By Phil Stacey
---- — BOSTON — Rather than relive what happened 101 days prior -- and regurgitate those 17 seconds that turned a date with Game 7 in Chicago into home for the summer without the Stanley Cup in tow -- it’s time to move forward.
The Boston Bruins certainly believe that to be true, beginning the 2013-14 season last night with some new faces, renewed goals and the same in-your-face, drive-the-net style of play that has gotten them to the finals two of the last three seasons. Step 1 was a positive one as they shut down the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1, before the usual 17,565 sellout at TD Garden.
“Last year was a good year. But not a great year,” said Chris Kelly, who scored the first goal of the season for Boston on, of all things, a penalty shot in the first period. “We’re back at square one and have a new group here.”
Well, 18 of the 22 players dressed for last night’s opener did wear the Black-and-Gold last season, so that statement it’s 100 percent accurate. But the newcomers that were brought in. particularly right wingers Jarome Iginla (via free agency) and Loui Eriksson (in a blockbuster trade with Dallas), have already added some new elements that the organization believes will keep them near the top of the NHL pack.
Both players quickly acclimated themselves nicely to both their teammates (Iginla on the top line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic; Eriksson riding RW on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand) and those in the stands. That was especially true of the battle-tested veteran Iginla, who quickly dropped the mitts after being run by Tampa Bay defenseman Radko Gudas in the second period.
“It is always nice,” admitted the 36-year-old Iginla, when asked if getting his first fight as a Bruin out of the way was a good thing. “With the summer off and (you) always feels a bit rusty at the start, it’s always nice going off emotion. Nothing was planned; it was just getting run over, and that’s part of (the game).
“It felt good to play here and play at home -- to be a Bruin.”
With sloppy play dictating the pace for much of the first two periods (the Bruins had just 10 shots in the first 35-plus minutes), the home team got the go-ahead goal by Lucic with a minute to go in the second, then turned up the heat and played their best period over the final 20 minutes.
It was a good night all around, and not just because of the two points they received at game’s end. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg got a new 4-year, $16 million deal earlier in the day; wounded playoff heroes Gregory Campbell and Bergeron drew enormous ovations during the pregame introductions; goalie Tuukka Rask (32 saves) looked to be in midseason form; Kelly and Bergeron both scored shorthanded goals; and kids like Reilly Smith, Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and, in particular, third line left winger Jordan Caron (“I want to keep taking the puck to the net; that’s where my game is”) proved they make the team more cohesive.
“We had a few spurts here or there where we played the way we wanted to in the first two periods,” said Seidenberg, “but really turned it up in the third period. We played much better defensively and turned it up offensively.”
Iginla, one of the greatest players in Calgary Flames history who ultimately chose Pittsburgh over Boston as his trade destination last March before signing with Boston as a free agent in July, also got a taste of what he can expect from the Garden faithful all season.
“The energy in here? It’s cool,” he smiled. “I haven’t played a ton of games here, but over the years it’s been a tough building to play in, especially the last five years. It’s always a good crowd; they’re into it and yelling. It’s tough hockey in here. So it’s nice to be a part of it and feed off of that.”
Things are back to normal here in the NHL’s 2013-14 landscape, where a full 82-game season followed by a two-month playoff grind is once again de rigeur. The Bruins, and their fans, are ready for whatever happens over the next 6-plus months.