The team beat the Vancouver Canucks on the road to win its first championship since 1972
The last time the Boston Bruins won the right to skate Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley's Cup around a hockey rink the date was May 11, 1972. To give you a sense of how long ago that was, the day after the Bruins' victory over the New York Rangers that year, the Rolling Stones released Exile on Main Street.
Thirty-nine years later, Mick and Keith— and more importantly Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito—are still around to bear witness to the Bruins' dominating Game 7 victory Wednesday night over the Vancouver Canucks. The Cup again belongs to Boston. The Bruins won the game, 4-0, and the memorable series, 4-3, and they are now, for the sixth time in their long history, champions of the National Hockey League. This means that every single one of Boston's four major sports teams have won a championship in just the past seven years. They don't call the place the Hub for nothing.
For a while, at least, for a half of a period anyway, the game itself was worthy of the circumstances. And then, just like that, Boston scored on the Canucks' beleaguered goalie Roberto Luongo and that was that. In many ways, as it often is, the story of the final round of the 2011 playoffs was goaltending. For Boston, it was Tim Thomas, whose remarkable play earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of hockey two-month, beard-inducing ordeal. For Vancouver, it was Luongo, the benighted goalie of Canada's last Olympic gold in hockey, who alternated between brilliance (at home) and incompetence (on the road). Poor Luongo. He wasn't awful Wednesday. But he wasn't remotely good enough. What a burden he now will bear; the crushing weight of a country's expectations and disappointments.
The game fell apart for Vancouver in the second period, when the Bruins added two more goals, both ugly ones, the ones that go in for a team which is about to win a Stanley Cup. The Canucks had no answer to Boston's forecheck, and to Thomas' goaltendending, and to the hulking presence on defense of Zdena Chara, at 6' 9" the tallest player ever to play in the NHL. The dazzling style that had earned Vancouver the most points of any team during the regular season simply was gone. Once the score was 3-0 the game seemed over. There wasn't a single moment in the third period when a reasonable person could have thought Boston's lead was in jeopardy.
Certainly Vancouver's raucous crowd—which rioted after the game in shockingly un-Canadian-like fashion—sensed by early in the third period that the game and the championship had ebbed from them. Until Game 7, the home team had won each game of the series. Vancouver had defended home-ice with three one-goal victories, one of which came just seconds into overtime. Boston had defended its own ice, with three straight romping victories. By Game 6, commentators on both sides of the border were comparing the series to the 1960 World Series, in which the Pittsburgh Pirates got outslugged by a wide margin by the New York Yankees only to beat the Bronx Bombers in Game 7. Well, so much for that comparison. There was no Bill Mazerowski to save the Canucks here.
Indeed, in the end, the Bruins won because they played like Canadians. Or at least how Canadians would like to think they play hockey when it really counts. Determined. Gritty. Consistent. Makes sense, since the team from Boston had more Canadians on it than the team from Canada. The Canucks have six American-born players on their roster (and 16 Canadians and nine Europeans, by my count). The Bruins have only two US-born players on their roster. And every single one of their forwards (save for David Krejci) are Canadian. It takes a village to finish a cross-check—but it's still Canada's game (Thomas, not for nothing, was born in Flint, Michigan—paging Michael Moore!).