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Kick to the face, kick to the gut: An evening with the Boston Bruins

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  March 28, 2013 09:28 AM

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What the hell just happened?

The sting of losing a wildly uneven game to the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night was at least tempered as Bruins fans went to bed with the comforting thought that Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla indeed appeared like he was going to trade his burning “C” for a spoked “B,” a shrewd move by Boston GM Peter Chiarelli that would dramatically improve the Bruins’ offense.

By sunrise, the stark reality smacked them awake like one of Tyler Seguin’s smelling salts. Iginla is in Pittsburgh, traded for an inferior package, and leaving Boston with a 1-2 punch to the gut with only one point in the standings to show for it.

As if the Bruins’ 6-5 loss to the Canadiens weren’t painful enough, blowing a two-goal, third-period lead, and ultimately losing in a dreadful shootout, Boston lost out on their guy by no fault of its own. The Bruins reportedly offered Calgary a package that included defenseman Matt Bartkowski, 19-year-old center Alexander Khokhlachev, and a first-round draft pick. But Iginla has a no-movement clause, and he told Flames GM Jay Feaster that he’d rather play for the Penguins.

The cost? Two college kids and a first-round draft pick.

If anyone should be most frustrated about how things went down Wednesday night, it should be Calgary Flames fans, first and foremost. The Flames reportedly preferred the Boston offer, but bowed to the wishes of their franchise player and took one that paled in comparison. Wasn’t this supposed to be about building for the future instead of patting the guy on the back on his way out the door? Owner Murray Edwards and Feaster are sure to be roasted today north of the border for not getting significant value in return for their franchise player.

Not to mention, why exactly the urgency to make the deal a week before the deadline? If it was a case of them bowing to the athlete’s demands, then maybe Iginla isn’t really the type of dressing room presence the Bruins ultimately want.

So, now do the Bruins turn their attention south to Tampa Bay, much like they did in 2009 when they acquired veteran Mark Recchi at the trading deadline? There are some, like the Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont, who preferred chasing Lightning veteran Martin St. Louis over Iginla in the first place, even at the age of 37 and signed for two more seasons. St. Louis’ 42 points would place him far and away as the Bruins’ top scorer this season, and his eight goals would be just behind Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, and Brad Marchand. The former University of Vermont standout would also give the Bruins another dynamic veteran presence, much like Recchi was during his pivotal time here.

Jaromir Jagr may be 41, but the ageless wonder is still playing at such a high level that the Dallas Stars may be talking about an extension with him. That seems a little odd for a player of his age, and one would have to figure the price to land him in Boston wouldn’t be outrageous. But the glaring need for more than a scoring forward was evident Wednesday night, when the Habs took a 2-1 season series lead on the Bruins, who out-shot the Canadiens 41-28, only to ultimately watch Brendan Gallagher score the only goal in a shootout that might as well have been sponsored by “Waiting for Godot.”

Edmonton’s Ryan Whitney is an intriguing name, yet, fair or unfair, I can’t get this thought out of my head when it comes to trading for veteran Massachusetts-bred players (and really, looking back, that season wasn’t really as bad as we all made it out to be at the time). Ottawa is only four points behind the Bruins, so landing Sergei Gonchar seems a little unrealistic, and the same would seem true of Winnipeg's Ron Hainsey, but with Johnny Boychuk now on injured reserve, and Adam McQuaid out for what likely amounts to the rest of the regular season, the Bruins desperately need help on defense. Unless you think Torey Krug is the answer.

There’s less than a week for Chiarelli to shake out all the particulars, but any criticism directed his way for not getting the Iginla deal done is foolhardy. By most accounts, he had the better offer on the table. Iginla wanted to go to Pittsburgh, where he will reunite with former Olympic teammate Sidney Crosby, whom he set up for the game-winning goal in the 2010 gold medal game in British Columbia. Not sure that any semblance of a counter offer was going to change that, or deny the temptation to reunite with Crosby. Iginla was doing what was good for Iginla at that point, not the Flames.

Ten seconds remained in the game. The Bruins were going to throttle two points over the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference standings, and they were going to land prized trading commodity Jarome Iginla. Inexplicably, neither happened, and it has left the front office, players, and coaching staff reeling, wondering where it all went wrong, and more imperatively, how to fix it.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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