The Best Bruin To Ever Wear The Number One

(Photo Credit: George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully become a long and very entertaining series of articles. I am going to look at the best Bruin’s player to wear each number throughout the organization’s long and storied history. I will be skipping the retired numbers because it’s pretty self-explanatory who the best Bruin to don each of those revered numbers was.

Just to get it out of the way, in case anyone has forgotten, these are the current retired numbers in Boston:

#2 – Eddie Shore, #3 – Lionel Hitchman, #4 – Bobby Orr, #5 – Dit Clapper, #7 – Phil Esposito, #8 – Cam Neely, #9 – John Bucyk, #15 – Milt Schmidt, #16 – Rick Middleton, #24 – Terry O’Reilly, #77 – Ray Bourque.

Eleven numbers may seem like a lot, but it still leaves us 88 more to contemplate.

The best place to start this series, numerically anyway, is pretty obvious, and that would be with the number one. Generally speaking, the number one is worn in the NHL by goaltenders, and the greatest players to ever sport that number in B’s history were no exception. In an organization that has been around as long as the Bruins have, you would think that the competition would be pretty fierce? Normally, that would be a safe assumption. Unfortunately, in the case of the number one, the competition IS fierce, but it’s not for first place, it’s for third. That said, there is still a worthy discussion to be had for the runner-ups.

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Bruins have two goalies that played their careers primarily in the 1930s and 1940s that have without question locked up the first and second spots as the greatest B’s players to ever wear the number One. Those two guys are Cecil “Tiny” Thompson and Frank “Mr. Zero” Brimsek. While it is difficult to compare players across different eras, these two players were able to pile up more than enough wins and hardware to leave no doubt that they were the top dogs in this contest.

Thompson was the preeminent goaltender of the 1930s. During that decade (and in 1928-29,) he played in 468 games for the Bruins, had a GAA of 1.99 (Save Percentage was not a stat yet), and a whopping 74 shutouts. He won 252 games for Boston, and both his games played and win totals are 2nd all-time for the B’s. They were 1st until recently being eclipsed by Tuukka Rask. In addition to those impressive numbers, Tiny won a Cup in 1929, had four All-Star game appearances, and four Vezina Trophies on his resume. In that era, the Vezina was given to the goalie whose team allowed the fewest amount of regular-season goals. This was no slight as Thompson was largely responsible for that. In 1936 he became the first goalie in NHL history to record an assist in a game. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959. For my money, he is the best player to wear number one for the Bruins.

Frank Brimsek played for the Bruins from 1938-1948. Somewhat ironically, it was Brimsek that forced out and took over for Thompson in 1938. Tiny suffered an eye injury, and Brimsek played so well in his stead that the Bruins dealt Thompson to Detroit in November of 1938. It would mark the beginning of an impressive nine-year run in the Boston goal. Brimsek would suit up for 444 games (tied for 3rd on the B’s all-time list), winning 230 with 35 shutouts. During that time, he would also win two Stanley Cups and two Vezina Trophies, along with being named to the All-Star team eight times.

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Brimsek earned his famous “Mr. Zero” nickname after recording six shutouts in his first eight games and setting a league record for consecutive scoreless minutes in the process. Brimsek was born in Eveleth, Minnesota, which is notable because he was one of very few Americans in the NHL in the 1940s. The United States Hockey Hall of Fame was established in Brimsek’s hometown in 1973, and he was part of the original group of 25 to be inducted. In addition, an award given to the best senior high school goalie in the state of Minnesota is named after him. He joined Tiny Thompson in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966 and is a close second to him for best Bruin to ever wear the number one.

There are a number of other goalies that have worn the number one for the Bruins over the years. Some have been goalies that made their fame with other teams and wore it briefly for the Black and Gold. Guys like Terry Sawchuk, Rogie Vachon, and Marty Turco fall into this category. While they were great netminders, they were not in Boston long enough to warrant consideration.

The next trio of goalies I considered were all players that fell short of third place for one reason or another, whether it be lack of tenure or performance. Andrew Raycroft had good numbers with Boston (2.62 GAA, .908 Save %), but he only played 108 games and had a losing record before being traded to TOR for Tuukka Rask. Pete Peeters played 171 games in Boston and had 91 wins, but his stats were not great (3.00 GAA, .883 SP), and he had more games and years in a Flyers uniform than a B’s sweater. Last but not least was Reggie Lemelin, who, while he was in Boston, was beloved by the fans for his “fist pump” celebration after games. In six years in Boston, he played in 182 games, had 92 wins, but the numbers were average. His GAA was 3.09, and his save percentage came in at .884. All three of these players were good, but not good enough for the top three.

(Photo Credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Third place for the best to wear the number one in Boston came down to two goalies in my estimation, Eddie Johnston and Gilles Gilbert. Readers younger than myself are probably much more familiar with Gilbert than Johnston, who played primarily in the ’60s for the B’s. Gilbert was known for being on the losing end to Philly and later Montreal in the ’70s under Don Cherry.

While Johnston might be lesser-known to today’s Bruins fans, he has a very respectable resume. He played in Boston from 1962 thru 1973, amassing 444 games for the B’s (tied for 3rd all-time with Brimsek), winning 182, with a GAA of 3.22 and a .900 Save Percentage. He was the starter before Gerry Cheevers established himself and backed “Cheesy” up in the late 1960s and early ’70s. His numbers were very comparable to Cheevers,’ and he actually played in more games for the Bruins. He was also a key contributor on both Stanley Cup teams, playing 37 games in 1970 and 38 games in 1972. Despite these solid stats, Johnston may be more well-known as a successful coach and GM for the Penguins in the 1980’s and 90’s?

Last but not least, is Gilles Gilbert, the acrobatic French-Canadian goalie with the memorable flow. He played in Boston from 1974-1980, totaling 277 games for the B’s, winning 155 of them. His GAA was 2.95, and he had a save percentage of .890 over that time. I remember Gilbert as being a key component in net for the highly effective “Lunch Pail AC” teams. Despite their success in the regular season, those teams came up short in the playoffs. Unfortunately, my most lasting memory of Gilbert will be of him falling to the ice after he gave up Guy Lafleur’s game-tying goal as time was running out in Game Seven of the 1979 Stanley Cup Semifinals. That goal is not the reason I am going with Eddie Johnston as the third-best to wear number one for the Bruins…but it didn’t help either.

So, there you have it, the three best players to wear the number one for the Bruins are Tiny Thompson in first, followed by Frank Brimsek as a close second, and Eddie Johnston as a distant third. I hope you enjoyed this look back in B’s history. Next up on the agenda is the number six, where there should be a lot more debate for the title.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Boston Bruins Tuukka Rask’s Time To Shine

( Photo Credit: NHL.com / Boston Bruins / @NHLBruins )

By: Maria From Watertown  |  Follow Me On Twitter @mariaofh2otown

The NHL and the PA have presumably agreed to move forward with completing the 2019-2020 so that a 2020 Stanley Cup Champion can be crowned.  Obviously, a good number of logistics will need to be worked out, but the vote by the NHLPA is a significant step in the right direction.  For the Boston Bruins, the motivation should be fierce to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals again, if not to avenge the disappointing finish to the 2019 Cup Finals, but perhaps more importantly, to cement the legacy of a number of the core veteran players on the team, particularly Tuukka Rask. While Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand have seemingly secured their places in Boston Bruins history as members of a team that brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston after 39 years, Tuukka’s lasting legacy may hinge on whether he can “carry” the Bruins to a Stanley Cup before he hangs up his goalie skates.

Once Tuukka took over as the Bruins number one franchise goalie, fairly or unfairly, he became a lightning rod for criticism by Bruins fans.  Many held Tuukka responsible for the game 7 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Cup finals, as well as the two-minute meltdown in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals against the Blackhawks and we all know how that ended. 

Adding fuel to this fire, Tuukka did not play in the Bruins final regular-season game on April 11, 2016, due to a stomach bug.  The Bruins ultimately lost that game, and it cost that team an opportunity for a playoff spot.

There is no arguing that Tuukka is an elite goalie in the NHL.  Tuukka currently leads the league with a 2.12 GAA; he is second in the league with a .929 SV%.  Tuukka’s career stats are noteworthy as well – 2.26 GGA and 9.22 SV%.  In 2019, Tuukka became the winningest goalie in Bruin’s history. 

Why let these statistics get in the way of those who consistently lay blame at the feet of Tuukka when the Bruins have faltered in big moments.  Last time I checked, there are always 5 skaters and a goalie out on the ice most of the time.

Much has been made over the years about the contract Tuukka signed in 2013 (8-year extension at $7 million per year), with fans and some in the media criticizing either the term, the money, or both.  Ask Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers fans how they feel about the contracts for their franchise goalies. 

Whether Tuukka hears this noise or not, the only way he will likely silence these critics and cement his legacy as a Boston Bruin is to lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship.  With only one year remaining on his current contract, the window is getting smaller.  If Tuukka can accomplish what to date has eluded him and become the franchise goalie who brings another Stanley Cup to Boston, he will most certainly be talked about in the same conversations as Tiny Thompson, Eddie Johnston, Gerry Cheevers, and Tim Thomas.  Legacy accomplished

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 179 that we recorded below on 5-17-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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Bruins Time Machine

After winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, the Bruins were granted a waiver by the NHL allowing center Marc Savard to have his name engraved on the Cup despite not meeting one of the league’s standard requirements – having played 41 games with the club or playing in at least one game of the Finals.

When local oldtimers have the rare opportunity to view the Stanley Cup, their attention is often drawn to the 1970 Bruins, the first of two championships won during the Orr era.  Some of the names are echoed in hockey history – Orr, Esposito, Bucyk, Cheevers, Adams.  “Whoa, wait a minute.  Who the hell was John Adams?” has been muttered more than a few times by curious hockey fans across North America.

bruins1970

The heart of the 1970 winter was winding down in Boston and the Bruins, looking to give regular goaltenders Gerry Cheevers and Eddie Johnston a bit of a rest before the start of the playoffs, reached down to their farm team, the Oklahoma City Blazers, and called goalie prospect John Adams up to the big club for the final weeks of the regular season.  “They told me they’d try to get me in a few games down the stretch, but it wasn’t meant to be,” said the affable Adams.  “We ended up being in a tight race with Chicago for first place which came down to the final night of the season, and I guess they didn’t trust a rookie in goal.”

The Blackhawks eventually secured first place in the East Division on the wild final nights of the season (which had actually had teams pulling their goalie for extra attackers early in the third period due to complex tie-breakers), and the Bruins settled for the second seed.

Needing an extra goalie on hand for practice and insurance during the playoffs, the Bruins kept Adams around for their playoff run, but the only action he saw was during team practices.   After winning a vicious quarter-finals series against the Rangers in six games, the Bruins ran the table by demolishing Chicago and St. Louis en route to the team’s first Stanley Cup in 29 years.

Still, Adams was a part of all the Cup festivities to follow.  “I was in the dressing room with Ace Bailey – who was injured – when we won the Cup,” recalled Adams.  “The team came pouring into the dressing room afterward.  It was a pretty crazy scene.”

When the Bruins had their victory parade a few days later, some familiar, and some not so familiar, faces were front and center.  “I was in the lead car with Bobby Orr, Don Marcotte, and Billy Speer,” said Adams.  “I guess they wanted a few big guys in with him to protect him if things got too out of control.”

bruinsparade

At that time teams had almost complete control as to the names engraved on the Stanley Cup, and a few weeks later Adams was told by Bruins management that his name would be put on the Cup, despite having never played a single NHL game.  An urban legend in Boston at the time was that Adams was a nephew or cousin of the team’s owners, the Adams family, but the two parties were not related.   “I even got kidded all the time by my teammates in Oklahoma City,” said Adams of the hoopla surrounding his last name.

His dream of playing in the NHL did not quickly come to fruition for Adams after his taste of glory in 1970.  Cheevers and Johnston were entrenched in Boston in addition to the organization having other goalies in the system almost NHL-ready, such as Ross Brooks, Dan Bouchard, and Dave Reece.  Adams would spend the next two years back in Oklahoma City playing the majority of the Blazers’ games while registering respectable numbers.

However, the formation of the WHA for the 1972-73 season jolted the NHL as many marquee players bolted for the lucrative contracts being offered by the upstart league.  One such player was one of the Bruins’ goaltenders, Cheevers, and one of the other goalies in the system would be making the team in training camp.   Adams actually was contemplating an offer from the Houston Aeros of the WHA but decided to stay with Boston due to the positional opening created by the departure of Cheevers.  “Brooksie outplayed me in camp and got the job,” said Adams, who was sent down to the Bruins newest minor league affiliate, the Boston Braves, who also played their home games at Boston Garden.  “Brooksie was playing well but then hurt his collarbone, so I got called up again,” he recounted.

His first NHL victory came in his first start on November 18, 1972, at the New York Islanders by a score of 7-3.  “I was nervous enough as is but the thought of losing to the Islanders, who were bad at the time, made me even more nervous,” said Adams, who recalled one of the goals he allowed being scored by former Bruin Ed Westfall, who was lost to the Islanders in the expansion draft.

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Less than one week later Adams recorded his first career shutout against the Atlanta Flames.  “Orr ragged the puck in our end for the last 30 second going around our net several times,” said Adams.  “At the final horn, he picked up the puck and gave it to me.  In fact, I’m looking at it right now here in my house.”

Adams would go on to post a 9-3-1 record that season with the Bruins, not really getting much playing time after a cold spell in goal and was eventually demoted back to the Braves.  During the offseason he was traded to the San Diego Gulls of the Western Hockey League for goalie prospect Ken Broderick, who would go on to win 9 games over two seasons for the Bruins, ironically the same number Adams achieved in his one season with Boston.  Adams enjoyed his stay in San Diego as the team sold out the building most nights and he snagged second-team all-star honors.

The good life in Southern California did not last long because just as Adams was talking with the team about a multi-year contract and looking to purchase a house, the franchise abruptly folded in 1974 leaving him without a team.

The Gulls’ GM, Max McNab, paved the way for Adams’ return to the NHL by selling his rights to the expansion Washington Capitals, headed by General Manager (and former Bruins GM) Milt Schmidt, who was familiar with Adams’s ability and character in the locker room.  However, their expansion roster may be the worst of all-time and the team’s record and players’ individual stats reflected as much.  Adams finished the season with a record of 0-7 and a 6.90 GAA.

Adams would never play in the NHL again after that season and finished out his career with minor league stops in Richmond and Thunder Bay, where he still resides.Adams has never lost touch with his Boston background and, in fact, was settling in at home to watch the Red Sox when contacted originally contacted for this article.  When asked if he still stays in touch with any of former teammates, Adams casually revealed that he works part-time for Bobby Orr’s management agency as a recruiter for players in the Thunder Bay area.  He must be one of Orr’s premier employees as he’s helped steer the Staal brothers and Patrick Sharpe Orr’s way.Adams has always followed the Bruins from afar and was part of a celebration in Thunder Bay – which has a surprising number of Boston fans – that landed Mayor Keith Hobbs in hot water for raising the Bruins flag to a high place of honor at city hall.

When asked what his proudest hockey moment was, without hesitation Adams said being signed by the Boston Bruins.  “Being given a contract by an NHL team when only six teams were in the league is very special to me.  Not too many people can say that.”

Adams admitted to getting an occasional peek at the Stanley Cup and each time he does he always checks to make sure his name is still on there.  Yes, it is, and always will be.