I don't believe that many would have predicted that Boston would be the team hoisting the Cup this year, let alone doing so over the Canucks. The victory was achieved through the combination a lot of hard work, exorcising past demons, stellar goaltending and, of course, tremendous beards (see: Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron—anyone but Tyler Seguin).
First came the Canadiens (deja vu, anyone?). Boston went down 2-0 in the series and had to battle through three OT games, including Game 7, in order to knock off Montreal. Thomas was not yet on top of his game in this series, but he was just getting warmed up.
Next up were the Flyers (deja vu, anyone?)—the team that embarrassed the Bruins last year after winning four games in a row to take the series in seven. This year would be very different. Was Thomas actually getting warmed up? You bet—just look at these goal totals: 3, 2, 1, 1. Four games, seven goals, series over.
Also, those seven goals were up against the 20 that the Bruins offense tallied in order to take some of the pressure off their netminder. Well-deserved ticket to the conference finals.
Here comes Tampa Bay, looking to head back to the Stanley Cup Final, which they won a few years ago in 2004. The Lightning seemed to have figured out Thomas, scoring five goals in Games 1, 2, 4 and 6 to take this series the distance. They also seemed rather lost in Games 3, 5 and 7, where they netted a grand total of one goal. Tampa's inconsistency was not enough to take down Boston's natural goal-scoring abilities, and it just couldn't steal this one from the Bruins.
Will Thomas go down as one of the best Bruins of all time?
That brings us to the Cup Final—a place the Bruins hadn't reached in 21 seasons. Another seven-game series, and another inconsistent performance by both teams. Scoring eight goals in Game 3 didn't erase the fact that Boston was shut out in Games 1 and 5, leading to a Game 6 facing elimination. No biggie—Thomas only let in two, and the offense stepped up, so the series was headed back to Vancouver for the greatest moment in sports: a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
ALL of that led to this moment—one game to win it all.
Cue Tim Thomas. Here's what I imagine his speech was to the team before the game: Roberto Luongo got two 1-0 shutouts—so why can't I get a second 4-0 shutout? Sounds about right.
In my opinion, the Game 7 shutout culminated the Bruins' 2011 Cup run. Here's why. Boston was outshot 37-20. Thomas stopped all of them. Their rookie sensation Brad Marchand netted two goals and an assist—what kind of rookie steps up like that? Perfect Final performance as part of this historic run to the Cup. Short-handed breakaway goal in Game 7 of the finals? Yeah, that NEVER happens. Still, Bergeron managed to check that one off his bucket list.
Best of all, Boston waltzed into Vancouver's house after a grueling series and SHUT IT OUT. Doesn't get much better than that.
Boston wasn't the best team in this year's playoffs. It did, however, have one of the greatest playoff performances ever by a goalie and a team that just would not quit through 25 games. Three seven-game series, a sweep and a Cup-clinching shutout—the fans could not have thought up a better postseason.
Congratulations to the 2011 Boston Bruins. Get some rest—you've earned it.