By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
On June 15th, 2011, the Boston Bruins ended the 39-year long period without a Stanley Cup. Thirty-nine years that seemed like an eternity to the hardcore fans of the Bruins, but nonetheless, every single fan of Boston felt a kind of joy that is truly difficult to repeat.
Some would call it a Cinderella story and for good reason. The Bruins were not expected to win the Stanley Cup in the 2010-2011 season. The year prior, in the 2009-2010 season, the Bruins finished third in the Northeast Division, winning only 39 games. Into the playoffs, the Bruins would be eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second-round, a series in which they once possessed a 3-0 series lead.
Following the heartbreak in 2010, the Bruins came back in the ’10/’11 season with a better regular season record than the previous year. A 46-25-11 record would give the Bruins the top spot in the Northeast division, fourth in the Eastern Conference. The solid year, led by Milan Lucic who scored 30 goals and added 32 assists for a 62-point campaign.
Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas dominated for the B’s throughout the season as well. Racking up thirty-five wins, a save percentage of 0.935% and a goals against average of 2.28 along with nine shutouts – a career-high. His career year would earn him his second Vezina Trophy, edging out Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo.
Due to the play in the regular season, the Bruins would get the opportunity to play their bitter rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, in the first-round.
Round One vs Montreal Canadiens (BOS Won 4-3)
As Boston had home ice advantage to begin the playoffs, the momentum arguably was in the favor of the Bruins. However, the Canadiens would not allow the games on the road to ruin their chances at Stanley Cup glory. Montreal would win Games One and Two in Boston, holding the Bruins to only one goal within both games combined.
Heading up north into Montreal, Canada, the Bruins needed a win, preferably two before they made their way back to Boston for a hopeful Game Five. In Game Three, the B’s would indeed come out victorious, winning by a score of 4-2. Three days later, the two teams battled in a crucial game four. Either Boston goes back to the TD Garden down 3-1 in the series, or tied at two a piece.
In the closest game yet, the Bruins and Canadiens would enter their first overtime session of the series. For the B’s it was a big game. At one point during the contest, the black and gold trailed 3-1, only to comeback and tie the game 4-4, forcing the extra time. That’s when forward Michael Ryder won the game for the Bruins, tying the series.
Once again, the two Original Six franchises would engage in another overtime, this time in Game Five. However, they would need more than just one extra period, as it wouldn’t be until Nathan Horton, roughly halfway through the second overtime, buried the game-winner.
While the Habs would take the sixth game, Boston would strike back with what would be the final blow to the Montreal Canadiens, and to the series as Horton would once again score the game-winning goal in overtime in Game Seven.
Round Two vs Philadelphia Flyers (BOS Won 4-0)
If you were living under a rock for about a year or so, the second-round matchup between the Bruins and Flyers may have seemed like the Stanley Cup Playoffs were on re-runs. For the second-consecutive year, both teams would battle it out in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
It is an understatement to say that the Bruins did not take the Flyers lightly in the first game of the best-of-seven series, winning Game One 7-3. With the assistance of an overtime goal in Game Two by David Krejci, the Bruins would win both games at home, going to Philly with a 2-0 series lead.
Then, Boston would pick up a 5-1 victory in both Games Three and Four to sweep the Philadelphia Flyers. This series win was a huge confidence booster for the team, as they overcame the heartbreak that they felt just one year prior when they blew the same 3-0 series lead against the same Philadelphia Flyers team to lose in seven. This time around the Bruins finished the job in the fourth game, focusing their attention to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Round Three vs Tampa Bay Lightning (BOS Won 4-3)
Halfway through. Both teams entered the Eastern Conference Finals with similar success in the previous two rounds. Boston defeated Montreal in seven while Tampa defeated Pittsburgh in seven as well. Also, Tampa and Boston each swept their second-round opponents.
Thinking back on this series, I cannot remember a more nail-biting series than this one and I am willing to bet that the majority of Bruins felt almost the same way. The Lightning dominated the first game, winning 5-2. One thing to be noted though, the Boston Bruins of 2011 did not allow a deficit to hold them back. That idea stayed true heading into the second meeting of the Conference Finals.
Boston narrowly took a 6-5 victory, followed by a 2-0 shutout in the third game. Like the Bruins, the Lightning would not go down without a fight. Tampa would once again score five goals on the B’s, winning 5-3, but yet again, Boston would strike back and win 3-1 in Game Five.
In their first elimination game of the series, Tampa Bay would barely win in Game Six, forcing another Game Seven.
Game Seven in the Eastern Conference Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins was by far the most nerve-wracking of the games. After the first forty minutes, the score was still scoreless but the shots were greatly in favour of Boston. Dwayne Roloson stood on his head for the entire game, but so was Tim Thomas for the B’s on the other side of the rink.
Not a single player could solve the goaltenders, until Nathan Horton summonded his clutch element that he has already shown off during the earlier rounds of the playoffs, scoring the only goal the scoreboard would show with only seven minutes remaining in the third and final period.
And, that goal would lead to this moment, the moment the Boston Bruins realized that they were the 2011 Eastern Conference Champions.
Stanley Cup Finals vs Vancouver Canucks (BOS Won 4-3)
Only four wins separate the Boston Bruins from winning their sixth Stanley Cup since they joined the league back in 1924. Their opponent in the Final – the Vancouver Canucks – their very chance to win their first ever Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Canucks were coming off of a President’s Trophy win, leading the National Hockey League with a 54-19-9 record.
As with the entirety of the playoffs up to that point, the Bruins were not given as great of a chance as their opponent. Vancouver was deemed the favourites to win the Cup that year, especially when they made it to the final round. That hope for Canuck fans stayed true as they would win the first two games at home with two close wins.
Canadian media praised Vancouver and said it is now their Cup to lose. Well, the Bruins must have heard that, because they came out with a fire lit underneath them, winning Game Three by a devestating score of 8-1. Another reason for the explosion from Boston, was the injury of Nathan Horton. Horton won so many games for the Bruins all post-season long, and to see him go down from a bad hit by Aaron Rome, motivated the Bruins to play for Horton. The B’s would then shutout the British Columbia team 4-0 in the fourth meeting, making this series a best-of-three competition.
In Game Five, the Canucks would squeak past the Bruins on home ice once again, winning 1-0. But, history would repeat itself back in Boston, as the Bruins would win Game Six 5-2. This would lead into a Game Seven where no team on the road would have taken a win.
With a fairly even few minutes to begin the first period of Game Seven, the Boston Bruins would be the first to score roughly fifteen minutes in. Patrice Bergeron would score the goal, silencing the crowd in Vancouver from that point forward. In the second-period, Brad Marchand would score a wrap-around goal to make this game 2-0.
Later in the frame, Patrice Bergeron would drive down the ice shorthanded, but somehow manage to bury the puck past Roberto Luongo, giving the Bruins a 3-0 lead with twenty minutes left to go in Vancouver. The Canucks would not be able to score at all in the game, Marchand would net an empty-netter and the Boston Bruins would win the Stanley Cup.
Goalie Tim Thomas would take home the Conn Smythe Trophy – the trophy for the MVP during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In 25 games – three series that went to Game Seven – Thomas finished with a 0.940% save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average. Not to mention four shutouts, including the final one in Game Seven.
As a hardcore fan of the Boston Bruins and hockey overall, I cannot believe that seven years has already passed by since this day. While the time has travelled past, the memories will never leave.