|Bruins' captain Zdeno Chara lifts the Cup. This is an amazing photo. (Getty Images)|
First off, congratulations to the Boston Bruins for winning the Stanley Cup, their first since 1972!
Way back in April, I must say I did not see the Bruins going all the way... I figured powerhouse teams like the Capitals and Flyers would be able to capture the Eastern Conference title and compete for the Stanley Cup instead of the Bruins. I also figured the Canucks would be unbeatable as they had been all season, though I stubbornly refused to admit it (partially due to the playoff disappointment the Capitals had last season after dominating the NHL). Yet there they were, the Bruins and Canucks both only four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years (in the case of the Canucks, it would've been their first Stanley Cup ever, on the 40th year of the franchise's existence). What happened then was an absolutely thrilling seven game series, with twists and turns that almost nobody saw coming.
GAME 1: Vancouver Canucks - 1, Boston Bruins - 0
Raffi Torres scored on Tim Thomas with less than 20 seconds left, and the Canucks took an early lead in this series as Roberto Luongo picked up the shutout. The shots were just about even, as were the number of power plays (5 each) and their effectiveness (none). If anything, the Bruins proved here than they could hang with the Canucks and would not be blown away.
GAME 2: Vancouver Canucks - 3, Boston Bruins - 2, OT
The scoring opened up a bit more in Game 2, but once again the Canucks won, this time with a goal by Alex Burrows 11 seconds into overtime. The goal came as a result of Tim Thomas diving to try and get the puck from Burrows, but he missed, allowing Burrows to circle the net and put it into the empty net with Thomas watching a few feet away. Another close game, this time the Canucks lead in shots but both power plays only converted once (though the Bruins had 3 PP opportunities to the Canucks' 2).
GAME 3: Vancouver Canucks - 1, Boston Bruins - 8
And now for something completely different. For Game 3, the series left Vancouver and traveled to TD Garden in Boston, and oh boy did it make a difference. After Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome took out Nathan Horton of the Bruins with a late hit (leading to Horton being stretchered off the ice and diagnosed with a "severe concussion"; Rome was later suspended 4 games for the hit), the Bruins got their head in the game. Following a scoreless first, the Bruins opened scoring 11 seconds into the second period, and didn't look back. The B's scored 4 goals in both the second and third period (including 3 in the final 4 minutes of the game), getting 4 on even strength, 2 on the power play, and 2 shorthanded. Luongo was never pulled, apparently due to his own request. Regardless, this game put all the momentum on the Bruins' side, and really made this a series.
GAME 4: Vancouver Canucks - 0, Boston Bruins - 4
Not much to say here that the score doesn't say; the Bruins were great. Luongo was pulled early in the 3rd after allowing 4 goals on 20 shots, and Tim Thomas stopped all 38 shots he faced, solidifying his position as front runner for the Conn Smythe.
GAME 5: Vancouver Canucks - 1, Boston Bruins - 0
Once again the series went back to Vancouver, and this time Luongo returned to his Vezina-nominee form, pitching another shutout. Maxim Lapierre did all the scoring (getting the GWG early in the 3rd) and the Canucks left the game with a chance to win the Cup in Boston.
GAME 6: Vancouver Canucks - 2, Boston Bruins - 5
Luongo, fresh off his shutout, severely disappointed in this game. Bobby Lu let in 3 goals on the first 8 shots he faced (all in the first 9 minutes) and was pulled; the Bruins would then go on to set the Stanley Cup Finals record for the fastest 4 goals scored, scoring their 4th on Cory Schneider and getting all 4 in 4 minutes and 14 seconds. The Canucks did score a couple of meaningless goals later in the 3rd, but the game was already won by the Bruins. Thought the Canucks could have won the Cup in Game 6, it never felt that way during the actual game.
GAME 7: Vancouver Canucks - 0, Boston Bruins - 4
The Bruins simply were the better team in Game 7; though the Canucks did have moments where they put some pressure on the Bruins, the B's just outplayed the 'Nucks. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand both had a pair of goals, including a shorthanded goal by Bergeron late in the 2nd that put the dagger into the Canucks. Marchand's second came on the empty net to seal the win. The Sedin twins were absolutely invisible, except for their matching -4 ratings. The Bruins won their first Cup since 1972, and Tim Thomas deservedly won the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP after yet another masterful performance in net.
The Bruins end the season as champions, and will have their names forever engraved in the Stanley Cup. The City of Boston completes the set of having all 4 of their major sports teams (NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL) winning a championship in the last decade, truly making them the city of champions (the Patriots with their last Superbowl win coming in 2005 now have the longest championship drought of the 4 major teams in Boston).
The Canucks end their 40th season with a bitter taste in their mouths. After an incredible regular season and a dream playoff run, they finished oh so close to being champions and yet, in the end, nowhere near. They now will have an off season filled with doubt; about their season, about the series, about Game 7, about their players, about the future direction of the season. Oh well; there always will be a loser.
Finally, I would like to review the The Breakaway Goal Stanley Cup Finals staff predictions (full predictions available here), and in particular congratulate myself for predicting the series almost perfectly...
Stanley Cup: Boston Bruins in 7I figured I would go against the common pick, just because I wanted to. Honestly, I can see that in pretty much every aspect of the game, the Canucks are simply better than the Bruins. Their powerplay, offense, and defense were all top in the NHL for the regular season. But, Tim Thomas has simply blown me away all season. He has been solid, making amazing save after save, and will likely (and deservedly) win the Vezina Trophy this season (his 2nd Vezina) as top goalie in the NHL. His playoff performance has not disappointed either. Simply put, I think Tim Thomas can match the Canucks potent offense, and the Bruins (who aren't exactly bad at scoring themselves) will manage to pierce Luongo enough to win the series. The Canucks and Bruins played once this season; a 3-1 Bruins win. Tim Thomas had 27 saves on 28 shots...
Conn Smythe Trophy: Tim Thomas, GIf the Bruins are going to win a Cup they will have to give Tim Thomas a lot of the credit. His stellar play is the only way Boston can hope to stop the Canucks, and I think that he will be up to the task. What a story this guy's career will be if he wins.
I think Tim Thomas can match the Canucks potent offense, and the Bruins will manage pierce Luongo enough to win the series. Well, I was close... the Bruins, as it turned out, pierced Luongo quite a few times more than they needed. Tim Thomas for the Vezina was spot-on.
I can only hope that next year's Finals are as enjoyable as these were, but this time hopefully including a team from America's capital city...
|From 9th round pick by the Nordiques to Conn Smythe / Stanley Cup winning goalie with the Bruins. (Getty Images)|