Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why Boston won the Stanley Cup

Most people are talking about how Vancouver lost the Stanley Cup but hardly anyone is talking about how Boston won the Cup. The Canucks did not choke. They were beaten by a better team.

To be honest few people were talking about the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup at the start of the season after their dramatic collapse against the Flyers in the 2010 playoffs. The Bruins became one of the few teams in playoff history to go up by the three games in a series and then go on to lose the series. The perspective didn't change very much at the start of the playoffs outside of Bruin fans. In fact, the Bruins dropped the first 2 games at home to Montreal and people were already writing eulogies.

However, the Bruins have shown amazing resiliency this year following a team set back. When Marc Savard was lost for the season they continued to find offense. GM Peter Chiarelli had wisely picked up Nathan Horton over the off season to provide more scoring and he thrived in Boston. Chiarelli had added considerable depth to the line up at the trading deadline which helped the Bruins go deep in the playoffs.

Last season Tim Thomas had lost his starting job because of a hip injury after winning the Vezina but bounced back this season and is a leading contender for the Vezina again after winning the Conn Smythe. Thomas and Zdeno Chara are obviously the key players on this team. In fact where the Canucks are lacking is the shut down defenseman like Chara. Although Vancouver has an excellent defense and a great goalie that matches up well against Thomas, there is no one in their line up comparable to Chara. What many people do not remember is that Chara was out of the Boston line up in those first two games against Montreal because of dehydration. When he returned the Bruins went on a 8 game win streak which carried them into the Conference finals.

Chara who is not only the tallest player in the league but one of the most fit, was able to shut down each team's number one line on their march to the Cup. Against Montreal he shut down Plekanec, Cammalleri and Gionta. Against Philadelphia it was Briere, Giroux and van Riemsdyk. Against Tampa Bay it was Lecavalier, St. Louis and Stamkos. Then against Vancouver he totally shut down the Sedins and Burrows. Meanwhile Boston was able to get scoring from throughout their line up. When Krejic, Lucic and Horton couldn't then guys like Recchi, Peverley, Marchand and Kelly chipped in. The team has the size to wear you down and the speed to get by you. It was a total team effort.

But at the end of the day it's hard to beat a team that got the type of goaltending provided by Tim Thomas. Giving up only 8 goals in the finals underscored his value to the team and why he was likely a unanimous pick for the Conn Smythe. He stopped an incredible 201 out of 209 shots in the finals and finished with a GAA of 1.98 and a save percentage of .940 for the playoffs. Roberto Luongo foolishly made some unwise and classless comments about Thomas after game 5. As if Thomas needed any more incentive to carry his team to victory.

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