While names like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Zdeno Chara will be at the forefront of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, the most interesting storyline to follow this series, in my opinion, will be the performance of two NHL legends that have already secured their place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Jarome Iginla and Jaromir Jagr have been two of the most beloved and respected wingers in the NHL since the 1990s. Between the two men, they have played a combined 2,880 games and accounted for over 3,000 points.
However, despite their unquestioned success and respect, both men are likely to receive boos and jeers from opposing fans every time they touch the puck.
Jaromir Jagr spent a little more than a decade in Pittsburgh beginning in 1990, and during his tenure as a Penguin accomplished just about everything possible. Two Stanley Cups, one Hart Trophy (the NHL’s MVP award) and a handful of Art Ross Trophies (NHL leader in points) were captured by Jagr during his time in the Steel City. In spite of this success, he still receives a less than pleasant greeting from the black and gold faithful when he returns to Pittsburgh.
Penguins fans still remember 2001 when Jagr asked for a fresh start as the organization was struggling financially, and the team decided to move him to the Washington Capitals for a few prospects that never lived up to their promise. The most notable prospect was Kris Beech, who never lived up to his NHL potential recording just 27 points in 100 games with the Penguins.
Then in the summer of 2011 Jagr seemed poised to return to the NHL, and rumors swirled about talks with Mario Lemieux and a return to Pittsburgh. The public may never know the exact details, but something went wrong and Jagr ended up with the Penguins most hated rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers.
While I don’t agree with Pittsburgh’s hate towards Jaromir Jagr, I can certainly understand why many fans still choose to boo him. I also feel the same way about the boos Jarome Iginla will receive from Bruins fans.
Two months ago at the NHL trade deadline, Jarome Iginla was faced with a decision. Having a no-trade clause in his contract, Iginla had the power to decide which organization would be acquiring his services, Boston or Pittsburgh. While many media outlets reported Iginla was on his way to Boston, the deal was never finished and Iginla ultimately ended up in Pittsburgh, leaving the league stunned by another Ray Shero acquisition.
Iginla’s decision to pick Pittsburgh over Boston not only angered many New Englanders, but also opened the door for Jagr’s arrival in Bean Town. Making Boston fans even more upset is the fact that Iginla has outperformed Jagr this postseason. While Iginla has 12 points in 11 games, Jagr has just 4 assists in 12 games.
There is no question that Jarome Iginla and Jaromir Jagr are two of the most respected players in the NHL today. Despite this, both find themselves as unlikely villains in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals.
In a playoff series jam packed with story lines and superstars, I believe the most interesting thing to watch will be the performance of two future Hall of Famers. Neither Jagr or Iginla are their team’s best player anymore, yet both will receive the majority of boos and jeers this series. How they respond could have a great impact on which team moves on to the Stanley Cup Final.