All The President’s Men: The 1990 Boston Bruins (Part 3)

Today, we wrap up the tribute to the 1990 Boston Bruins, the franchise’s first President’s Trophy-winning team, with the run through the playoffs. This was written 20 years ago and has been updated in certain sections, but apologies for some of the wooden writing- we’ve come a long way since 2000. Hope you have enjoyed this look back at that team and season.- KL


As the 1990 playoffs began, the Boston Bruins were riding high with a regular season title, but knew they faced a tough opponent in the Hartford Whalers, who had an impressive and ever-improving young core. The B’s and their fans knew that all of the goodwill of a President’s Trophy would be for naught if they were knocked out in an upset, and the Whalers had the talent to do it.

Bruins-Hartford Whalers: April 5-17, 1990

Rejean Lemelin got the start in game 1 of Boston’s 1990 postseason.  Milbury had gone with the hot goalie and Lemelin had been just that down the stretch, including an impressive 3-0 shutout of the Blues on March 27th.  Lemelin had been in net when Boston clinched the President’s Trophy, so it seemed only right that he get the call for the Bruins-Whalers home opener.   The Whalers were led by the likes of Ron Francis, Kevin Dineen, Pat Verbeek, Ray Ferraro and Ulf Samuelsson. They had enough firepower up front and a solid if unspectacular defense to pose a threat, but in net, Peter Sidieorkewicz was seen as a chink in the armor that the B’s could exploit. Despite that, Game 1 was a dud, as the Whalers stole a 4-3 victory from the Bruins at the Boston Garden to take away Boston’s home ice advantage and place a good amount of pressure squarely on Boston’s shoulders.  The Whalers sent the unequivocal message that the series would not be a walkover.

Andy Moog took Lemelin’s place in Game 2, and made some great stops en route to a 3-1 win to even the series at one game each heading back to the Hartford Civic Center.  The Bruins got a key goal from Garry Galley, but lost a critical component when Ray Bourque was checked into the boards and suffered a major thigh contusion that sidelined him for games 3-6.  The Boston Bruins discovered that they would have to win the series without their captain and best player.

Armed with a renewed confidence, the Whalers stormed the Boston net in Game 4, ripping Moog for 5 goals and taking a 2-1 series lead.  Milbury went back to Lemelin for Game 4, but the change had little effect as the Whalers jumped out to a 5-2 lead going into the third period.  As the puck dropped to start the final frame, the Boston coach went back to Moog and looked to his bench for some veteran leadership.  He got it in the form of Dave Poulin.

Poulin began to cut into the Whaler lead when he scored a goal to make it 5-3 early in the period.  Craig Janney later found rookie defenseman Bob Beers, a University of Maine standout and recent call-up from the Maine Mariners of the American Hockey League, cutting to the net and gave him a perfect pass that the rearguard redirected into the Hartford net past Sidieorkewicz to pull the Bruins to within one.

Dave Christian tied the game at 5-5 when he one-timed a pass in the high slot upstairs on the Whaler goalie, and everyone at the Civic Center that night could feel the electric surge of a Bruins team firing on all cylinders.  As the time ran off the clock, Poulin scored his second goal of the game while standing just inside the crease to give Boston the lead with 1:44 to play in regulation. The Bruins held on for the win, 6-5.  Whaler forward Dean Evason protested the call mightily, arguing that Poulin had interfered with Sidieorkewicz prior to sliding the puck past him, but the goal stood, evening the series at 2 games apiece.  Instead of being down 3-1, the Bruins headed back to the Garden at two games apiece and a new lease on life. The Whalers had the regular season champs where they wanted them and let them wriggle free.

The Bruins and Whalers traded home wins, the Whalers scrapping to a seventh game on Kevin Dineen’s overtime-winner in Game 6.  The teams returned to the Boston Garden for the decisive contest, but the Bruins would get a huge boost from Bourque’s return to the lineup, as well as help from an unlikely source.

Rookie winger John Byce was fresh from helping the University of Wisconsin to the 1990 NCAA Championship.  Called up just in time to make his debut and wearing number 42, Byce scored in the Game 7’s first minute to give Boston the lead and a huge lift.  Neely scored the game-winner, but the Bruins also got some sensational goaltending from Andy Moog, including a barehanded save late in the action after his trapper was knocked loose in a scrum in front of the Boston net.

Bruins-Montreal Canadiens: April 19-27, 1990

The Bruins escaped humiliation at the hands of a tough and talented Hartford Whalers team that extended the postseason favorites to the limit, but knew they faced an even bigger challenge ahead against their old nemesis, the Montreal Canadiens.  Although the Bruins had ended a 45-year curse of losing to the Habs in the postseason in the 1988 playoffs, they were ousted the following year by the Canadiens, making Boston fans wonder if another prolonged playoff drought against Montreal might be in the works.

Lemelin had been the hero in 1988 series against the Canadiens and throughout the playoffs, as the Bruins went the distance only to fall to the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers in a four-game sweep.  In 1990, he was still a solid netminder, but his shaky performance against the Whalers in Games 1 and 4 of the Adams Division Semifinal had placed him on the end of the Boston bench as Moog’s backup.

Heading into Game 1 of the Boston-Montreal 1990 Adams Division Final, there was some speculation that Lemelin would get the call.  He did not, but Lemelin provided encouragement to the 30-year old Moog, who had once stunned a heavily favored Canadiens team in the 1982 playoffs when Moog was an NHL neophyte.

The opening game featured a goaltending duel between Moog and Canadiens star Patrick Roy. Each goalie was on top of his game and both turned aside the opposing teams’ assaults with grace and ease, but then Boston broke through to score the first goal of the series.

As he had done against Hartford, Poulin netted a clutch tally when he picked up a rebound in the slot in front of Roy and fired a high backhand shot that eluded the Montreal ace.  At age 31, Poulin’s 30-goal scoring days were behind him, but on this night, his score was indicative of both leadership and talent, as he elevated his game to meet the challenges of a foe who had grown to near mythical proportions over the years. Many worthy Bruins teams had faced the Canadiens, only to go down in defeat time after time, but on this night, Poulin’s tally electrified the Garden and gave the faithful reason to believe that the previous year’s loss to Montreal would be avenged.  As it turned out, the lone Poulin goal was all Boston needed as Moog was perfect in the nets, getting help from a solid defense in front of him, while stopping all other shots for the third playoff shutout of his career.

Game Two several nights later would prove to be an entirely different story from the opening contest as each team would mount impressive offensive displays.  Montreal opened the scoring and led throughout most of the game.  Boston nemeses Shayne Corson and Stephane Richer each netted strikes, while the Bruins responded with tallies from John Carter, the diminutive forward from Woburn, Massachusetts who had won a NCAA title at RPI with future Bruin Adam Oates, and Propp.  Yet, each time Boston would tie the score, Montreal would pull ahead.

As time wound down in the final period and the Canadiens clung to a 4-3 lead, the Bruins got a late power play and golden opportunity to even the score once again.  With the added time and space at the game’s crucial moment, Neely was the one the team looked to make things right, and he did not disappoint.  Standing in the slot to the left of the Montreal net, Neely got a pass from Janney and one-timed a blistering shot high into the twine to pull the Bruins even and send the Garden crowd into hysterics.  Ten years before, Boston would have hit a post, missed the net, or shot the puck into the Canadiens netminder, but not on this night.  With the game tied and the home building rocking, the Bruins took a huge momentum boost into the overtime period with them.

There is a finality about sudden death overtime in hockey that few sports can match.  When the puck goes in the net, and the referee points to signal the goal, one team is exalted in victory, while the other cannot get off the ice fast enough in defeat.  With overtime comes tremendous stress, as each shot taken could be the last, each save becomes more difficult than the previous one, and fatigue takes its toll.  As Boston and Montreal prepared to face each other in overtime, the Bruins no doubt thought about how devastating it would be to take a 1-1 series split into the Forum in Montreal, while the Canadiens must have felt the fear of failing in front of a charged up Boston crowd and what going down 2-0 to the best team in hockey would do to their Stanley Cup aspirations.

The teams began the 20-minute overtime period a little tentatively, but as the players skated up and down the ice, a sense of urgency to end the contest developed.  For Boston fans, the memory of Game 7 in 1979, when Montreal got a late power play goal from Guy Lafleur and Yvon Lambert put a dagger through a city’s heart in overtime, still lingered painfully.  Could this game be a chance for redemption, to turn the tables on the Canadiens?

The decisive play began innocently enough, as the Bruins gained the Montreal zone and attempted to set up a play.  B’s defenseman Garry Galley got the puck near the Canadiens’ blueline and then pinching down, hit Janney with a pass behind the Montreal net.  As Janney took the feed, Galley drove hard towards the goal and in a play reminiscent of a Derek Sanderson-Bobby Orr pass from behind the goal line back in 1970, Janney put the puck back on Galley’s stick as he cut to the front of the net.  No. 28 made a soft redirection that squirted between Roy’s five-hole and just like that, Galley and the Bruins inflicted death in sudden fashion on the Canadiens.

The Garden crowd roared as Galley skated around the left side boards, jumping up and down in similar fashion to old Buffalo Sabre forward Mike Foligno’s goal scoring celebrations, embracing his rejoicing Bruins teammates as he did so.  In one instant, the Bruins had finally gotten their well-deserved lead in the game, and it was all they needed.  Boston took the two games to none series lead into Montreal and prepared for the pivotal showdown in game thee, where a wounded Canadiens team was expected to fight to the death.

As it turned out, Montreal came out a bit flat and did not get the best game from the netminder, Roy.  Carter scored again to chase Roy from the nets with a 3-0 Boston lead.  Roy’s backup, Brian Hayward, would fare no better, giving up rookie Don Sweeney’s first career playoff goal on a long blast from the blueline.  The Bruins soundly thumped the Canadiens at home to take a 3-0 series lead.

Although the Canadiens won game four by a score of 4-1, the Bruins returned to the Boston Garden secure in the knowledge that they could close out their archrival in front of the long-suffering home crowd.  Where Boston had broken the string of futility against the Canadiens in 1988 at the Forum, they now had the chance to eliminate the hated Habs in front of their fans.  It was an opportunity they would not squander.

Boston fan favorite Randy Burridge got the crowd going when he scored on a long backhand shot that found the net just inside the left post.  It was a shot that Roy perhaps should have stopped, but didn’t.  As Burridge commenced to doing his celebratory “stump pump,” by pumping his forearm after each goal scored, the legions of Boston fans could sense a possible victory in the works.  It was a little premature, as it turned out.

 Moog did his best to stem the onslaught of desperate Montreal hockey players who seemed determined to come back from the 3-1 series deficit.  As well as Moog played, the Canadiens got the equalizer from Stephane Lebeau and the two teams settled into a chess match, as each club waited for the other to make a fatal mistake.  Both Moog and Roy made crucial saves to keep the score knotted at 1-1, and as the time in the game wound down, the two clubs seemed destined to settle the matter in overtime as they had done in game two.

 Then, Glen Wesley, who had been the hero of the November 16 win against Montreal, showed why he had been a top-three pick in the draft three years earlier.  A hard Galley shot hit the glass behind the net and bounced in the slot in front of Roy.  The puck was bouncing and rolling and Propp swiped at it and missed.  You could hear the collective groan of the home crowd at the missed chance, visions of a Boston loss in overtime manifesting themselves in the minds of fans, many of whom had seen too much disappointment at the hands of the Canadiens over the years.  Suddenly, Wesley swooped in from the point and batted at the puck, firing it into the open net over a sliding Roy’s shoulder and giving Boston a huge 2-1 lead with just 1:14 to play.  Neely added an empty-net goal to make it academic with 5 seconds left.

As the time expired on the clock and Boston won their hard-fought 4-1 series victory, it seemed as if the ghosts of all of those humiliating defeats to Montreal since 1943 were officially chased from the Garden.  Bourque and Moog embraced each other as the wild celebration began and that image summed up the meaning of the win for so many followers of the Bruins.  It seemed like for so long, the Bruins had always found a way to lose to the Canadiens franchise.  Now, they had not only found the will to win, but had manhandled Montreal in the process.  There were still two more hurdles to get over for the Stanley Cup, but in defeating the Canadiens, for at least one night, all was right with the world.

Bruins-Washington Capitals: May 3-9, 1990

Boston’s next opponent was the Washington Capitals, a once-woeful team who despite recent regular season success, had never even gotten out of the Patrick Division in postseason play until then.  Washington had found an unlikely hero in journeyman forward John Druce, whose eruption in double-digit goal scoring (after just eight goals in the regular season) had led the Caps to the conference final series for the first time in franchise history. Their lineup featured a solid nucleus of younger veterans such as Scott Stevens, Dino Ciccarelli, Kelly Miller former Bruin Geoff Courtnall and Mike Ridley.  The Bruins were heavy favorites, but at the same time, the Capitals were not to be taken lightly.

Game one featured a seesaw battle between the two teams.  Despite goals from Neely and Galley in the opening period, the Capitals took a 3-2 lead into the final 20 minutes of play.  Boston saved it’s best for last and came at the Capitals like the league’s top team.

The Philadelphia Flyer connection set the conditions for success when Poulin scored on veteran netminder Mike Liut to even the score at 3-3.  Brian Propp got the game-winner when he finished a give-and-go play with Neely to give the Bruins the 4-3 lead.  Poulin added an empty-netter in the final minute to earn the 1-0 series lead for Boston.

In game two, the Capitals went with goalie Don Beaupre, but it didn’t make much difference, as Boston fired home three goals in a 3-0 white wash.  Bobby Carpenter, Neely and Janney got the strikes while Moog stoned the Capitals for his second playoff shutout of the 1990 postseason.  Moog’s finest save of the night came against former teammate Bobby Joyce, who had been dealt back in December for Christian and no doubt felt a twinge of sadness that his team was getting soundly beaten by his old club.

When the Bruins faced a surly Capitals team in Landover, Maryland for game three, even a Dale Hunter cheapshot on Janney could not deter Boston from winning the contest.  The dirty hit was a precursor of sorts for Hunter, as he hit the young Boston star just after Janney had fired the puck past Beaupre to give the Bruins a lead and was in the process of celebrating.  Hunter was not fined or suspended for the hit, and perhaps that lack of league action contributed to Hunter later deliberately injuring New York Islanders star Pierre Turgeon in a near-identical play three years later in the 1993 postseason.  The league would give Hunter a 21-game suspension for hitting Turgeon from behind.

In a 4-1 Bruins victory in game three, former Washington star Christian, Janney, Burridge and Neely (empty net goal) scored to take a 3-0 series lead and turn Boston’s thoughts to a series sweep for the first time since they had done the trick in 1979 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Up 3-0, the Bruins prepared to show the killer instinct that had allowed them to rise to the top of the standings and unfortunately for the hapless Capitals, they were about to find out what it felt like to be out-matched in every area.

The Bruins struck quickly to open game four, compliments of a Carter goal that fired up his teammates.  Neely scored a pair of markers in the game, none prettier than the bang-bang play he made with Propp to put the game away.  Propp had the puck deep in Washington’s left corner.  As the Caps defender knocked him to the ice, Propp slid a perfect pass along the ice to a wide-open Neely standing alone in the slot.  Neely one-timed a shot upstairs on Liut, back in net for the first time since Game 1, before the former Blues and Whalers goalie could even react.  Although the final score was 3-2, the Bruins handled the Capitals with ease, and it was only through the grace of some impressive Liut saves that the score was not more lopsided.  Moog made the stops most important to earn his 12th playoff win of 1990.

When the game ended, the Bruins’ celebration was a lot more subdued than it had been two years before when they closed out a feisty New Jersey Devils team in seven games on the Garden ice.  In Landover, Bourque quietly accepted the Prince of Wales Conference Championship Trophy and the team got off the ice relatively quickly.

Bruins-Edmonton Oilers: May 15-24, 1990

Their next opponent was the Edmonton Oilers, who had hammered the favored Chicago Blackhawks with ease in the Campbell Conference Final.  Still armed with top guns Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Craig Simpson and a young stonewall in net named Bill Ranford, the Oilers were a team not to be taken lightly.  It was do or die time for the Bruins, and on May 15, 1990, the stage was set for a battle for the ages to take place at the Boston Garden between the two franchises who boasted some of the greatest hockey talents in the entire world.

Game One began on a sour note for the Bruins and the legions of fans who turned out to the sweltering Garden to cheer on their team.  Edmonton’s Adam Graves, one of the players and anchor of the surprisingly effective “Kid Line” with Joe Murphy and Martin Gelinas, got on the board first when he fired a wrist shot past Moog to put the visitors ahead and but a damper the festive atmosphere.  At that point in his career, Graves was a slightly underachieving winger who had enjoyed a prolific scoring career in the Ontario Hockey League, but had yet to get his game together in the big show.  That goal not only got him started on the path to success, but gave the Oilers a huge lift against the hometown Bruins.  The Bruins out-shot the Oilers 10-6 in the first 20 minutes, but had nothing to show for it.  Ranford had brought his “A” game back in time to face the team that had traded him back in March of 1988 for the very player opposing him in net at the other end of the ice.

Boston tried to carry the play in the second period, but got burned again when an Edmonton bounce allowed the veteran Anderson to break into the zone from the right, skate across the slot and put the puck past Moog to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead and take the life out of the fans on hand who were having a hard time believing what was happening.  Again, the Bruins out-shot the Oilers by a 6-4 margin, but the Edmonton defense held and Ranford proved to be equal to the task when they didn’t.

The third period opened with a bang when at 3:43, Bourque took a Greg Hawgood pass and ripped a shot up high that beat Ranford and cut the Oiler lead in half.

The Garden came alive as Ranford’s seemingly impenetrable wall had finally been breached by none other than the franchise player himself.  After potting the score, Bourque was energized, and the Bruins went on to out-shoot the Oilers 15-6 in the final frame.

The Oilers clung to their one-goal lead in hopes that the clock would count down to zero with the score intact, and it would prove costly.  With less than two minutes to go in regulation, Hawgood gained the Edmonton zone and put the puck into the right corner.  Neely got to it first and using his size and strength, muscled the Edmonton defenseman out of the play.  Neely whirled and fired the puck out in front of the Oiler net and Bourque swooped in.  The puck was on his stick a split second, and then it was bulging the twine as a sprawling and helpless Ranford tried to go from post-to-post in vain.

The Garden erupted into mass chaos as the packed house saw the red light go on and Bourque curl and crouch for his patented post-goal celebration and arm pumping.  Just like that, there was a brand new hockey game in Boston and the Bruins had all the momentum in the world.

As regulation time wound down, the Bruins launched one more furious assault on Ranford and the Oiler goal, and Bourque nearly potted the hat trick goal as he was in close for a shot that Ranford smothered in a crease scrum in the game’s final seconds.  When the final seconds reached zero, the players left the ice in a 2-2 deadlock.  But in the playoffs, a tie game at the end of regulation means that nothing is settled and the teams prepared to do battle once again for the all-important 13th win of the postseason.  Whoever scored first would not only get the victory, but the critical lead in the series.

The teams battled in the first 20-minute overtime period, but left the ice with nothing settled.  For the first time in the hockey game, the Oilers outshot the Bruins, this time by only a 7-6 margin, but Moog had to come up big against none other than Messier who, along with Neely, was leading the league in postseason scoring.

To a second overtime they went, and just three minutes into the fifth period, Glen Wesley nearly ended the game.

With Ranford down and out and the puck on his backhand, Wesley fired a rising shot over the net.  Bruins fans have used this miss as the key to a “what-if” scenario involving a Bruins Cup win in 1990.  How hard a shot was it to make?  Was it indeed a “gimme” as lore has related it to be in the years since the agony of that long night of May 15/16?  Wesley may never have to worry about a Bill Buckner-esque stigma to follow him the rest of his career, as he exorcised any remaining demons with a Stanley Cup championship of his own with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.  Ask Boston fans who watched that 1990 team about Wesley 20 years from now, and they will invariably make mention of the missed net.

The teams fought on.

In a scene eerily reminiscent from just two springs previous, when the lights went out at the Boston Garden during the 1988 Boston-Edmonton Final in Game 4, the venerable building suffered another, lesser power failure, this one rectified in short order.  The lights soon were bright enough to resume play, but an Oiler winger by the name of Petr Klima would soon create his own blackout of Boston’s Stanley Cup hopes by scoring the decisive goal in the sixth period of play.

The irony of Klima’s goal was not that the Bruins lost the game, but that Klima was the one to score it.  Never known for his defensive abilities, Oilers coach John Muckler had benched the Czech winger for most of regulation and Klima had sat on the bench during each of the previous overtime periods.  Whether it was a hunch, or Muckler simply felt he needed Klima’s fresh legs on the ice, the player who wore number 85 in honor of the year he defected from Czechoslovakia to play for the Detroit Red Wings got the puck from teammate Jari Kurri and skated over the Boston blue line.  Klima fired a harmless-looking shot that seemed to flutter towards the Bruin net and Moog, but the puck found daylight through the Boston goalie’s five-hole and just like that, it was over. Despite outshooting the Oilers 52-31, the B’s lost the crucial first game at home.  Klima, a name who will long be associated with Bruins fans much the way Boston Red Sox fans think of Bucky Dent, broke a city’s heart at 15:13 of the third overtime, ending the longest Stanley Cup Final game in history and giving the Edmonton Oilers a 1-0 stranglehold on the series that they would not relinquish.

Boston went on to get blown out in Game 2, played May 18, 1990 at the Boston Garden.  Goals by Bourque and Hawgood (whose power play marker tied the game at 2 goals apiece early in the second period after Edmonton had gone up 2-0) were buried by an avalanche of Oiler offense in a 7-2 final score.  Moog was not sharp and was eventually pulled in favor of Lemelin.  Messier knocked Poulin out of the playoffs with a hit that some look back on as being a dirty play.

That Messier went on to win the 1990 Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP, besting Bourque in the closest vote in history, is one more reason that the fact Boston made it to the finals that year is all the more bittersweet.  Messier’s hit on Poulin deprived the Bruins of one of their most important players, a veteran who had led the team by example in rousing comeback wins against the Whalers and Capitals earlier in the playoff campaign.  Losing Poulin all but resigned the Bruins to their fate.

A quick-strike goal by rookie John Byce just 10 seconds into Game 3 gave the Bruins life and another tally by little-used Greg Johnston stood up as the game-winner in a 2-1 contest that cut Edmonton’s series lead in half.  Although the win gave Boston fans reason to hope for one more comeback, it was not in the cards.  The powerful Oilers offense took Boston apart in a 5-1 win at the Northlands Coliseum on May 22nd, allowing them to return to the Garden in Game 5 to close the Bruins out.

The season that had begun with so much promise ended with a whimper as a lone Lyndon Byers tally was all the Bruins could muster in response to a four-goal Oiler outburst that put the city’s Stanley Cup hopes out of reach at the Garden.

In the end, Boston’s impressive corps of forwards was shut down by a smothering Oilers defense let by uber-pest Esa Tikkanen, who shadowed Janney throughout the series, preventing the slick playmaker from getting the puck to the sniper Neely. That Messier hit on Poulin tested Boston’s depth up front even more. Instead of Poulin, the journeyman Johnston was in the lineup for the final elimination game.  That Byers, a player who will forever be remembered for his fists rather than hands, scored the only goal in the 4-1 loss that eliminated Boston from contention serves as a reminder that the B’s offense, which had been so powerful in the first three series, was put in check by the Oilers defense and a superb performance in net from Ranford- the B’s mustered just 8 goals in 5 games in the SCF, none of them by Neely. Bourque (3 goals), and Carter, Byce, Byers, Hawgood and  Johnston were the only Bruins to score in the series, a strong indicator of where things went wrong for the team offensively.

As the Edmonton players skated around the Garden ice hoisting the Stanley Cup aloft for the fifth time since 1984, fans in attendance and watching the spectacle on television couldn’t help but wonder whether the two teams would soon meet again in one more battle for Stanley Cup supremacy?  In the decade-plus since, history has shown that not to be the case, as neither team approached the greatness of those two rosters that skated against one another on those warm May nights in 1990.

The Oilers’ dynasty was soon dismantled by owner Peter Pocklington as the new economics of the game did not allow for that team to maintain a payroll of so many talented, yet high-priced stars.  The Bruins returned to conference championships in 1991 and 1992, but were unable to overcome another tremendously talented offense, this time in the form of the Pittsburgh Penguins, led by Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis and Jaromir Jagr.  After the four-game sweep at the hands of the Penguins in ’92, the Bruins would not advance beyond the second round of the playoffs again.  The long string of 29-consecutive playoff appearances ended in 1997.

Eleven years after the loss to the Oilers on that 24th day of May, Moog looked back in reflection on that Bruins team.

“That team was indeed special,” he said.  “We had put it all together.  We had a talented offense, and tremendous defense.  We won the Jennings Trophy and Ray Bourque was arguably the best player in the league.  We were a great team and we should have gone all the way.”

That the Bruins didn’t go the extra distance shouldn’t diminish the accomplishments of that terrific team or it’s players.  Unfortunately, in the minds of some fans, that finals loss means defeat in black and white, nothing more.  Perhaps those individuals would take satisfaction in knowing that to this day, Moog still carries the pain of that loss with him.

“You know, the one true regret I had about my career was not winning that final series in 1990.  I wanted nothing more than to help bring the Stanley Cup to the people of Boston and Bruins fans everywhere.”

Defenseman Bob Beers, who had 100 points over his 231-game career with the Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Oilers, and NY Islanders saw his first big league action as a raw rookie during that magical run doesn’t dwell on what could have been.

 “It was really something special to be a part of,” Beers said.  “To go through that whole experience in my first year, I thought: ‘This is unbelievable!  I could definitely get used to this.’  And then, my playing career was over and that was the closest to the Stanley Cup that I ever got.  But some guys never get that far in the postseason.  I consider myself lucky that I was able to be a part of that group, that team.  It was a very special group of guys and I will always cherish those memories regardless of the final outcome.”

For the 1989-90 Bruins to come up short in that quest might equate to failure for some, but to others, those games played from October to May constitute a lifetime of memories: more good than bad.

History will judge that team for what it was: a well-designed squad of veteran and younger players whose core trio of Bourque, Neely and Moog were in their prime and in position to finish the job in the final. Alas, Bourque was the only one who truly elevated his game in that series, and the rest of Boston’s quality supporting cast was not able to match the sheer depth the Oilers had.

Bourque ended up winning his NHL championship 11 years later, but did it in Denver to close out his Hall of Fame career. Moog, who had won his three championships with the Oilers, would not see another as he finished his career in 1998 with the Canadiens.

It would be another 21 years before the Stanley Cup would return to Boston and have  duckboat parade, and by then, it was well worth the wait. Neely finally got his ring- as team president, raising the Cup over his head as a front office member of the team he built a Hall of Fame resume with as a player, even without a championship. As Neely basked in the glow of the 2011 victory over the team he began his career with, you could sense that the shadow of that disappointment two decades earlier was finally dissipating. Not just for Neely and his teammates, but for an entire city.

As such, the 1990 Boston Bruins deserve their own honored place in the Hub of Hockey’s legend.

2 thoughts on “All The President’s Men: The 1990 Boston Bruins (Part 3)

  1. Pingback: All The President’s Men: the 1990 Boston Bruins (Part 2) | scoutingpost

  2. This is one of the best games I’ve ever seen. Also the best game I’ve ever seen played by an individual hockey player. Ray Bourque was absolutely outstanding for the Bruins.

    This game went on 115+ minutes effective playing time. Almost six periods of non stop hockey. I’m not sure but Raymond Bourque played 66 minutes or 76 minutes of the game. I know it’s probably the most ice time ever by one player.
    Sergei Zubov of Dallas Stars played a total of 63:51 in April 24, 2003 in an even longer game.

    I have never felt worse after a loss than this. Bourque and the Bruins should have won this game and it may have been a series. This was such a heartbreaker they would never recover from. Edmonton had so many great players and the Bruins had Bourque and Neely. Bill Ranford was lights out for Oilers but he was lucky too. Moog was his equal. Just not as lucky.

    Still it was bitter to realize that none of Neely, Brian Propp, Dave Christian, Janney and Carpenter and Poulin couldn’t even score one goal between them in the five final series games. Bruins scored eight goals in the final. Bourque had three of them.

    Another thing. Oilers big defensemen were huge and proved once again that you win Cups with big strong defense. Steve Smith, Randy Gregg, Kevin Lowe and Charlie Huddy provided little offense but man were they effective defensively. Bruins forwards never got in close scoring after game 1 just like last summer against the Blues.

    Thanks Kirk for the great story.


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