The Stanley Cup has returned to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the first time in four decades. Boston played 26 games, won three Game 7s, and trailed 2-0 in multiple series before hoisting hockey's holy grail.
The question now is where do they rank amongst some of the most recent Stanley Cup champions? Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic got it done in 2011, but how would this team stack up against Steve Yzerman's Red Wings or Joe Sakic's Colorado Avalanche?
Were they better than last year's Chicago Blackhawks?
Could Tim Thomas shut down Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin or younger versions of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier? How would this team do against the defense of Scott Niedermayer's Ducks or Devils?
Regular Season Record: 46-25-0-11 (2nd in Eastern Conference)
Regular Season Points: 103
1st Round: 4-2 vs. Montreal Canadians
2nd Round: 4-1 vs. New Jersey Devils
Conference Finals: 4-3 vs. Buffalo Sabres
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-3 vs. Edmonton Oilers
After a surprise run to the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals, the Carolina Hurricanes posted the second-worst record in the NHL the following season. They drafted Eric Staal second overall who would become the franchise player for the team in the post-lockout NHL.
Even after an entire season had been lost and the salary cap completely changed the dynamics of the league, it seemed like the usual suspects were being picked to win the Stanley Cup in 2006. During the regular season the success of teams like the Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings had carried over from the pre-salary cap era.
Carolina won a hard-fought series against Buffalo that featured five games that were decided by one goal. They trailed the series 2-1 entering Game 4.
The Hurricanes led the Oilers 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals but nearly blew the series after losing Games 5 and 6.
This team ranked third-to-last in goals scored, but surrendered the fewest goals in the league with their goaltending duo of Martin Gerber and Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward.
The 2006 Carolina Hurricanes were far from one of the best Stanley Cup champions of all time, but certainly one of the most unexpected.
Regular Season Record: 46-25--11 (3rd in Eastern Conference)
Regular Season Points: 103
1st Round: 4-3 vs. Montreal Canadians
2nd Round: 4-0 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Conference Finals: 4-3 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-3 vs. Vancouver Canucks
After blowing a 3-0 series lead during the 2010 playoffs, the Boston Bruins were eager to move on after their epic collapse.
While this team lacked an offensive superstar, their depth helped them become the fifth-highest scoring team during the regular season despite losing Marc Savard early on. Even with Savard out of action, the presence of David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, rookie Tyler Seguin and midseason acquisition Rich Peverly gave the Bruins the option to have a reliable center on every scoring line.
Milan Lucic led Boston with 30 goals and tied Krejci as the team leader in points with 62.
Zdeno Chara anchored the defense for this team along with Denis Seidenberg, helping the Bruins post the NHL's second-best goal differential.
After trailing the Montreal Canadians 2-0 in the first round, the Bruins won four of the next five games to advance to the second round against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Boston was out for revenge after losing four straight to the Flyers the previous year after going up 3-0 in the series. The Bruins responded with a sweep and advanced to the conference finals for the first time in 19 years.
The Bruins finished off the Tampa Bay Lightning after winning a 1-0 Game 7 grinder on home ice.
The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals would guarantee a championship for one long-suffering base. The Vancouver Canucks had never won the Cup in their 40-year history and the Bruins had not won it all since 1972.
Vancouver went up 2-0 in the series after winning the first two games at home by only a goal. Game 1 was a 1-0 grinder and Game 2 was decided only 11 seconds into overtime for a 3-2 win.
The series shifted to New England with the Canucks looking like they were going to make this a quick series. Boston responded with a 8-1 rout in Game 3.
The momentum of the series began to shift after Nathan Horton was knocked out of the series after a hit from Canucks defenceman Aaron Rose in the first period. Rose was suspended for the remainder of the playoffs and the Bruins responded with 4-0 win in Game 4 to tie the series up heading back to the Pacific Northwest.
After a horrendous performance on the road, Roberto Luongo shut out the Bruins 1-0 in Game 5 and the Canucks were now one win away from that elusive championship.
The home team won for the sixth consecutive game with the Bruins tormenting Luongo again on their home ice. Boston scored four goals in the first period of Game 6 to make this series go the distance.
Patrice Bergeron scored early in the first period of Game 7 and that would be all the Bruins needed to win their first title since the days of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito.
Tim Thomas finished off his Conn Smythe-winning performance by stopping 37 shots from the Canucks to help Boston win 4-0. Not bad for someone who was backup and on the trading block before the season started.
The 2011 Boston Bruins were the first team to win three Game 7s in the same postseason and Tim Thomas set an NHL playoff record with 798 saves.
Another Boston title drought ended and Mark Recchi finished his Hall of Fame career with another Stanley Cup championship.
Regular Season Record: 45-28-9 (4th in Eastern Conference)
Regular Season Points: 99
1st Round: 4-2 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
2nd Round: 4-3 vs. Washington Capitals
Conference Finals: 4-0 vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-3 vs. Detroit Red Wings
After a losing six-game effort in the 2008 Finals, at one point it seemed like the Penguins weren't even going to make to playoffs in 2009.
Michael Therrien was fired as head coach at midseason and was replaced by Dan Bylsma who had previously been coaching Pittsburgh's minor league affiliate in Wilkes Barre/Scranton.
The Penguins started to turn things around with a team that featured a good mix of rising stars and veterans looking for a ring.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal formed arguably the best centre trio in the NHL. The wingers on this team weren't spectacular but a solid group with the likes of Bill Guerin, Peter Sykora, Ruslan Fedotenko and Miroslav Satan.
While their was no shortage of offensive talent, what helped this team the most was that Marc Andre-Fleury finally established himself as the franchise goalie after struggling during the previous season.
Just like in the regular season, Pittsburgh managed to overcome obstacles throughout the playoffs, whether it was their comeback from a 3-1 series deficit against the Washington Capitals or trailing in the Stanley Cup Finals.
It seemed like the Detroit Red Wings were well on their way to a second consecutive title after winning Game 1 and 2 on back-to-back days on home, but the series began to shift towards Pittsburgh with the Penguins winning both Games 3 and 4, by an equal amount of 4-2.
After losing losing Game 5, 5-0, the Penguins won both Games 6 and 7, by a score of 2-1.
Their Game 7 win in Motown made them the first road team to win a Game 7 since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Regular Season Record: 46-20-10-6 (2nd in Eastern Conference)
Regular Season Points: 108
1st Round: 4-1 vs. Boston Bruins
2nd Round: 4-1 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Conference Finals: 4-3 vs. Ottawa Senators
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-3 vs. Might Ducks of Anaheim
The Devils were poised to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals after being upset by the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round the previous season.
The team's strong defensive corps led by Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer remained intact from the 2000 Cup-winning team, but their offensive depth was not as strong.
The Devils had lost Alexander Mogilny and Bobby Holik in consecutive seasons and ranked in the bottom half of the league in goals scored.
Only three players scored more than 20 goals, but any team with Martin Brodeur in net during the dead puck era was a championship contender.
After breezing through the first two rounds, New Jersey had a matchup with the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference finals.
Ottawa posted the best record during the regular season and was third-highest scoring team in the NHL. New Jersey led the series 3-1, but needed a seventh game after dropping Games 5 and 6.
Jeff Friesen scored the series-winning goal in the closing minutes of Game 7 sending the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals for a matchup with his former team, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Before the season the New Jersey Devils traded Petr Sykora to the Mighty Ducks for Jeff Friesen and Oleg Tverdosky.
J.S. Giguere was having one of the best Conn Smythe performances of all time and helped seventh-seeded Anaheim come within one win of a championship. The Devils won Game 7 on home ice to earn their third Stanley Cup in nine seasons.
Despite Giguere's historic level of play, the 2003 Stanley Finals are regarded by many fans as one of the worst of all time.
Regular Season Record: 46-22-8-6 (1st in Eastern Conference)
Regular Season Points: 106
1st Round: 4-1 vs. New York Islanders
2nd Round: 4-0 vs. Montreal Canadians
Conference Finals: 4-3 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-3 vs. Calgary Flames
In two seasons the Tampa Bay Lightning went from a laughingstock to Stanley Cup champions. The groundwork for the team had been started the previous season after they won the Southeast Division and lost to the eventual champion New Jersey Devils in the second round.
Martin St. Louis won the Hart Trophy, while Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards solidified themselves as superstars.
Without a lockout looming many expected the high-spending Detroit Red Wings or Colorado Avalanche to win the final Stanley Cup of what would be the final season of the pre-salary cap.
Both were upset in the first round while the Lightning advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with only a single blemish. However, the final two rounds would not be as easy.
This young Lightning team needed seven games to finish off Jeremy Roenick's Philadelphia Flyers (another team whose roster couldn't exist in the salary cap era).
In the Stanley Cup Finals, Tampa Bay came back to win the series after trailing 3-2 heading into Game 6.
Ruslan Fedotenko scored the winning goal in Game 7, the Lightning became the first Sun Belt expansion team to win the Stanley Cup and Dave Andreychuk went out on top.
The same core group of players would help the Lightning remain competitive after the lockout, but it took them another seven seasons to even reach the conference finals again.
Regular Season Record: 48-20-0-14 (2nd in Western Conference)
Regular Season Points: 110
1st Round: 4-1 vs. Minnesota Wild
2nd Round: 4-2 vs. San Jose Sharks
Conference Finals: 4-2 vs. Detroit Red Wings
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-1 vs. Ottawa Senators
The addition of Scott Niedermayer helped the sixth-seeded Mighty Ducks reach the 2006 Western Conference finals. The Mighty Ducks had established themselves as Stanley Cup contenders going in to the following season. However, it would take a name change and the addition of another Hall of Fame defenceman to bring the Cup to Southern California.
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim became the Anaheim Ducks and traded for Chris Pronger to give them the best defensive pair in the NHL.
Teemu Selanne scored 48 goals and Andy McDonald had 78 points to give the Ducks a good offensive duo. Anaheim certainly wasn't a deep offensive team, but the top two lines were rounded out by second-year players Chris Kunitz, Dustin Penner, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
The Ducks made it back to the Stanley Cup Finals after their miraculous run four years earlier. This time J.S. Giguere would go home with more than just a Conn Smythe Trophy.
They only time they trailed a series was during the Western Conference finals. While the Ducks needed only five games against the Ottawa Senators in the Finals, three of those games were won by a single goal.
Regular Season Record: 52-22-0-8 (2nd in Western Conference)
Regular Season Points: 112
1st Round: 4-2 vs. Nashville Predators
2nd Round: 4-2 vs. Vancouver Canucks
Conference Finals: 4-0 vs. San Jose Sharks
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-2 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Before Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews arrived in the Windy City in 2007, the Blackhawks made the playoffs only once during the previous 10 seasons.
The upstart Blackhawks quickly became Stanley Cup contenders and established themselves as such after a surprise run to the 2009 Western Conference finals.
Although they fell to the Red Wings in five games, Chicago entered the following season as a heavy favorite to win it all.
The same core remained intact with the exception of Martin Havlat who was being replaced by Marian Hossa, who was looking to finally win a ring after being on the losing side in consecutive years.
Chicago needed six games to get past both the Predators and Canucks, but swept the No. 1 seed San Jose Sharks in the conference finals for their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 18 years.
Their opponent in the finals was Chris Pronger and the seventh-seeded Philadelphia Flyers. Pronger was playing in his third Stanley Cup Final in five seasons.
The home team won the first five games, but the Blackhawks reversed the trend when Patrick Kane scored one of the more odd Cup-clinching goals in NHL history.
While the Blackhawks will remain a competitive team for years to come, they could have been dynastic in a previous era.
Due to the limits of the salary cap, in no small part to overspending on free agents like Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet, Chicago had to let go of rising players like Antii Niemi, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg in the offseason
Despite what could have happened if different free-agent decisions had been made, this team brought hockey back to Chitown.
Regular Season Record: 54-21-0-7 (President's Trophy winner)
Regular Season Points: 115
1st Round: 4-2 vs. Nashville Predators
2nd Round: 4-0 vs. Colorado Avalanche
Conference Finals: 4-2 vs. Dallas Stars
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-2 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The salary cap may have slowed down the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars, but the Detroit Red Wings were still among the NHL's elite.
However the Red Wings had been coming up short in the postseason since their last Stanley Cup celebration. During that time they won the President's Trophy twice, lost in the first round twice as the higher seed and only once advanced past the second round.
The Russian Five helped the Red Wings bring the Stanley Cup to Motown in the 1990s. Pavel Datsyuk was the only Russian on this team, but seven Sweden-born players had a significant role on for these Red Wings.
Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg formed one of the best duos in the league on a team that featured three productive scoring lines.
Detroit once again had the best regular-season record, but had a much longer trip than previous springs. The Red Wings never faced a series deficit during the 2008 playoffs and held a 3-1 series lead in the Finals heading into Game 5. The Pittsburgh Penguins won that classic in triple overtime, but the Red Wings would celebrate another championship two nights later.
Detroit's core remained intact the next season and the team looked even better on paper after signing Marian Hossa away from the Penguins.
The Red Wings and and Penguins would have a rematch in the Finals a year later, but the result would be different for everyone except Hossa.
Regular Season Record: 51-19-12 (President's Trophy winner)
Regular Season Points: 114
1st Round: 4-0 vs. Edmonton Oilers
2nd Round: 4-2 vs. St. Louis Blues
Conference Finals: 4-3 vs. Colorado Avalanche
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-2 vs. Buffalo Sabres
After two Stanley Cup trips as the Minnesota North Stars, the franchise moved south and became the Dallas Stars in 1993.
Under the ownership of Tom Hicks, the Stars were a perfect example of how a big-money team could build a Stanley Cup contender in the 1990s with no salary cap in existence.
While some team's important players were homegrown like Mike Modano and Derian Hatcher, many were brought in as free agents such as Ed Belfour, Sergei Zubov, Brett Hull and Joe Nieuwendyk.
Regardless of how they were built, the 1999 Dallas Stars were equal to their contemporaries in Detroit and Colorado.
After losing to the Red Wings in six games during the 1998 Eastern Conference finals, Dallas looked ready to break through in 1999.
The move that would put them over the top would be the addition of Brett Hull. Mike Modano finally had a superstar winger on his scoring line.
Dallas had the NHL's best regular-season record and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals after beating the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in the conference finals.
The Buffalo Sabres won Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in overtime 3-2. Dallas responded with wins in Games 2 and 3.
This series will always be remembered for that controversial moment in Game 6. The Stars led the series 3-2 and the series shifted back to Buffalo for Game 6.
Brett Hull scored the series-winner in triple overtime, but it appeared he scored with his foot in the crease before the puck got there.
Even if the goal had been disallowed there's still a good chance that the Stars would have won the series whether it was later in Game 6 or back in Texas for Game 7.
Nonetheless, that was no way for the series to end. However, the Dallas Stars were a great team that year with a roster that featured five potential Hall of Famers.
Regular Season Record: 45-24-8-5 (4th in Eastern Conference)
Regular Season Points: 103
1st Round: 4-0 vs. Florida Panthers
2nd Round: 4-2 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Conference Finals: 4-3 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-2 vs. Dallas Stars
After winning the Stanley Cup in 1995, New Jersey missed the playoffs the following season and only once advanced past the first round prior to the 1999-2000 season.
The Devils were the first seed in the Eastern Conference during the 1999 playoffs, but fell to Jaromir Jagr and the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games in Round 1.
Despite posting the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, the Devils experienced a major change late in the season.
Robbie Ftorek was fired as head coach with only eight games left in the regular season and was replaced by Larry Robinson. This would not be the only time that Lou Lamoriello would make a coaching change so late in the season.
While the A-line of Jason Arnott, Patrick Elias and Petr Sykora was integral for the offense, this team had no shortage of firepower.
The midseason addition of Alexander Mogilny gave the Devils a great second-line winger, Scott Gomez was named Rookie of the Year after posting a 70-point season and the third line was anchored by Bobby Holik.
While this Devils team had a great offense, the strength of their team was still the defense. Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and rookie Brian Rafalski provided great support for Martin Brodeur.
This strength was evident in the Eastern Conference finals when they faced a 3-1 series deficit against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Devils limited the Flyers to only three goals in the final three games of the series.
New Jersey beat the defending champion Dallas Stars in six games and established themselves as the dominant team in the Eastern Conference during that era.
Regular Season Record: 52-16-10-4 (President's Trophy winner)
Regular Season Points: 118
1st Round: 4-0 vs. Vancouver Canucks
2nd Round: 4-3 vs. Los Angeles Kings
Conference Finals: 4-1 vs. St. Louis Blues
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-3 vs. New Jersey Devils
After winning a championship during their first season in the Rockies, the Avalanche waited longer than most expected to win another.
The Avalanche would lose in the Western Conference finals three of the next four years, including back-to-back Game 7s to the Dallas Stars in 1999 and 2000.
Just as they did in previous years the Avalanche made a big trade-deadline move to gear up for another Cup run. The addition of Rob Blake strengthened their defense and made Adam Foote the best third defenceman in the league.
Their dynamic centre duo was at its peak. Joe Sakic won the Hart Trophy with an astonishing 118 points and Peter Forseberg had 89 points in 73 games. Not bad for the dead puck era.
After sweeping the Canucks in the first round, the Avalanche needed seven games to get past the Los Angeles Kings who had upset the Red Wings in the previous round.
After disposing the St. Louis Blues in five quick games, Colorado would face off against the defending champion New Jersey Devils.
Colorado led the series 2-1 but found themselves behind 3-2 shortly after. The Avalanche routed the Devils in Game 6 by a score of 4-0 and would win Game 7 on home ice, 3-1.
Patrick Roy won his record third Conn Smythe Award which helped solidify his status as the greatest goalie ever for a lot of people.
However, this series will always be remembered for one thing: Ray Bourque finally raising the Stanley Cup after 22 seasons and retiring as a Stanley Cup champion.
Regular Season Record: 51-17-10-4 (President's Trophy winner)
Regular Season Points: 116
1st Round: 4-2 vs. Vancouver Canucks
2nd Round: 4-1 vs. St. Louis Blues
Conference Finals: 4-3 vs. Colorado Avalanche
Stanley Cup Finals: 4-1 vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Just like their contemporaries in Dallas and Colorado, there's no way any of these teams could exist today under the salary cap. The current NHL salary is $59.4 million. Ten years ago the Red Wings' payroll was at $66,643,750.
Scotty Bowman's Red Wings always had star power, but in his final year behind the bench the star power on this team would rival what he had with Montreal in the late 1970s.
Motown said goodbye to Slava Kozlov and Chris Osgood, but welcomed Luc Robitaille, Brett Hull and Dominik Hasek, in addition to rookie a named Pavel Datsyuk.
With a roster that featured no less than 10 future Hall of Famers, Detroit entered the season as a heavy favorite to win the Cup with so much star power.
How many other teams ever had two future Hall of Famers on their fourth line or four Hall of Fame centres?
If that wasn't greedy enough, this team could have had 12 future Hall of Famers, if Larry Murphy stuck around for another season and Henrik Zetterberg decided to come over one year earlier.
The Red Wings' veteran roster breezed through the regular season, but faced adversity in the playoffs. They fell behind 2-0 against the Canucks in the first round and won the conference finals after trailing 3-2 against the arch rival Colorado Avalanche.
Detroit won Games 6 and 7 by an aggregate score of 9-0 and celebrated their Stanley Cup victory on home ice a few weeks later after disposing of the Carolina Hurricanes in five games.
The 2002 Detroit Red Wings were one of the best teams of all time and certainly one of the most star-studded.