In only their third season (1926-1927), the Bruins would reach the Stanley Cup final, led by the team's first star, defenseman Eddie Shore (who had joined the NHL from the defunct Western Hockey League). The Bruins would lose to the Ottawa Senators in the final, but would win their first Cup two years later by defeating the New York Rangers. The season after that (1929-1930), the Bruins would post the best regular season winning percentage in NHL history (an astonishing .875), but would lose to the Montreal Canadiens in the finals.
After staying mainly average through the 1930s, the Bruins would capture their second Cup in 1939, headlined by the "Kraut Line" (left-winger Milt Schmidt, center Bobby Bauer, and right-winger Woody Dumart), center Bill Cowley, goalie Tiny Thompson, and unexpected hero Mel Hill (who would score three overtime goals in one series). Two years later, the Bruins won their third Stanley Cup. Despite winning three Cups in their first 17 years, the team has only won two since.
Despite some flashes of success (such as making the Stanley Cup finals in 1953, 1957 and 1958, only to lose to the Montreal Canadiens each time), the Bruins mainly floundered over their next 25 years. They missed the playoffs eight straight years between 1960 and 1967, and there were even rumors that the team would fold.
That would change by the late 1960s, though. The Bruins got a hold of young defenseman Bobby Orr (who won two scoring titles), who entered the league in 1966. They would then get Phil Esposito from the Chicago Blackhawks, who would blossom into one of the league's top goal scorers by 1968 (in fact, he set an NHL record for goal scoring in 1970-1971, knocking 76 into the net). Added to other stars like Johnny Bucyk and goaltender Gerry Cheevers, the "Big, Bad Bruins" became one of the league's top teams through the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In 1970, a 29-year Stanley Cup drought would come to an end in Boston. The Bruins swept the St. Louis Blues in four games in the finals. Bobby Orr scored the game-winning goal in overtime of game 4, while being tripped up and would fly through the air after he scored - perhaps the best-known image in hockey history.
The Bruins looked poised to repeat in 1971 (having seven of the league's top ten scorers, including the aforementioned 76 goals by Phil Esposito), but would run into a roadblock in the playoffs. Up 5-1 at one point in game 2 of a quarter-final match against the Canadiens (and rookie goaltender Ken Dryden), the Bruins squandered it to lose 7-5. They never recovered and would lose the series in seven games. They would return to glory the next season (despite losing Cheevers to the renegade World Hockey Association), defeating the New York Rangers in six games in the finals. The Bruins have not won a Stanley Cup since.
It wasn't for a lack of trying, though. The Bruins would continue to be a dominant team through the 1970s, only to come up short in the playoffs. Although they had three 100-point scorers on the team (Esposito, Orr and Ken Hodge), they would lose the 1974 finals to the rough Philadelphia Flyers.
Don Cherry, the most flamboyant coach in hockey history, would step behind the bench for the first time in Boston in 1974-1975. The Bruins would stock themselves with enforcers and would continue to be a threat under Cherry's reign.
Orr, however, would not. He left the Bruins for the Chicago Blackhawks after the 1975-76 season and retired after many knee operations in 1979. The Bruins continued to excel without him though (picking up another star blueliner, Brad Park, from the Rangers (along with Jean Ratelle) in a blockbuster trade early in the season that would see Esposito join the New York squad) as they made the semi-finals again, losing to the Flyers.
Cheevers returned from the moribund WHA in 1977, and the Bruins would get past the Flyers in the semi-finals, but would lose to the Canadiens in the race for the Cup. The story would repeat itself in 1978.
The 1979 semi-final series against the Canadiens would prove to be Cherry's undoing. In the deciding seventh game, the Bruins, up by a goal, were called for having too many men on the ice. Montreal would tie the game on the ensuing power play and win in overtime.
The following season, Ray Bourque joined the Bruins. The defenseman would be an icon for the team in the 1980s and 1990s, although it took a 1999 trade to the Colorado Avalanche for him to win the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins would make the playoffs every year through the 1980s, but usually would not get very far. By the later parts of the decade, they once again became a force in the league. In addition to Bourque, players like Cam Neely, Steve Kasper and Don Sweeney would lead the Bruins to another finals appearance in 1988 against the Edmonton Oilers. The Bruins lost in a 4-game sweep, but created a memorable moment in game 4, when the lights at their home arena (the venerable Boston Garden) went out in the second period with the game tied. The rest of the game was cancelled and the series shifted to Edmonton.
Boston would return to the finals in 1990 (with Neely, Borque, Craig Janney and Bobby Carpenter leading the team in scoring, and Andy Moog and Reggie Lemelin splitting goaltending duties), but would again lose to the Oilers.
The 1990s were not kind to the Bruins. Despite picking up more talent like Adam Oates, Mats Naslund and Josef Stumpel, they would never get past the second round of the playoffs after 1992 (their second consecutive conference final loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.) In 1997, they missed the playoffs for the first time in 30 years. Despite enjoying a rennaisance of sorts in the 2001-2002 regular season (led by Joe Thornton, Glenn Murray and Sergei Samsonov), it did not translate into playoff success.
Fans in Boston are increasingly frustrated by the front office's (owner Jeremy Jacobs, former GM Harry Sinden and current GM Mike O'Connell) unwillingness to spend the money to attract big-name players to the Bruins, and they have now suffered their longest Cup-less drought in team history.
Players of Note
Hall of Famers:
Not to be forgotten:
Boston Bruins official web site