Winning in the Stanley Cup playoffs is the primary objective of every NHL player. For Boston Bruins newcomer John-Michael Liles, whose last taste of postseason hockey ended in franchise-shattering heartbreak, the motivation to do so has never been stronger.
Liles was a defenseman on the Toronto Maple Leafs team that blew a three-goal third-period lead against the Bruins in Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Boston went on to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Final that season, and neither Liles nor the Leafs have reached the playoffs since.
The 35-year-old blueliner on Monday joined the team that crushed Toronto’s spirits, with the Bruins acquiring him from the Carolina Hurricanes minutes before the NHL’s trade deadline. The additions of Liles and fellow deadline pickup Lee Stempniak signified that Boston aims to contend this postseason, which falls right in line with the ex-Leaf’s aspirations.
“I mean, the last time I was in the playoffs, the Bruins beat me with Toronto in the seventh game,” Liles told a pool reporter after his trade to Boston was announced. “So yeah, honestly I’m just happy to be joining a team that will hopefully continue making a push for the playoffs and get back in. I know they’re in a great spot right now, and hopefully myself and Stemper can add to that.
“Once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen, and that’s what it’s about. It’s about winning and trying to win a Stanley Cup. I’m no different from any other guy in this league, that’s the ultimate goal to start every season.”
Liles got an up-close look at his new team just three days before the deadline, as the Bruins on Friday night scored a 4-1 win over the Hurricanes. The Indianapolis native said he also is very familiar with Stempniak’s game from their time with the U.S. national team.
“I’m really excited,” Liles said. “I spoke with (Bruins general manager) Don Sweeney (on Monday). I’m really looking forward to joining the team. I was fortunate — we actually played the Bruins a few days ago, so they’re pretty fresh in my memory. It was a pretty impressive win they had against us, from (goalie Tuukka Rask) on out. They scored some nice goals and really had a nice game against us, so to be able to join the team and hopefully help out in any way that I can, I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Bruins, who entered Monday in third place in the Atlantic Division, expect both Liles and Stempniak to be available for Tuesday night’s matchup with the Calgary Flames.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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