In 1982, Prince took us all on a ride into the future with his smash hit “1999,” and it feels like we’ve been paying tribute to “The Artist Formerly Known As” in bars and clubs every New Year’s Eve since.
Now, the Boston Bruins are poised to party like it’s 1992 as they open the Eastern Conference final on Saturday night at the TD Garden against the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning. By now, we all know the B’s will be playing in the conference finals for the first time since ’92, but there are likely a slew of things that fans and spectators alike don’t know, or haven’t even thought about.
First, some basics.
The Oscar for Best Picture honoring 1992 cinema went to Unforgiven, for which Clint Eastwood also captured Best Director. The Best Actor went to the one and only Al Pacino for Scent of a Woman.
How about a couple of the top songs? We’ll never forget Whitney Houston‘s “I Will Always Love You” and Boyz II Men‘s “End of the Road” … no matter how hard we may try.
I hate to even mention that gas prices didn’t each reach $1.50 per gallon for the most expensive option, but enough of the standard comparisons.
More interesting is that the last time the Bruins were playing in the conference finals, current rookie Tyler Seguin was just a few months old. Ironically, he had the same amount of NHL playoff experience then as he does now, though that projects to change this weekend, with Patrice Bergeron still recovering from a mild concussion.
On the other end of the spectrum, 43-year-old Bruins veteran Mark Recchi was then just 24 years of age and already playing his fourth NHL season. Interestingly, before finishing that season with Philadelphia — the team that Boston had just eliminated to advance — he began the year with Pittsburgh, the very club that eliminated the B’s in ’92 en route to sweeping Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Speaking of sweeps, here’s a comparison fans would hate to see repeated.
In 1992, Boston won its opening round in seven games — defeating Buffalo — and then swept Montreal to move on to face Pittsburgh. The far superior Pens, led by Mario Lemieux, took out the B’s in four games. This year, as we know, the Bruins survived a seven-game run with the Canadiens before sweeping the Flyers just days ago. Like I said, hopefully the comparisons end there.
Let’s get back to the players.
This year’s match-up between Boston and Tampa Bay features a pair of dinosaurs in net, at least in hockey terms. Vezina Trophy finalist Tim Thomas has enjoyed a magical run since training camp broke, and now the 37-year-old is matched up with 41-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson, who had a 24-win regular season splitting time between Tampa and the New York Islanders, but has been every bit as impressive as Thomas since the postseason began.
Far more fascinating, however, is that ageless wonder Martin St. Louis, who at 35 had 99 points during the regular season and currently leads the Lightning in playoff scoring with 13 points, now gets to go head-to-head with Thomas, a friend and former teammate. In 1992, the two were teenagers and just one year away from spending the next four college seasons together at the University of Vermont. Now that’s full circle.
Then, there’s Bruins management.
In ’92, general manager Peter Chiarelli was years from taking on a role in hockey operations, while assistant GM Jim Benning was a recently retired 10-year NHL defenseman.
Fellow assistant GM Don Sweeney, meanwhile, was starring as Benjamin Kane in Wayne’s World. Wait, that was his doppelganger, Rob Lowe. Sweeney was completing his second full season on the blue line for Boston before appearing in 15 playoff games.
As for team president Cam Neely, well, the beloved Bruin didn’t get to enjoy any postseason action, as he was limited to a mere nine contests during the regular season due to injury. Sadly, that was the beginning of the end for the Hub hero, who was limited by injuries for the rest of his career.
Finally, head coach Claude Julien was playing his final season of pro hockey for the AHL’s Moncton Hawks, where he shared the ice with a young center named Rob Murray, who is coming off eight seasons coaching in Providence.
On that note, did you know the Providence Bruins didn’t even exist at this time in 1992? Now, with the likes of Thomas, Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Johnny Boychuk and so many others, just think of where this year’s Bruins would be without the feeder squad down I-95.
To wrap things up, as we look ahead to what’s sure to be an exciting next couple of weeks, perhaps the most telling look back at 1992 can be summed up with this: While the Boston Bruins were playing for a chance at Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Tampa Bay Lightning were just a thought in the womb of the NHL’s belly.