the Bruins were down 1-0 in the series.

They'd never get that close again.

They were blown out in Game 2, 7-2, They managed to win Game 3 in Edmonton, 2-1, but lost 5-1 in Game 4 and 4-1 in Game 5. The Oilers were champs, and the Bruins were bridesmaids for the second time in three years (and fourth time since 1977). It was the most disappointing of all the losses, since -- unlike the other three times they'd gotten to the Finals -- they weren't outclassed, talent-wise, by their opponents.

Now, finally, they get another shot at history.

A history that's been rewritten a little over the last few years.

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

The Bruins should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. They really shouldn’t. 

Yet they might. Pierre McGuire said on TSN Radio Tuesday that his guess is that Shattenkirk, arguably the best free agent defenseman on the market, will end up in Boston.

It is remarkable how universally against a Shattenkirk megadeal B’s fans have seemingly been. A Twitter poll with over 3,600 votes this month had Bruins fans preferring Boston sign 40-year-old Zdeno Chara to a two-year, $8 million extension than the 28-year-old  Shattenkirk to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal. 

That is obviously the correct conclusion, but considering how hard the false “Chara is old and bad” garbage is pushed in this town, it’s telling that 64 percent would rather he stick around than the team build the defense around Shattenkirk. 

Of course, Shattenkirk is not a bad player just because he’s been overrated in recent seasons. He’s a decent second-pairing defender and strong power play asset who can be penciled in for 40 points a year. The Bruins already have that in Torey Krug, and he makes less than Shattenkirk figures to command. Shattenkirk is also a righty who plays on the right, which is not a need for the Bruins, whereas Krug is a left shot who plays both sides. 

Add in the Bruins’ cap situation due to some bad contracts and they why of Shattenkirk would be a bad signing doesn’t need to be re-hashed. By this point, the explanation’s been given a few times in a few different places. 

So what would the Bruins’ actual case for signing Shattenkirk be? 

TO KEEP IT MOVING 

Last season was encouraging for Bruins fans because it saw them reach the playoffs for the first time in three years while also seeing young talent emerge. Yet they still only made the playoffs by two points, something of which Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are undoubtedly aware. 

So for all the good signs, this could be a fringe playoff team again if more improvements aren’t made, and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years would mark a step back in the eyes of ownership, perhaps putting jobs in danger. It would be a shame if money were spent irresponsibly for the sake of saving jobs, but Shattenkirk would definitely make the Bruins better next season, even if it crippled them financially down the road. 

TO PULL A CHIARELLIAN FREE AGENT SWITCHEROO

With McAvoy set to be a top-pairing player and Brandon Carlo a good second-pairing option, the Bruins do not have a need for a highly paid right-shot defender. That doesn’t mean they don’t have needs elsewhere. 

Last offseason, Peter Chiarelli made the controversial move of trading Taylor Hall, one of the best left wings on the planet. He did it to get Adam Larsson to help build Edmonton’s blue line up, then he went out and signed Milan Lucic in free agency to replace Hall. 

If the Bruins truly have designs on adding Shattenkirk, perhaps they could have something similar in mind: Trade someone like Carlo for either a left-shot defenseman or a left wing, then replace Carlo with Shattenkirk. 

This would still not be financially palatable, however. When the Oilers traded Hall for Larsson, they swapped a player with a $6 million cap hit for a player with a $4.16 million cap hit and replaced the original player (Hall) with a player in Lucic who carried a $6 million cap hit. So essentially they netted one player for an additional $4.16 million. 

Carlo is on his entry level contract, so unless the Bruins traded him for a player on an entry-level deal, they’d be spending a lot of money in any maneuver that involved replacing him with Shattenkirk. 

TO GO ALL-IN ON POST-CLAUDE LIFE

Claude Julien’s detractors lamented his affinity for responsibility. They loved it when Bruce Cassidy was more open to trading chances. 

Well, you like trading chances? Shattenkirk’s your guy. He’s a good skater, a good offensive player and a sub-par defender. You put Krug, Shattenkirk and McAvoy as three of your four top-four defenseman and you’ll be a long way from the days of Chara, Seidenberg and Boychuk, for better or worse. 

BUT, KEEP IN MIND . . . 

They for sure should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. 

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading, while wishing that Gordon Hayward and Paul George were already in Boston, like, yesterday.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Freidman gives his 30 thoughts for the week, including the trade value of a first-round pick right now.

*It could that non-unrestricted free agents steal all of the thunder on July 1 with massive contract extensions a la Connor McDavid.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Detroit Red Wings taking potential fliers on a number of veteran D-men that are out on the free market.

*With free agency right around the corner, the legendary Stan Fischler details the sad end to Bobby Orr’s career in Boston, where he was lied to about the offer extended to him and ended up playing things out with the Chicago Blackhawks in a way that it shouldn’t have gone. The sight of Orr in a Blackhawks sweater is one of the real all-time NHL oddities out there.

*The NCAA is eying college hockey expansion in NHL markets, including the University of Illinois and Pitt, and, from what I’ve been told, perhaps UNLV and maybe even Vanderbilt. This is a great thing for amateur hockey players and anybody that can’t get enough of the game.  

*Ex-Senators defenseman Marc Methot holds no ill will toward the Sens after being dealt from Vegas to the Dallas Stars following his selection in the expansion draft.

*Josh Ho-Sang shares his wisdom to Islanders prospects as a 21-year-old somebody that’s gone through the ups and downs of being in their shoes.

*As we referenced above, Connor McDavid is closing in on a massive contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers that will probably make him the highest paid player in the NHL.

*For something completely different: My heart goes out to this Roslindale family fighting through a situation with a child who has a life-threatening disorder. They have a Go-Fund-Me page, so please give if you can.