Stanley Cup final: Boston Bruins prove era of the superstar is gone (+video)
The Boston Bruins rallied to tie the Stanley Cup final series, 1-1, Saturday because of a strong game from their supporting cast. That is a hallmark of the NHL's new 'Bruins Era.'
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And that, if anything, is the legacy of what one might call the National Hockey League's "Bruins Era," whether or not the Bruins win this cup. Since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, team has trumped talent, steadiness has trumped star power. And this series is shaping up no different.Skip to next paragraph
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The Bruins are essentially a team with two second lines and two third lines. Their best forward, Patrice Bergeron, is best known for playing defense. Their leading point-scorer in the regular season, Brad Marchand, is a second-line winger best knowing for annoying opposing players past endurance.
They are hockey's embodiment of the bell curve: one great goaltender (Tuukka Rask), one great defenseman (Zdeno Chara), and everyone else bunched together in the middle – none spectacular, none awful. If competence can be an art form, the Bruins are its Picasso.
In Game 2 Saturday night, the Bruins third line was its best, creating both goals in the Bruins' 2-1 overtime win. Why? Because Bruins coach Claude Julien moved up fourth-liner Daniel Paille. On many teams, fourth-liners are ballast – fists on skates that bump and bruise to avoid being sent back down to the Charlotte Checkers or Grand Rapids Griffins in the minors. The idea of improving the team by moving a fourth-liner up the pecking order would be preposterous.
Then again, they're all sitting at home now.
Coach Julien was spot on in his news conference after Game 2: The top forward lines always draw an opponent's top defensive pairing, with the result of each often canceling the other out. In the toughest games, where every square inch of the ice is contested – as this series has been – that can leave the third and fourth lines to do the damage.
And make no mistake, that is a major reason the Blackhawks are here, too. Put aside Toews and Kane and Hossa and they still have a positively Bruinian supporting cast. In Game 1, the Blackhawks' third and fourth lines accounted for goals 2, 3, and 4 of Chicago's 4-3 triple overtime win. In Game 2, the Blackhawks' fourth line was by far their most dangerous when the game was in the balance.
It was the same last year, when the Los Angeles Kings won the cup by being steadily unspectacular.
Now, should the Penguins offload Sidney Crosby? Does today's NHL have no room for superstars?
No. But to win the Stanley Cup, it seems, they're no longer a necessity.
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