The Boston Bruins entered the 2010’s looking for some sort of relevancy in a passionate sports city. They looked on during the previous decade as the Patriots began their reign of dominance, the Red Sox ended the “Curse of the Bambino,” and the Celtics retook the NBA throne after a 22-year drought in 2008.
Not only did the Bruins become relevant in Boston again after a dark decade in the 2000s that included just one second-round playoff appearance, they kick-started another reign of professional sports dominance. And as we look back, the B’s have established themselves in the upper echelon of the NHL, setting themselves up nicely for more success in the next decade.
There were road bumps, including the collapse against the Flyers in 2010 and a pair of tough losses in the Stanley Cup Final. But even those brought some iconic moments that will stay in Bruins’ lore beyond this recent 10-year time frame.
Let’s take a look at some of the top moments of an eventful decade on Causeway Street.
10. The Winter Classic victories at Fenway and Notre Dame
The Winter Classic was still in its infancy when the Bruins hosted the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park to kick off the 2010s. The historic ballpark provided plenty of firsts for the two teams, including the first tilt decided in overtime.
Marco Sturm’s game-winner gave Bruins fans a glimpse of what was to come.
Fast forward to 2019 in South Bend, Indiana, at legendary Notre Dame Stadium. The Bruins, who hosted the event again in a Winter Classic to forget against the Canadiens at Gillette Stadium three years prior, trailed the Blackhawks 2-1 before Patrice Bergeron’s game-changing moment in the second.
In typical Selke fashion, Bergeron stopped David Kampf with a tremendous back-check on a potential shorthanded breakaway. He then glided seamlessly down the other end of the ice and notched the tying tally to set up the third-period heroics from Sean Kuraly.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 1, 2019
— NHL (@NHL) January 1, 2019
9. Bruins top Maple Leafs in Game 7s
These two Original Six franchises shared the postseason stage quite often in the 2010s, where each of their first-round meetings went the distance.
We’ll get to a certain Game 7 later in the list. The other two Game 7’s in both 2018 and 2019 didn’t lack in drama, to say the least.
The first of the back-to-back Game 7’s came after the Maple Leafs earned wins in Games 5 and 6 to force the decisive contest. A scrappy Toronto bunch pushed Boston to the brink as they took a 4-3 lead into the second intermission.
Jake DeBrusk and company had other plans. The rookie forward, just shortly after Torey Krug’s equalizer, netted the go-ahead goal on a 4-on-4. David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand sealed the come-from-behind win over the Auston Matthews-led Maple Leafs.
Fast forward 12 months later. The Bruins trailed three separate times in the series after dropping Games 1, 3, and 5. They bounced back each time in Games 2, 4 and 6 to force another decisive Game 7.
This time, it wasn’t even close even with the Bruins only leading 2-1 heading into the third period. The third and fourth lines provided timely secondary scoring, and Tuukka Rask quieted his critics for one night. A series filled with controversy and suspensions ended with the Bruins celebrating another Game 7 win over their rivals on home ice.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 24, 2019
Similar to another certain Game 7 win over Toronto on the list, the Bruins used their series win over the Maple Leafs to catapult them to another Stanley Cup Final appearance in the spring of 2019.
8. Don Sweeney replaces Peter Chiarelli
The former Bruins GM pushed the right buttons earlier in the decade, acquiring key pieces like Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly, and Dennis Seidenberg. Chiarelli also set the team up nicely when he selected Tyler Seguin second overall in the 2010 NHL Draft.
Chiarelli set off fireworks a mere three years after drafting Seguin. On July 4, 2013, the Harvard grad sent Seguin in a blockbuster trade to Dallas for Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser, and Reilly Smith.
The Bruins didn’t do poorly in the immediate aftermath. Chiarelli replaced Seguin with Jarome Iginla in free agency the very next day. The team stormed through the regular season with the best record in the league before their unceremonious exit to the rival Canadiens in the second round in May of 2014.
Little did Chiarelli know that this would be his second-to-last season. An aging core, questionable contract extensions, and trading Johnny Boychuk sealed Chiarelli’s fate as the Bruins failed to reach the playoffs in the 2014-15 season.
The Bruins promoted then assistant GM Don Sweeney to replace Chiarelli. The ex-Boston blue-liner inherited a cap-strapped team and an underwhelming prospect system from his predecessor.
Sweeney had a rough start. The Bruins failed to reach the playoffs again in his first season in 2015-16. His notable first-year transactions included shipping Milan Lucic to Los Angeles, trading Dougie Hamilton to Calgary, signing Matt Beleskey and adding the likes of Jimmy Hayes, Zac Rinaldo, and Lee Stempniak.
Amidst the bumpy ride in Year 1, the now fifth-year GM had his eyes toward the future. Sweeney replenished the prospect system and developed DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy, and Brandon Carlo into formidable NHL commodities.
Sure, some of his moves haven’t panned out after that rough first season, including the David Backes signing and the Rick Nash trade. But Sweeney more than made up for that after somehow signing Pastrnak, Marchand, Carlo, and McAvoy — among others — over the years without hurting their salary cap situation. That, along with the Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson trades last year and identifying veteran cogs like Jaroslav Halak and Chris Wagner in the summer of 2018, helped form the Bruins into a well-rounded squad over the last two years.
Sweeney did a remarkable job turning over the roster from the Chiarelli regime. But the impact from the next item on our list — albeit under a rather interesting circumstance — exemplified Boston’s turnaround later in the decade.
7. Bruce Cassidy replaces Claude Julien
Like Chiarelli, Julien guided the team through the early part of the Bruins’ renaissance in the 2010s. But he ultimately suffered the same fate following a 10-year tenure in Boston.
Sweeney needed to make a splash as the Bruins continued their transition from a bruising, physical bunch to a more speedy and dynamic hockey club in his second season as GM. Julien preferred the former style of play. Mired in mediocrity and on the cusp of missing another postseason in early February of 2017, Sweeney relieved Julien of his duties on the same day of the Patriots’ fifth Super Bowl parade.
The timing of Julien’s firing itself was hardly ideal throughout Boston. But Sweeney picked the right time to promote Cassidy as the interim head coach.
The rest is history. Cassidy guided the Bruins into an unlikely playoff berth in April. Sweeney removed his interim tag following Boston’s first-round exit to the Ottawa Senators.
The Bruins, with a healthy mix of youth and veterans, are in good hands with Cassidy.
6. Tim Thomas’s historic 2010-11 season
One of the recent inductees to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame had quite the hockey journey during his eventful career.
Thomas arrived in Boston first in 2002-03 following stops in the ECHL, AHL, IHL, and European leagues. He took over the Boston net on a full-time basis in the mid-2000s and established himself as one of the NHL’s premier goaltenders following his Vezina Trophy win in 2009.
Hip issues forced Thomas into a backup role in the 2009-10 season as a young Tuukka Rask took over the starting duties. The former University of Vermont star reclaimed his net the very next season as he put his team on his back en route to one of the best goaltending years in recent league history.
Thomas reclaimed the Vezina Trophy in 2011 after breaking Dominik Hasek’s record for the highest save percentage in a single season. He was even better in the playoffs, especially in the Stanley Cup Final where he allowed a mere eight goals in seven games.
5. Bruins-Canadiens Game 7, 2011
The Bruins battled back from a 2-0 deficit to win the next three against their longtime rivals from up north. But a Canadiens win at the Bell Centre in Game 6 set up a seventh and decisive game on the very next night at TD Garden.
Julien’s bunch didn’t have history on their side. Not only had the Bruins suffered numerous unceremonious exits at the hands of the Canadiens throughout the years, but they also carried haunted Game 7 memories in the previous three seasons.
The Bruins essentially put their future on the line against the Canadiens. Fittingly enough, they needed overtime to decide the series and exorcise their postseason demons.
They looked to a familiar hero to finally breakthrough. Nathan Horton, who notched the Game 5 double-overtime winner just a few nights prior, delivered the shot heard around the Hub after beating Carey Price with a slap shot in the extra session. This marked the Bruins’ first Game 7 win since 1994 when they defeated the reigning Cup champion Canadiens at the old Boston Garden.
Horton and company weren’t done making history. The Bruins swept the Flyers in Round 2 — just 12 months removed from blowing a 3-0 series lead — setting up their matchup with the up-and-coming Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.
4. Bruins-Lightning Game 7, 2011
The Bruins and Lightning provided plenty of moments leading up to yet another Game 7, including Tyler Seguin’s spark in his first-ever playoff action, a Lightning comeback from 3-0 down in Game 4, and Thomas’ highlight-reel diving save on Steve Downie in Game 5.
All the twists and turns from the series led to another decisive seventh game. The Bruins, even with their first-round Game 7 win over Montreal, didn’t have history on their side going up against Dwayne Roloson and his stellar record in elimination games. The former Tampa netminder did all he could to give his team a chance to win, but once again, Horton provided the heroics with his third-period tally — the only goal of the game — providing one of the loudest frenzies in TD Garden history.
The Bruins fed off that roar from the crowd in the final minutes, securing their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1990. They provided one more historic moment for their passionate fans a few weeks later.
3. Rene Rancourt’s anthem after the Boston Marathon bombings
No words can describe the horror of the Boston Marathon bombings in the spring of 2013. The city soldiered on in the years since, but the senseless acts still resonate for many Bostonians.
All four sports teams in the city provided a source of comfort in the immediate aftermath. The Red Sox and Bruins, in particular, took the grieving process to heart.
Several cities, including Chicago and Montreal, provided touching pregame tributes the day of the Marathon Bombings. The Bruins returned to the TD Garden ice two nights later for an important night of the healing process.
Legendary former anthem singer Rene Rancourt came out as usual to sing the Star-Spangled Banner. He sang the first few verses before conducting the rest of Francis Scott Key’s song as the 17,565 in attendance finished the festivities in unison.
The Bruins lost in a shootout to the Buffalo Sabres. The end result hardly mattered to anyone on this emotional night.
Boston’s Original Six squad gave the fans more to cheer for later that spring.
2. The Game 7 comeback for the ages against Toronto in 2013
The Bruins’ postseason success against the Maple Leafs began in the most improbable way.
The Phil Kessel-led Maple Leafs came back from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7 at TD Garden. They appeared well on their way to completing the comeback as they scored twice in the third to take a 4-1 lead.
Slowly but surely, the Bruins clawed their way back, starting with Nathan Horton’s tally just 3:49 after Nazem Kadri gave Toronto the three-goal cushion. The desperate B’s kept pushing with each shift, eventually breaking through again on Milan Lucic’s second goal of the postseason with 1:22 left in regulation.
Bergeron made the most of that new life. With the net empty, the longest-tenured Bruin fired a shot from the point past Reimer — with 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara providing the perfect screen — to even things up.
A deflated Maple Leafs bunch never stood a chance in overtime. Bergeron made quick work in the extra session, burying a Seguin feed to complete the historic come-from-behind victory.
The Bruins earned another trip to the Stanley Cup Final later that spring, falling in heartbreaking fashion to the Blackhawks in six games. Even with the loss, they may not have set themselves up for more success in the coming years without writing another chapter in Boston hockey lore.
1. The Stanley Cup win in 2011
The Vancouver Canucks entered the Stanley Cup Final as heavy favorites following one of their best regular-season performances in franchise history. But they also had to exorcise their own demons in Round 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks — who eliminated the Canucks in the 2009 and 2010 postseasons — after nearly blowing a three-games-to-none series lead.
Vancouver cruised to the final round following series wins over Nashville and San Jose. They appeared well on their way to their first Cup in franchise history after taking the first two games over the Bruins at home.
The Bruins endured a pair of tough losses against an edgy Cancucks squad. They returned to TD Garden a different team, taking their frustrations out on Burrows (who bit Bergeron’s hand in Game 1), the Sedins, Roberto Luongo, and company, winning Games 3 and 4 on home ice.
The two teams traded home wins again in Games 5 and 6 to set up another Game 7. Horton, who sustained a concussion from Aaron Rome’s hit in Game 3, sneaked a Gatorade bottle labeled “Garden Ice” and sprayed the water on the Rogers Arena surface in front of Boston’s bench, providing quite the good luck charm.
The Bruins made the most of their last game of the season. Bergeron and Brad Marchand — in their first year as linemates — each scored twice, and Thomas capped off his historic season with his second shutout of the series.
Only five players remain on the squad from that 2011 run — Marchand, Bergeron, Chara, Rask and David Krejci. But the memories from that triumphant season live on.
With a talented and close-knit core intact, the Bruins have set themselves up nicely for the next decade. Whether they can replicate or top the moments from the 2010s is anyone’s guess.