The Engels Angle: Bruins Win the Cup Their Way
The Boston Bruins pose for a team photo as they celebrate their win over the Vancouver Canucks in game 7 of NHL Stanley Cup Final hockey at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
By Eric Engels
Published Thursday, June 16, 2011 10:00AM EDT
MONTREAL - Bruins Win the Cup Their Way
In the end, the better team won, and the best team failed to assert their style for six of seven games of the determining series.
The Vancouver Canucks spent too much of the Stanley Cup Finals trying to physically match up with the Bruins.
What they failed to do was out-chance Boston with speed. They failed to expose the limited speed on Boston's blue line, and they failed to open up the ice that would force Tim Thomas to make saves using his lateral mobility.
None of that seemed to matter as the Canucks filled Rogers Arena for one last chance to claim the prize that everyone had considered theirs before the series got underway.
They had one final crack at making significant adjustments--and Lord knows they needed to after beatings they took in Boston and the unconvincing wins they authored at home--but that task became significantly harder as they worked from an early deficit in game seven.
Boston came to Vancouver for game seven and executed with the precision and poise of a trained assassin.
They relentlessly forechecked Vancouver's defence into submission.
They scored the all-important first goal, the second, the third and the fourth, and they got the best out of their most valuable player.
Roberto Luongo will face a summer, if not a career's worth of criticism for not coming out on top, but he'd have needed to equal one of the best goaltending performances in the history of the game to silence his critics.
After all, Luongo shouldn't shoulder the blame for his team's game seven loss (which was really a microcosm of the entire series), though he should share it with his teammates who incessantly poked the bear that inevitably got its revenge.
The league's highest scoring team in the regular season finished as the 14th of 16 playoff teams in goals per game.
They only managed eight in the finals, and though Alain Vigneault refused to offer it as an excuse, Ryan Kesler and Daniel and Henrik Sedin had to have been significantly dinged to have contributed so little in terms of offence.
This final will always be referred to as another epic collapse by the Vancouver Canucks, who were the league's best team in the regular season and for three rounds of the playoffs.
But the reason they got stuck playing Boston's game is because the Bruins never really gave them a choice in the matter.
That is the mark of a Champion Bruins team; imposing their will on their opponents throughout the season and the playoffs.
Only a team like that could conquer its own personal demons--of never having successfully mounted a two-game deficit in a playoff series (they did it twice--in the first round against the Habs and in the finals against the Canucks)--and make history by becoming the first team to ever win three game sevens en route to a Stanley Cup.
Tim Thomas should be credited with one of the best seasons ever put forth by an NHL goaltender.
David Krejci battled years of criticism by leading his team and the entire playoffs in scoring.
Brad Marchand proved he can be as effective as he is annoying.
Patrice Bergeron shut down two of the most gifted offensive players in the game (both of whom will have won the league's MVP trophy by the end of this year).
Mark Recchi brought the one thing everyone except for Shawn Thornton was missing in this series: Stanley Cup-winning experience.
Zdeno Chara led a defence-core that was entirely underrated.
The Bruins wouldn't have won without Dennis Seidenberg's playoff-long contribution, and Andrew Ference will likely never get as much credit as he deserves for his performance.
And then there were the unsung heroes: Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley on the offensive side, and Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille who destroyed the Vancouver powerplay.
The Bruins won the Stanley Cup as a team and the Canucks lost it as one. They may not have had the best team, but they were better than the best when all was said and done.