Appreciative Jaromir Jagr on stint with Bruins: ‘We had a pretty good run’
|10.28.13 at 12:11 pm ET|
Bruins fans gave a gift to Jaromir Jagr which he’d never received in all of years playing hockey.
“I remember my first shift I played here,” said Jagr, “everybody stand up and clap their hands. They show me the respect the first time I step on ice. That never happened to me before.”
On Saturday night, Boston welcomed back Jagr, the NHL’s active leading scorer, and the future Hall of Famer delivered two assists in the Devils’ come-from-behind 4-3 victory over his former team at the Garden.
The Bruins parted ways with Jagr shortly after the Blackhawks hoisted the Cup, and he signed with New Jersey in July. The former mulleted superstar from the Czech city of Kladno, who still claims he plans on scoring a goal at the age of 50, spoke highly of his time with the Bruins.
“The fans really like the hockey here, they understand the hockey here,” Jagr said. “We had a pretty good run. Maybe with a little more luck we would have been holding the Cup.”
Though Jagr is only 17 goals shy of 700, he failed to put the puck in the net during the B’s 22-game playoff run.
“I know a lot of people are going to say he didn’t score,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “And he didn’t. But he certainly added a lot to our team.”
Previously known for tormenting Bruins fans every spring during his time with Pittsburgh, Jagr’s lasting memory in Boston will be his assist on Patrice Bergeron‘s overtime goal against the Penguins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. Jagr won over his teammates by outdueling Evgeni Malkin for a loose puck on the boards, and the victory gave the Bruins a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
Along with Jagr’s buying into the team concept, Julien also was impressed with the example the veteran set for his teammates.
“He worked hard, he had a great attitude, he made things happen,” Julien said. “I still remember in overtime there in Chicago where he just took a shot, hit the crossbar, and it could have been the winning goal. He was a good example for young guys — working out, doing extra and trying to stay on the top of his game, so he led by example in a lot of ways. We were happy to have him.”
After 23 years of playing professional hockey, there are few surprises on the ice these days for Jagr. He admitted, however, he never imagined the joy of playing with his teammates in Boston.
“They’re hungry, they want to win, [but] the biggest surprise for me was ‘Looch’ and the ways he play,” Jagr said of Milan Lucic, who scored his sixth goal of the season Saturday when he slipped one by Martin Brodeur. “Honestly, I didn’t know how good he is. He’s a big part of that hockey club.”
Known for clashing with coaches throughout his career, Jagr embraced the quiet, hard-working style of Julien in Boston.
“Every coach have a different philosophy to coach a team,” Jagr explained. “And Julien’s different in the way he try to keep the lines together, no matter what. It’s kind of good advantage to have because the players know each other, especially in the playoffs when the game is so quick. You just have the feeling [a teammate] will be somewhere there. If you play with somebody for first time, you’re not going to know. If you play with someone for two years, you know he’s going to be there, so it’s a huge advantage if you can keep the lines together, and that’s what he always did.”
Despite Jagr repeating after the game that he needs to play better, Devils coach Peter DeBoer called Jagr “a beast” and remarked he has been the best forward on the team all season.
“I need to start scoring,” Jagr lamented. “I don’t score as many goals as I would like.”
The extremely superstitious Jagr may have found the cause behind his scoring drought.
“It might have something to do with the sticks,” Jagr admitted. “I have to change the sticks this year. The stick company I was using went bankrupt. It’s not easy, when you are 41, to change sticks all of a sudden.”
Patrik EliÃ¡Ã ¡, another Czech great and longtime Devil, confirmed Jagr’s superstitions are still as strong as his slap shot. EliÃ¡Ã ¡ witnessed Jagr bring his hockey sticks to church, and although he could not confirm whether the superstition actually works, EliÃ¡Ã ¡ noted, “Jaromir thinks so, and that’s the most important thing.”
Sticks and stones may break bones, but Brodeur — another 41-year-old who is headed for the Hall of Fame — is relieved that Jagr is finally wearing a Devils uniform.
“His devotion to the hockey game is amazing,” Brodeur said. “Having a guy with so much experience and so much talent, he’s going to help. We’re happy to have him.”