2011 Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 - Boston 4, Vancouver 0 – Bruins win series, 4-3; Boston wins first Stanley Cup since 1972
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On Wednesday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, a hockey game unfolded at after six-plus months of regular-season competition and two long months of playoff battles. Of all the thousands of hockey games played since the beginning of the 2010-2011 NHL campaign, the one that concluded the Stanley Cup Finals was not particularly memorable or dramatic in and of itself. The Boston Bruins struck early, then drove home a short-handed dagger late in the second period to essentially finish off the Vancouver Canucks before the third period even began.
The great irony about the decisive and not-very-compelling nature of Game 7 was that it allowed the youth of Vancouver – unsettled, empty people with a gnawing vacancy in their hearts and minds – to get a head start on trashing their city. Indeed, if Game 7 had been compelling until the final few minutes of regulation time, the rioting that consumed Vancouver might still have happened; however, it certainly wouldn’t have started as early in the evening. The course of Vancouver’s history might have been different.
And that was just the off-ice portion of Wednesday night’s events.
On the ice, Boston’s runaway win – forged by Patrice Bergeron’s go-ahead goal at 14:37 of the first period and then cemented by Bergeron’s shorty at 17:35 of the second – certainly changed the course of hockey history on numerous levels. The lack of drama over the course of 60 regulation minutes was pronounced, but the ripple effect on the NHL’s existence proved to be that much more substantial. Because of Boston’s ability to claim the only road win of this series, a tidal wave of truths both tough and tender altered the official historical record.
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First, the tough truths: Vancouver, like Detroit in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals against Pittsburgh, lost the series – and Lord Stanley’s precious prize – after owning a 2-0 series lead and winning the first three home games of the finals. The Canucks, unlike the 1977 Montreal Canadiens and the 1989 Calgary Flames, could not win the Stanley Cup one year after its city brought the Olympic Games to Canada. Speaking of Canada, the nation that reveres hockey more than any other is now forced to wait yet another year for Lord Stanley. The 1993 Canadiens remain the last Canadian franchise to sip from the Cup of victory. Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who led Canada to the Olympic gold medal on the Rogers Arena ice 16 months ago, was denied the Olympic-Stanley Cup double after one final face-plant in Game 7. Luongo was pure gold at home in this series through Game 5, but his inability to summon one final home-ice masterclass will haunt him through the offseason.
Now, the tender truths: One year after the Chicago Blackhawks snapped a 49-year Stanley Cup drought, the Bruins broke a 39-year dry run without the sweet nectar of a Cup championship. Goalie Tim Thomas – who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player – became the oldest Conn Smythe winner in NHL history (just short of his 38th birthday). He also made the most saves (238) of any goalie in the history of the Stanley Cup Finals. Boston coach Claude Julien, who was likely going to find the unemployment line if Boston had lost to Montreal in the first round of the 2011 playoffs (the Bruins trailed two games to none and headed to Montreal to play two games), is now a championship bench boss. Zdeno Chara became yet another European captain of a Cup-winning team a few years after Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom first gained the honor in 2008.
All these distinctions and many more emerged because of one hockey game. It wasn’t a classic game, but the way this contest will reverberate through the pages of time is a testament to the power, the aura, and the unending significance of Lord Stanley’s most treasured and revered Cup. Boston will carry it through a summer of elation. Vancouver’s hockey team will try to take that one added step in 2012 while its damaged city picks up the pieces from an event much darker than anything which happened on a sheet of ice Wednesday night.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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