The 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons were all about building a Boston Bruins roster that could compete for GM Peter Chiarelli. That was apparent from the moment Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara put pen to paper on July 1st, 2006. When the 2007-08 season opened up, Bruins fans hadn’t seen these moves pay off on the ice.
That would change. The Bruins returned to the playoffs in April, 2008. It was their first appearance since heartbreak in April of 2004. That’s when the heavily-favored Bruins blew a 3-1 lead to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. They met their hated rival in the spring of 2008 in a series that Bruins fans will always remember.
Tim Thomas won the starting job for the Bruins with his 2005-06 performance. His 2006-07 season was not nearly as good. Thomas went 30-29-4 with a .905 save percentage and 3.13 GAA in 66 games for the team. As a result, Chiarelli and new coach Claude Julien looked elsewhere for goaltending help.
The Bruins hooked up with the Minnesota Wild on July 1st, 2007 for a deal that brought Manny Fernandez to Boston. In exchange, the Bruins sent Petr Kalus and a 2009 fourth-round pick to the Wild. Fernandez, who had beaten out Dwayne Roloson for the Wild’s starting job in 2006, was expected to fill that role for the Bruins.
Fernandez only played in four games for the Bruins during the 2007-08 season. He suffered a variety of injuries and never could settle in and battle Thomas for the starting job. He went 2-2-0 in those four games and posted a save percentage of just .832 to go with a GAA of 3.93.
Thomas, on the other hand, would take the job back. He played in 57 games and posted a record of 28-19-6. His save percentage of .921 was a career-high at the time, while his GAA sharply decreased to a strong 2.44.
The Bruins did acquire more goalie help during the season. This trade, however, was for a backup for Thomas. The Bruins acquired Alex Auld from the Arizona Coyotes for Nate DiCasmirro and a 2009 fifth-round pick.
Sheriff On Duty
The Bruins didn’t just add Auld in 2007-08. The club made a trade for a depth defenseman on January 2nd, hooking up with the Anaheim Ducks. The Bruins sent Brandon Bochenski to the Ducks for veteran Shane Hnidy and a 2008 sixth-round draft pick.
Hnidy played in 43 games for the Bruins the rest of the season, scoring five points (1 g, 4 a). Hnidy also played in all seven playoff games that spring, tallying a goal and an assist.
Hnidy was not a flashy player. Instead, he was a strong depth option who played a solid shutdown game. He also brought a needed toughness to this Bruins team, and was yet another strong leader in a young locker room. Like Andrew Ference and Aaron Ward before him, Hnidy brought swagger to the club.
THIS BUILDING IS VIBRATING
The Boston Bruins finished the season with a record of 41-29-12, good for 94 points. That put them two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the eighth seed.
The series started out miserably for the Bruins. They dropped Game 1 4-1 in Montreal, then lost Game 2 in overtime by a score of 3-2. With their season essentially on the line, the Bruins returned to TD Banknorth Garden in desperate need of a victory.
It took overtime, but Savard scored his biggest goal as a Bruin to date to take Game 3 2-1.
The Bruins would lose Game 4 1-0, but rebounded nicely with a 5-1 victory in Game 5 in Montreal. That set up one of the most memorable games of this era, Game 6 at TD Banknorth Garden.
The Bruins trailed 3-2 at the 10:04 mark of the third period when Francis Bouillon scored his first of the series. The Bruins responded with a pair of their own, as Milan Lucic and Phil Kessel both lit the lamp. Ahead 4-3 with less than five minutes to go, it looked like the Bruins were on their way to Game 7.
Not so fast. Chris Higgins scored his second of the game at 15:56 to force overtime. Or so we all thought until Marco Sturm stepped up.
Although the Bruins lost Game 7 5-0, the message was sent. These young Bruins had arrived, and would only get better. Chiarelli and the management team recognized that. They struck on July 1st, 2008 in a similiar way to two years prior.