BOSTON (AP) — Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand doesn’t believe for a second that the window is closing on the team’s chances to win another Stanley Cup championship with the core that etched its name on the trophy in 2011.
One of five members of the last Bruins team to won it all – they also returned to the Cup finals two years later – Marchand insisted there’s no special push to win before 42-year-old defenseman Zdeno Chara skates into retirement
”That guys going to play until he’s 50,” Marchand said with a laugh. ”He’s just a freak. He competes and trains and prepares harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. There’s a reason why he’s going to be a Hall of Fame player, and he’s playing at his age because he cares and trains well enough to be here.”
The Bruins open their postseason Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Game 2 is Saturday night before the best-of-seven series moves to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 on The two teams also played in the first round last year, when Boston won in seven games.
But Chara is a year older, and he played in just 62 games this season after missing six weeks in November and December with a left knee injury. So is forward Patrice Bergeron, now 33, who along with David Krejci (32), goalie Tuukka Rask (31) and Marchand (30), are the only players left from the ’11 champions.
”I don’t think about that,” said Chara, who signed an extension through next season. ”I’m in the present, where my feet are.”
But at least one of his younger teammates is thinking about it.
”There’s definitely a part of it that says, ‘Hey, let’s win it for these guys,”’ said 21-year-old defenseman Charlie McAvoy. ”There’s gonna come a time, unfortunately, where the team might not look the same that it looks now, whenever that day comes. But I think that the team we have is so special. … It just seems like there’s something about this locker room and the veterans that bring everyone so close. It truly is a family.”
Here are some other things to look for from the series:
Toronto is looking to advance in the postseason for the first time in 15 years, and Boston is a bad draw. The Bruins not only knocked them out last year, but also in a devastating seven-game series their previous playoff matchup, in 2013.
After taking a 3-1 lead in the series, Boston lost Games 5 and 6 and fell behind 4-1 in the third period of the decisive seventh game. But they rallied to send it into overtime with two goals in the last 82 seconds of regulation, then won en route to their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in three years.
Boston also won this year’s season series 3-1.
”I don’t think anything in the past has anything to do with this season. I don’t think they’re concerned about it,” Marchand said. ”We are going gonna start a whole new season tomorrow.”
The Maple Leafs added center John Tavares to the team that lost to Boston in last year’s playoffs, and that’s no small difference. The former Islander, who signed a seven-year, $77-million deal with Toronto as a free agent, tallied 88 points this season, including a league-leading 37 even-strength goals.
Toronto had never had back-to-back 100-point years before earning 105 last season and 100 on the nose in 2018-19. (To be fair, for the first half of their history they played between 18 and 70 games; the addition of a point for an OT or shootout loss has also contributed to the inflation.)
For Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, it’s proof that things are going in the right direction.
”When I look at what we’ve been able to do here, I’m obviously really proud of where we’re at and where we’re going,” he said after practice in Toronto.
It has also created pressure on the team to end a Stanley Cup drought that dates to 1967.
”Pressure is a privilege,” he said. ”Pressure simply means you have a chance. A little duress for everybody, and that’s where the fun’s at.”