By: Melanie DaSilva | Follow me on Twitter: @meldasilva9
It’s been 11 years. Eleven years since the Boston Bruins completed an incredible playoff run by beating the Vancouver Canucks, 4-0, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to end a 39-year drought between championships.
A lot has changed with the Black and Gold since 2011, but memories of the Cup run remain vivid for Bruins fans. It started with the unforgettable Game 7 win over the Montreal Canadians in the first round, followed by a sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round and the epic series against the Tampa Bay Lightning to clinch the Eastern Conference title.
It then came down to four wins. Four wins, and they’d be able to raise the Cup every hockey player dreams of the chance of holding. But it was a tough start.
After losing the first two games of the series on the road, the Bruins put themselves back in the series with an 8-1 beating in Game 3 in Boston. They later evened the series 2-2 with a 4-0 Game 4 win.
Back on the road, the Canucks moved one win closer to lifting the Cup with a 1-0 victory in Game 5. That meant it was do-or-die for the Bruins as they headed back home to Boston to play Game 6.
Three nights later, the Bruins made sure that the Canucks wouldn’t win the title in the city of Boston. Four first-period goals in the first 9:45 minutes of the game forced a Game 7 showdown two nights later in Vancouver.
In Game 7, goaltender Tim Thomas was incredible and got some assistance from his teammates to help the Bruins win 4-0. Thomas stopped all 37 shots the Canucks took, including 29 over the final two periods, to keep the shutout.
He ended up winning the Conn Smythe Trophy for the 2011 postseason. Offensively, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand each scored two goals to complete one of the most unforgettable postseason runs.
Since 2011, the Bruins have made it back to the Stanley Cup Final twice, losing them both. In 2013, the Chicago Blackhawks beat Boston in six games, and then the St. Louis Blues won Game 7 at TD Garden in 2019.
Bergeron and Marchand are the only two remaining Bruins players from the 2011 Stanley Cup roster. Their 2022 campaign ended in the first round of the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes.
So what’s different between the 2011 team and the current one? Not as much as you may be thinking, but next season depends on essential decisions from some players, including what Bergeron decides to do moving forward.
If he returns, Boston will have one more good run at the Stanley Cup, but if he hangs his skates up, that would clearly drop the team in terms of their forward lines. It wouldn’t be a total rebuild if Bergeron moves on from the game based on the rest of the group, but Boston wouldn’t be close to where they are without a significant upgrade at the center spot. Marchand would take over as Boston’s leader, but the Bruins would be on the hunt for a top-6 center after losing Bergeron and Krejci, key players in 2011, in consecutive years.
Defensively, in 2011 the team had top defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg in front of Thomas in net. Chara’s name speaks for itself, but Seidenberg was a physical defenseman who shut down anyone. His defense and aggressive play were key reasons why the Bruins were Stanley Cup champions.
This year the defense showed struggles throughout the season, but once the Bruins acquired Hampus Lindholm, defensive pairs were seemingly set. The top pairing of Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy could be one of the best in the NHL next season, but the rest of the pairs leave some big question marks.
Toughness and grit are critical themes in Bruins playoff runs, as seen in Chara, Seidenberg, Lindholm, and McAvoy, amongst others. But there must be more going into next season to be a Stanley Cup contender.
Since the 2007-08 season, the Bruins have only had two coaches: Claude Julien and Bruce Cassidy. Julien led the Bruins to the Cup in 2011 with tough coaching calls and having to pull the team out from deep holes they had created for themselves. By switching up lines, benching players, and moving others around, he was brilliant, and it showed.
The Bruins moved on from Julien during the 2016-17 season and gave Cassidy the nod to get the Bruins back to win the Stanley Cup. Both coaches were successful behind the bench, but now they are both gone after Cassidy was recently fired.
It came as a shock to fans, but now as the team possibly enters a rebuilding year, the coach will be a huge factor in how successful they will be moving forward.