He is, after all, a future Hall of Famer.
So you could understand why there was so much anticipation in Boston on Thursday for his debut with the Bruins. A walk through North Station an hour before the game produced a handful of Jagr jerseys and shirts. When he took the ice for pregame warmups — the last Bruin out of the tunnel — he was given a nice round of a applause. That applause was even bigger when he stepped onto the ice moments before the game began. He then received a standing ovation upon hopping over the boards for his first shift.
That all paled in comparison to the explosion from the TD Garden crowd just 1:20 into the second period for another of Jagr’s firsts with the Bruins — his first goal.
Jagr, he of 680 career goals, scored his first in Black and Gold by having the puck deflect off of his skate and by another future Hall of Famer in Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. The tally, unsurprisingly, brought the Garden faithful to a roar. Moments later, a “Jagr” chant rained down from the balcony.
“I appreciate it,” he said of the response. “I didn’t know the fans love hockey so much here in Boston, and it’s a little bit different than playing in Dallas, that’s for sure. I don’t want to say anything about Dallas. They were great, but this is the front level.”
Basically, it was just another day in the life of living legend Jaromir Jagr.
Most importantly for the Bruins, however, they were able to get the win. Jagr’s goal proved to be the game-winner as Boston defeated New Jersey 1-0 in the tightly checked game. There’s room for improvement, no doubt, but it’s a good start to the Jagr era in Boston.
While no one expected to Jagr to jump in on a line with Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin and suddenly look like they had been skating together for years, Jagr was adamant in his desire to improve. He was actually apologetic when speaking to a massive gaggle of reporters after the game.
“I gotta get better, I gotta get better,” Jagr insisted, while also admitting he felt a little tired after getting just two hours of sleep the night before. “I feel bad they [Marchand and Seguin] had to play with me. I gotta get better, that’s for sure.”
It’s all part of the process for the Bruins, as they not only look to assimilate Jagr into the lineup, but also adjust to life without Patrice Bergeron, who usually centers a line with Marchand and Seguin. That in-game adjustment process began in the first period Thursday night when Jagr and Marchand could be seen talking to each other on their way up the ice after an icing on their first shift. That conversation carried over to the bench, and the linemates kept the dialogue running all night.
“It was different,” Marchand said. “Obviously me, Bergy and Segs played together for a while, but he’s one of those players that’s easy to play with. We talked a lot through the game and through the periods, and tried to figure each other out a bit. As the game went on we felt a little bit more comfortable.”
It probably helps accelerate the process as the trio was able to get on the score sheet for the game’s lone goal, although it was far from the highlight-reel tally you might expect from those three.
“I think that was the first time I scored with my leg,” Jagr said. “When I was 25 I might not have liked that goal, but at 41, I’ll take anything right now.”
Jagr also helped stabilize the power play, on the one chance the Bruins had to operate with the man-advantage. As expected, Jagr worked the halfwall as he has all career on the power play. He was typically strong on the puck, and he cycled the puck down below the red line and created chances for his teammates. Boston didn’t cash in on the power play, but it was one of the all too rare occasions this season where the power play actually looked like a threat, and it should come as no surprise that Jagr was on the ice for the entire two minutes.
The Bruins aren’t expecting Jagr to be a savior. Claude Julien said as much Tuesday night upon learning the B’s had landed the 12-time All-Star. For at least one night, however, Jagr was one of the heroes.
He was given a hero’s welcome, and he responded, just as he has his entire career.