It took another seven-game series for the Boston Bruins to win their first Stanley Cup in almost 40 years—but they did so in dominant fashion.
A sold-out Rogers Arena crowd expected Lord Stanley's cup to stay in Vancouver for the first time, but another phenomenal exhibition from Bruins goalie Tim Thomas made sure it was not meant to be.
Now that the dust has settled, there are a few questions left unanswered about the Vancouver Canucks.
What happened to the Sedin twins, who combined for 198 points during the regular season and 42 during the playoffs, but produced only a combined five points in seven finals matches?
How will Roberto Luongo be seen as a goaltender from now on, after the constant "confidence crisis" talks and another mediocre performance in the decisive game?
How can their power-play unit's performance be explained? It went just two for 35 in the finals, after performing very solidly in previous rounds.
Vancouver is not "down and out", not by a long shot, but it's going to be a tough summer for everyone in British Columbia.
Of course, explaining the loss of a Stanley Cup like Vancouver's goes way deeper than "putting a bull's-eye" on the goaltender or the team's top offensive performers.
But we can't forget that on the other side of the ice was a gritty-by-nature team in the Boston Bruins—sometimes, neither the most talented nor the most enjoyable to watch, but definitely the toughest to break mentally.
It was this very same "nature" of the team that carried them so far this year. Players stepped up when they were needed the most, and they completely thrashed the most feared team in the league when it mattered the most. And, adding insult to injury, they sealed the deal with a shutout in front of the opposition's own sell-out crowd.
The first factor that tilted this series was the different mindsets of both top goaltenders. For different reasons, Tim Thomas was at a much higher level than Roberto Luongo when it came to focus and motivation.
While it is true Thomas wasn't as criticized as Luongo by far, he put up very solid performances throughout the postseason (and the regular season, as a matter of fact), while inconsistency and media pressure got the best of Luongo early on in the finals.
The Canucks stole a couple of games from the Bruins thanks to their goalie's performance, no question about it, but Thomas was always the "anchor" of the Boston side even when things looked dire—how else would a goaltender even think about checking one of the most prolific forwards in the NHL like Henrik Sedin in Game 3?
The next factor was the overall performance of the Bruins' D-men. Although the idea to assign Zdeno Chara to screen Luongo didn't turn out the way Boston coach Claude Julien expected, they did their share in keeping the Vancouver Canucks to eight goals scored in seven games (like Chara showed in Game 7, with the empty net "save").
Boston never lost a game by more then a one-goal deficit and was very solid defensively, even though Thomas bailed out some of his defensemen a couple of times throughout the series. A very difficult team to score on that showed why they were exactly that.
Finally, we have the special teams. In what turned out to be one of the most undisciplined finals in recent years, power-play production was kept to a minimum. Neither Vancouver nor Boston made anything worth mentioning out of the man-advantage situations, but the defensive work done by Boston when they were a man down proved decisive in winning them the Cup.
Vancouver had more than enough chances to turn things around, considering the number of times they were on the power play, but they made almost nothing out of it.
As for Boston, Julien's idea of having Chara screen Luongo was not as bad as some people initially said—problem is, Chara is Boston's best blue-line shooter ,and that's where he makes a bigger impact—but being the biggest player in the Finals clearly had it's influence in this decision. All in all, it was a gamble that didn't really pay off.
In the end, it was a great series. The home team always had the upper hand until Boston decided to end it in style. In what turned out to be not so much a "goaltending showdown for the ages," the most experienced team won, thus ending another chapter in the "great book" of hockey.
And, like so many other nights this season, Thomas (and the Boston Bruins) stood tall.
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