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.

Backes: Bruins were ‘wounded’ after ugly Detroit loss

Backes: Bruins were ‘wounded’ after ugly Detroit loss

BRIGHTON, Mass – It certainly sounded like there were some things that made the Wednesday night loss in Detroit a little different for the Bruins.

The Bruins media corps conducted postgame interviews in the hallway rather than in the visiting dressing room after what must have been a combustible atmosphere immediately following the shootout defeat. 

There was also evidence of anger in the visitor’s dressing room at Joe Louis Arena, according to reports, with a door off its hinges when the media was able to get a look inside the dressing room area.

David Backes confirmed something was different about the loss after blowing a pair of three-goal leads, and failing to follow up their dreadful no-show vs. the Islanders with a winning performance against another bad team in Detroit. The B’s forward said the plane ride home from Detroit was solemn and quiet, and that it was clear the Bruins team was “wounded” after a crushing loss.

“Both [losses] can be great lessons if we learn from it, and neither was very enjoyable. That was probably the quietest I think our guys were all year on that plane ride home from Detroit,” said Backes. “To me, that’s a great sign that it hit us in the heart, and it hit us where it really mattered. We’re thinking about how we can turn the tide and thinking about we can be victorious the next time out.

“We had the lead, and in a lot of instances you’re expecting, as you should, to come out of there with two points. We’re at the time in the season where wins need to be garnered and taken home.

“There were a lot of aspects where we should have grabbed the game back. When you feel like you’ve had a lot of opportunities to take the game and you don’t do it, it’s not a good feeling. I was reflecting on that during a very quiet team plane ride back from Detroit, and it seemed pretty clear that the whole team was feeling wounded. I think it’s a good sign that guys were feeling that way, and that means they’re going to do everything in their power to not have that feeling again.”

The words are encouraging from a 32-year-old natural leader in Backes, who has seen good times and bad as captain of the St. Louis Blues in his 10-year NHL career. But the proof is ultimately on the ice where the Bruins have games against the Blackhawks and Penguins coming up and face some very stiff tests coming off a couple of losses against the worst teams in the East that exposed Black and Gold fragility at this point in the season. 


 

After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins, looking for a spark after terrible, back-to-back losses to the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings, are hoping the return of Matt Beleskey from a knee injury can help provide the inspiration. 

The blue-collar left winger has missed the past 23 games with a torn MCL in his right knee suffered in early December against the Buffalo Sabres, but now he’s easing back into the lineup on the fourth line in Friday night’s showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Beleskey was skating with Dominic Moore and Austin Czarnik on the fourth line at morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena and should be expected to throw a few hard hits and play with some intensity in his return.

“I’m ready to go and excited to get back out there,” said Beleskey, who has been skating with the team for roughly a week after giving the knee sufficient time to heal. “I’ve just got to keep it simple and do what I do well: Be hard on pucks, take the body and just try and find your groove. You don’t want to expect too much in your first game back, but you just want to be able to contribute.

“’I’ve been saving [the pent-up energy] for a while, so I’m ready to get back out there and hopefully provide a spark for us.”

The Beleskey return also provides the player with a bit of a reset button after a slow start to the season that saw him with two goals and five points along with a minus-6 rating in 24 games played for the Black and Gold prior to his injury. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairs against the Blackhawks based on morning skate today:

Marchand-Bergeron-Vatrano

Schaller-Krejci-Pastrnak

Spooner-Nash-Backes/Hayes

Beleskey/Blidh-Moore-Czarnik

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-Liles

 

Rask