Turns out Jarome Iginla’s demise was misreported. The former Calgary Flames heart and soul was supposed to be all but finished, his illustrious career tiptoeing to a conclusion because of legs and hands that were showing signs of slowing.
But as a smiling Iginla told me hours before his habitual roasting of the Wild last Monday, “I never thought I was done.”
Iginla, 36, signed with the Boston Bruins last summer, an unexpected union because Iginla turned down a trade to Boston last season and chose to go to Pittsburgh instead. The Bruins got the last laugh, sweeping the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals and then getting their man anyway in free agency.
The Bruins, riding a 12-game winning streak and a 20-2-3 run in their past 25, are the best team in the East and one of the deepest, most balanced teams in the NHL. Like a perfectly tailored suit, Iginla has fit impeccably.
Playing on a line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci, Iginla leads the Bruins with 28 goals and is a plus-32. Last week, his winning goal against Minnesota was part of a string of three in four games.
Iginla, the all-time leading scorer against the Wild, is third among active players with 558 goals and fourth with 1,164 points.
“It’s been a really fun year,” Iginla said. “All the way from the start of training camp, it’s been a new experience. Different pressures, it’s been very enjoyable to be winning as a team, to be battling for the top of the conference for pretty much the whole year.
“I know the feeling on the other side when you’re battling for a playoff spot and every game is do or die, or a four-point game. It’s a nice change to have a different pressure, to try to better our own game as opposed to having to watch other teams. I know how that feels. This is more fun.”
After snubbing the Bruins last season, Iginla still hears the odd joke from teammates. At the start, Bruins fans didn’t know whether or not to accept him, although that changed rather quickly.
“Probably because they beat us [in the conference finals], and pretty handily,” Iginla said, laughing.
Teammates have definitely accepted him.
“He’s pretty quiet,” forward Chris Kelly said. “We have enough guys that spew. He just goes out and plays his game and plays hard and does everything extremely well. He’s not just a scorer. He plays hard, he fights, he blocks shots. He’s out there last minute when we’re up by a goal or down by a goal. He’s one of the best all-around players of all time.”
And he’s an incredible influence on Boston’s youngsters. Monday morning before playing the Wild, the first player on the ice for the Bruins’ morning skate was Jarome Iginla.
“I’ve admired him for a long time, but sometimes you don’t really appreciate somebody until you actually play with them,” said the Bruins’ Gregory Campbell. “He’s been in hockey so long, yet he’s still hungry for so more. He goes as far as taking his skates home so he can work on his shot. It rubs off in the dressing room.”
Iginla knows people felt he was on the decline, but his philosophy is “every year is a chance to prove yourself. I’m fortunate to be here in Boston because I didn’t know if that could ever be the case.”
In Campbell’s mind, Iginla is the feel-good story in this year’s NHL.
“He’s done so much for the game, especially in Canada and specifically in Calgary,” Campbell said. “But sometimes you get stuck in the same pattern. I think a new environment has been really good for him, coming here and having the opportunity to have a fresh look on things and really have the opportunity to chase his goal of winning the Stanley Cup.
“It’s something that has been motivating him for a long time, and Boston has rejuvenated him in a sense.”