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Black and Gold, Silver, Bronze: Bruins back from Sochi riding wave of success

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  February 26, 2014 03:44 AM

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Black and gold.

And more gold, silver and bronze.

The success of the Bruins' players and coaches in Sochi serve as a reminder of just how strong this organization truly is, especially as the Quest for the 2014 Stanley Cup enters its second stage. Boston's 25-game dash to the playoffs begin Wednesday night at Buffalo. The Bruins are first place in the Atlantic Division with 78 points, just five points behind Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference.

But we're talking big picture, here.

Really big.

Patrice Bergeron's gold-medal moment in Sochi reinforced to the world what Bruins' fans have known for years.

He is one of the best pure hockey players in the world. Bergeron is a rare player who can elevate those around him. Team Canada was loaded with stars and it was the presence of skilled veteran leaders like Bergeron who helped the team play within itself and maintain its "shut everyone else down first and win later style" of play.

The Bruins were reminded too that they made a pretty good investment in their goalie as he stonewalled the Americans in the Bronze Medal game as Finland skated to a 5-0 victory.

En route to keeping America in the "0" category on the Sochi scoreboard, Tuukka Rask had to make a pair of saves on Patrick Kane penalty shots.

The first one was very impressive and sounded even more so in Finnish:

Kane's second penalty shot beat Rask to his left side.

But Tuukka often makes the goal posts and crossbars around him play so much better in big games.

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The metallic tally for the Bruins in Sochi was gold for Bergeron, silver for Loui Eriksson and a bronze for Rask.

Not getting any medals but equally deserving of praise for their performance in building and guiding Team Canada was Bruins coach Claude Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli.

Remember all that talk about "Team Chemistry" being the secret weapon for the Red Sox in 2013? Well, Canada owned the entire Table of Periodic Elements. Team Canada gelled into a Big Red Olympic Machine that rivaled the one produced by the Soviet Union back in the 1970s.

"Team chemistry was great right from the get-go. It was a lot of fun," Julien said of Canada's performance. There were multiple stars in the Canadian Olympic Hockey Galaxy - from Boss Steve Yzerman [he won't be back in 2018], to Boston punching bag [Has anyone seen "Owen" lately?"] Sidney Crosby, to Bruins-killer Jonathan Toews.

The Olympics were a spectacular achievement for the Bruins. While many of their fans are still frustrated and furious over Team USA's flops against Finland and Canada, the success of the medal-winning Bruins and the members of their leadership team who put their egos aside to help their home nation mine gold are all great signs for the spring.

"Tommy From Andover" and the talk show hosts who love him will no doubt be furious that Rask didn't make the trip to Buffalo - "Damn, Traitor!" They and their ilk will certainly sow the seeds of the Bruins' destruction because of Tuukka's one-game absence. Laughable but inevitable foolishness.

The hidden lesson from Sochi was the reminder that the Bruins have one of the most successful, stable and flat-out smartest operations in the NHL. As much as some Bruins diehards may not want to admit, this even extends to the sometimes-dreaded Jeremy Jacobs and his family.

Success in any large organization comes from the top down, no matter how hard or how intelligent those at the ground floor may be.

The backbone of Boston's Decade of Dominance, as it slides into the Score of Success, has been fiscally stable ownership backed by a fan base willing to put up the money to make it all so.

Winning goes way beyond providing the budget. It is built upon thousands of decisions:

  • In whom do you invest?
  • Which players do you choose to develop/draft?
  • Which players do you choose to keep?
  • Who gets dealt?
  • How much do your stars earn?
  • How do you handle the players [in this case] on and off the ice?

The Bruins' Ice Trinity of President Cam Neely, GM Chiarelli and Julien ranks among the best in the league.

It would be hard for the Bruins to find a better combination. There's the un-anointed Ivy League genius in Chiarelli. He stands in contrast to that former Red Sox GM who attended Yale and was thus deemed the smartest baseball executive since Albert Einstein joined the 1938 Rotisserie League. That same baseball GM also wasn't afraid to remind us of that fact through his mouthpieces in the press on a regular basis.

Neely is the former Bruins' top scorer and enforcer who automatically has the respect of anyone on the ice because of stuff like this:

Julien could become the Bruins' all-time winningest coach next season. He's got 293 regular-season victories behind the bench in Boston, and a Stanley Cup. That's more wins and more Stanley Cups in Boston than Don Cherry produced. Art Ross, he of the trophy bearing the same name, has 361 wins as the Bruins all-time top coach. Julien communicates clearly with his players, he makes sure they know what to expect, from all accounts given he treats them fairly and with respect. You know, all of the things that didn't happen during the Bobby Valentine Error.

Speaking of "chemistry," based on what we see both in public, via State Run Media and other unaffiliated sources, the Bruins present the picture of a model organization. The closest thing to off-ice crises the Bruins have face in recent years have been the result of Tyler Seguin's proclivity for alcohol, female companionship and late-night fun along with Tim Thomas' displeasure with the results of the 2008 presidential election. [He was gone before the 2012 vote.] There were a few bumps on the road, but the apocalypse never happened.

Once the Jacobs' family made their commitment to spent what it takes to compete in the post-lockout NHL about 10 years ago, the Bruins dabbled with minimal success in the playoffs. Things bottomed out four years ago after the last Winter Games when the team took a 3-0 lead against the Flyers before doing its version of the 2004 Yankees on Ice.

The Bruins have been a Stanley Cup Champion or legit contender since. While Julien's defensive-control-the-puck-first style can be frustrating and antagonizing at times to watch - especially on a regular basis - it proved unbeatable in Sochi. It's done well for the Bruins, too, except for perhaps the final two minutes of Game 6 against the Blackhawks.

Chiarelli's Harvard education has not been wasted in the executive offices at 100 Legends Way. The Bruins remain one veteran player short on defense, due to the injury to Dennis Seidenberg. A rent-a-scorer for the late-season and playoffs might not hurt, either. The foundation and basis for another deep Stanley Cup run is there right now.

The closest thing to a recent flop has been the acquisition of Eriksson, who came to Boston after Chiarelli dismissed Seguin with a Mob Boss Waive of the Hand in the first episode of "Behind the B."

Eriksson's numbers in Boston have been anemic, just six goals and 20 assists in 37 games. His play in Sochi, however, was refreshing. He had two goals, three assists in six games while averaging 19:01 of playing time. Julien, for one, is optimistic that he'll find his scoring flash before the NCAA Tournament. "If he plays for us the way he did over there, we're going to get a pretty good idea of what he's capable of bringing. [The Olympics] was a good thing for him," Julien told Comcast Sports' Joe Haggerty.

The litany of Chiarelli's successes spread from signing Zdeno Chara as a free-agent just over a month after he was hired as GM to bringing up Torey Krug just in time to provide a surprise spark during last spring's Stanley Cup run.

There's no doubt he has a few more deft moves left between now and whenever this season ends.

Got a news tip, want to let me know directly what you think, or have a complaint or compliment about my "aggressively relevant" content, hit me up on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail me at obnoxiousbostonfan@hotmail.com. Thanks always for reading and pass the clicker.

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