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Army Rangers Jacket A Unifying Force For Bruins In Postseason Run

BOSTON (CBS) -- During the 2011 Stanley Cup run, Andrew Ference purchased a ratty old Bruins jacket which became the team's wearable trophy for the locker room-appointed player of the game. The jacket cost Ference just a few dollars on eBay, but it became a unifying force during that unforgettable two-month stretch.

This year, after awarding a chain link necklace with a padlock pendant during their brief playoff run last season, the Bruins have gone back to giving out postgame threads for the player of the game. And it appears to be a keeper.

This year's jacket comes from the Army Rangers, again courtesy of Ference, who visited the Rangers' training school in Georgia. The Army Rangers' mantra is, simply, "Rangers lead the way," and it's served as an inspiration to the Bruins.

Lucas Carr
Lucas Carr at Fenway Park in 2011 (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

"Seeing the guys wear the jacket, I've got to tell you, I've been getting emails and Facebook messages left and right," Army Sgt. Lucas Carr, who's struck a friendship with Ference and Shawn Thornton, said in an AP article. "The guys that are seeing this are in awe. They're very humbled: 'Oh, my God, this professional hockey team is using our insignia, out there performing for us. We're their heroes.' Hockey players can have heroes, too. That's what Andrew's conveyed for the team."

While nobody would ever equate the work of the Rangers to the work of hockey players, Carr -- who ran the Boston Marathon for the Boston Bruins Foundation and ran toward the bombing site to help shortly after crossing the finish line -- said there is a similar mind-set when it comes to their approach.

"It's about the man beside you," Carr said. "It is about the man beside you when you're skating a wing. They showed that in that comeback [in Game 7 vs. Toronto]. It's amazing what you can accomplish for a team."

The Bruins only award the jacket after victories, and it's passed on from the previous game's winner. Here's a list of who has won the jacket thus far, and what they've done to earn it.

Eastern Conference quarterfinals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Game 1 -- David Krejci

The Bruins' leading scorer this postseason began the playoffs with a three-point night, including an assist on the eventual game-winner, to earn player of the game honors from his teammates. It was the first of many excellent showings for the 27-year-old this postseason.

Game 3 -- Milan Lucic

The lumbering left winger tallied assists on the Bruins' first, third and fifth goals in a 5-2 victory in Toronto. His assist on that third goal, the eventual game-winner, was his best, as he out-hustled every Maple Leaf on the ice before sending a hard pass to Nathan Horton at the goal mouth. It came less than a minute after Toronto scored a goal to cut the Bruins' lead in half, and Lucic's effort helped quiet the raucous Toronto crowd.

Game 4 -- Nathan Horton

No jacket wearer better embodied the spirit of the reward than Nathan Horton in Game 4. He had two assists, but it was his effort on the game-winning goal in overtime that can't properly be reflected on the stat sheet but was very much appreciated by his teammates. Horton saw a charging Dion Phaneuf coming at him out of the corner of his eye and chipped a puck out of the Boston zone to David Krejci. Horton paid the price for his play, as he absorbed a heavy hit by Phaneuf that sent Horton's stick flying through the air, but it helped open up the space Krejci needed to operate to score the winning goal.

Game 7 -- Patrice Bergeron

In what was one of the greatest Bruins games ever played, Patrice Bergeron was the man to score the game-tying goal with less than a minute left in regulation. And for good measure, Bergeron scored the game-winning goal in overtime. Bergeron also had an assist in the 5-4 overtime win. The tying goal capped an unbelievable three-goal third-period comeback, so it was appropriate that the most-beloved Bruins player was the one to author the unforgettable moment.

Eastern Conference semifinals vs. New York Rangers

Game 1 -- Zdeno Chara

The hardest-working man in the league was rewarded for his efforts in a 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers. Chara scored the Bruins' first goal and assisted on the game-winner in overtime, but the postgame award was as much for his incredible 38:02 of ice time as it was for his offense. The next highest ice time total for any Bruin was Bergeron at 27:07, while New York's Dan Girardi finished with just over 32 minutes on the ice. Without the injured Dennis Seidenberg, Chara stepped up in a big way -- just three days after logging 35:46 of ice time in Game 7 against Toronto.

Game 2 -- Gregory Campbell

The Bruins' fourth-line center was an invaluable piece during the five-game series win of the Rangers, as it was his fourth line's dominance that might have made the biggest difference in the series. Campbell broke a tie game 2:24 into the second period when he backhanded a loose puck past Henrik Lundqvist, and he stepped up for his team late in the third period in what ended up being a blowout by agreeing to drop the gloves with Derek Dorsett at center ice.

Game 3 -- Daniel Paille

The fourth line struck again in Game 3. With the Bruins trailing 1-0, Daniel Paille passed to Johnny Boychuk for Boston's first goal in the third period. Thirteen minutes later, Paille beat every player on the ice to a loose puck that had bounced out of the New York crease. Paille scored on the rebound, the Bruins led the series 3-0, and Paille earned himself the jacket.

Game 5 -- Tuukka Rask

The Bruins' netminder took an embarrassing tumble in Game 4, a flub that proved costly in an overtime loss that forced the Bruins to keep playing and led to 48 hours of questioning of the Bruins' and Rask's ability to close out series. Rask responded in a big way, allowing just one goal through a screen on 29 shots, including a denial of Rangers captain Ryan Callahan on a breakaway in the third period. While Campbell scored two goals and certainly did enough to earn player of the game honors, Paille's decision to give the jacket to the goalie shows just how happy the team was to see Tuukka play so well after a tough night in Game 4.

Eastern Conference finals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Game 1 -- David Krejci

The first two-time winner of the postseason, Krejci continued his torrid scoring pace in the series opener in Pittsburgh. He scored the first goal of the series at 8:23 of the first period with a low slap shot that deflected under the pad of Tomas Vokoun, and he scored the second goal, pushing Norris Trophy finalist Kris Letang out of the way and batting a puck past Vokoun. It was a night when Tuukka Rask earned his first career postseason shutout, but considering he couldn't give himself the jacket, he passed it along to a much-deserving Krejci.

After the win, Krejci was asked if he feels he's on the same level as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

"No," Krejci flatly answered. "Those guys, I think they're the best players in the world at this moment. There's no one like those guys. But on the other hand, we don't have guys like that; we have a team. And we all play as a team."

Game 2 -- Jaromir Jagr

Jagr entered Game 2 of the conference finals in the midst of a six-game pointless streak, and much of the day in Boston was spent speculating whether the future Hall of Famer would be made a healthy scratch by Claude Julien. Such speculation was proven foolish, as it was Jagr who outmuscled Brooks Orpik along the boards and began the breakout that led to the crucial fourth Bruins goal, a score that squashed the momentum Pittsburgh had begun to establish with a goal of its own with 33 seconds left in the first period.

Later, in the third period, Jagr's shot was blocked, but he found the loose puck and sent a dazzling backhand feed through traffic to Bergeron, who buried the Bruins' fifth goal of the night.

Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr in the Army Rangers jacket after the Bruins' Game 2 win over Pittsburgh (Photo via @NHLBruins/Instagram)

Game 3 -- Patrice Bergeron

On a night when Tuukka Rask made 53 saves, it was Bergeron who was able to finally end a 95-minute marathon session in Game 3. He did it by streaking up the slot, establishing body position on defenseman Brooks Orpik and redirecting a perfect pass from the left wall by Brad Marchand to give the Bruins a 2-1, double-overtime victory and a 3-0 series lead.

It was Bergeron's second overtime game-winner of the postseason, and he also assisted on Marchand's overtime game-winner in Game 1 against the Rangers. Clearly, Bergeron has an extra gear when everybody else might get a little bit tired, and his teammates notice that.

Considering the game-winning sequence came after Jagr won a puck battle in the neutral zone and chipped a pass to Marchand, it was fitting that Jagr was able to pass the jacket on to Bergeron after the game.

Game 4 -- Adam McQuaid

The stay-at-home defenseman isn't known much for his goal scoring -- he has just seven in 190 career regular-season games -- but he picked a rather nifty time to find the back of the net against Pittsburgh. McQuaid crossed the blue line and took a pass from Brad Marchand. He looked toward the net and teed up a slap shot, which deflected immediately off the stick blade of Jarome Iginla and over the right shoulder of Tomas Vokoun. It stood up as the only goal of the game, as the Bruins completed their sweep of the top-seeded Penguins.

Stanley Cup Final vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Game 2 -- Chris Kelly

The Bruins' third line center who was a major contributor during the 2011 run had endured a brutal 2013 postseason through the first 17 games. He had zero goals, zero assists and a minus-9 rating, leading to a temporary drop down to the fourth line. But in Game 2, Claude Julien followed a "hunch" that told him to put Kelly between Daniel Paille and Tyler Seguin, and the line created the Bruins' only two goals of the game. Kelly scored the first, crashing the net after a Paille wraparound and burying the rebound to record his first postseason point and, more importantly, tie the game at 1-1. It was a huge goal, considering how badly the Bruins had been outplayed in the first period, and the Bruins rewarded Kelly with the team jacket.

Game 3 -- Dennis Seidenberg

Picking a winner for Game 3 of the Cup Final was no doubt a difficult chore, because it was a complete team victory. It was fitting, then, that it went to Dennis Seidenberg. The defenseman didn't register a goal or an assist on the night, and he finished with an even rating in the 2-0 victory. However, he blocked a team-high six shots. By comparison, the entire Blackhawks roster blocked just seven shots all night.

After an iffy effort in the first period nearly cost them in the previous game, Seidenberg's all-out effort was indicative of the Bruins' mind-set in Game 3.

"You don't hear him about him that much, but all the little things he does out there goes a long way, especially at this time of the year," Patrice Bergeron said of Seidenberg. "We recognize it in this room and I'm sure that's all that matters to him."

Dennis Seidenberg
Dennis Seidenberg (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Read more from Michael by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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