Starkey: Penguins' Boston ties run deep
Boston guys everywhere. Boston ties everywhere.
For franchises that have spent nearly 40 years in the same conference, the Penguins and Boston Bruins don't have a ton of shared history. If the Eastern Conference final ever begins, it will mark only the teams' fifth playoff meeting and first since 1992.
Penguins connections to the city of Boston, however, run deep. And the all-time series has seen its share of notable moments.
I should begin with Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby, who scored their first career goals against the Bruins, but I can't resist the story of Don Cherry's dog.
Long before he launched his first insane rant on “Hockey Night in Canada,” Cherry was a coach. A very good one in Boston. His team was sweeping the Penguins out of the 1979 playoffs when Penguins fans hung his poor dog Blue in effigy.
“I don't mind them wishing me or one of my players to die,” Cherry said. “But to say something like that about a defenseless dog like my Blue is senseless.”
Not a lot makes sense in Penguins-Bruins annals.
Steve McKenna notched the only two-goal game of his career against the Bruins.
Back in 2009, Penguins winger Bill Guerin (Boston guy) tied a game with 0.4 seconds left in the third period.
Back in 1991, Kevin Stevens (Boston guy) guaranteed the Penguins would come back from a two-games-to-none deficit to win the Eastern Conference final. His teammates weren't sure what to make of it.
“We're like, ‘What are you doing?' ” recalled then-Penguins winger Joe Mullen (Boston College guy). “Kevin, being Kevin, was like, ‘Don't worry about it.' ”
The Penguins promptly won four in a row.
Some memorable (Tom Barrasso) and not-so-memorable (Billy Tibbetts) Penguins were Boston guys.
One of the all-time Penguins (Jean Pronovost) arrived in a trade with the Bruins. Another (Les Binkley) turned in a performance for ages at old Boston Garden, stopping all 33 shots from a powerful Bruins team Jan. 28, 1968.
Boston goalie and future Penguins fixture Eddie Johnston usually left a six-pack for the opposing goaltender. On that night, he left ol' Bink a 12-pack.
A Boston guy (Roger Marino) once owned the Penguins — and once placed them in bankruptcy.
Another Boston guy (Mike Milbury) lost his mind and lit into Badger Bob Johnson in the 1991 playoffs. This was after Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson had destroyed Cam Neely on a play that still gets Bruins fans' blood boiling (almost as much as Matt Cooke's horrific hit on Marc Savard).
The Penguins, by the way, might never have adopted black and gold if a Bruins' protest had held. Looking to capitalize on Pittsburgh's newfound “City of Champions” status, the Penguins first donned black and gold Jan. 30, 1980, in a game against St. Louis.
Outraged Bruins officials, claiming rights, lodged a protest with the league. The Penguins prevailed by arguing their city had set the NHL's black-and-gold precedent in the early 1920s, in the form of the hockey-playing Pittsburgh Pirates.
But back to Lemieux and Crosby. Sid spoke Wednesday of his first career goal — Oct. 8, 2005, at Mellon Arena.
“I think Brian Leetch was on the ice (for the Bruins); I remember that,” Crosby said. “He just kind of tapped it over, and I had a wide-open net.”
Crosby's first fight broke out Dec. 20, 2007, in Boston against ex-Penguins defenseman Andrew Ference.
“I think I got a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight) that night,” Crosby said. “It's probably the one and only one I'll ever get.”
A look around the Penguins' dressing room reveals Boston connections past and present. Brooks Orpik (Boston College), Joe Vitale (Northeastern) and Craig Adams (Harvard) played collegiately there.
The wall shows photos of Jaromir Jagr (now a Bruins winger) and Craig Patrick (spent much of childhood in Boston), among others.
Banners in the rafters show the Penguins with 14 Art Ross Trophy winners, Ross being the Bruins' first-ever coach and GM.
Penguins president David Morehouse attended Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Tom Fitzgerald (Boston guy) put the Penguins through the school of hard knocks in the '96 playoffs but also helped them win a Cup as an assistant coach.
Mostly, though, when Penguins fans of a certain age think Penguins-Bruins, they think of Lemieux, Raymond Bourque and two unbelievable goals.
The first was Oct. 11, 1984, at Boston Garden when Lemieux, in his NHL debut, accidentally blocked Bourque's shot and scored on a breakaway. First shift, first shot, first goal.
The second was in the '92 playoffs, in Game 4 of a Penguins sweep. Lemieux, on the penalty kill, gained control in the defensive zone and threw the puck at Bourque's feet, then beat him about 66 ways down the ice before roofing a shot over Andy Moog.
Phil Bourque (Boston guy, no relation to Ray) was sitting in the penalty box at the time.
“I remember the attendant — who had a Bruins jacket on — giving me a little fist pound,” Bourque recalled later. “If (then-Bruins GM) Harry Sinden had seen it, that guy would have been fired on the spot.”
Boston guys, everywhere.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.