By Nick Craddock
Tim Thomas finally stole a game in Vancouver. Turns out, it was the only game that mattered.
Thomas, who became only the second American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player, completed his stellar series (make that season) by backstopping the Boston Bruins to a 4-0 win in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals and their first championship since 1972.
Thomas played phenomenal in the previous three games in Vancouver, but his team only managed two goals versus his topsy-turvy counterpart Roberto Luongo. Luongo, normally a rock at home, was suspect in game 7. The Bruins’ second and third goals were particularly chintzy, and it appeared that Luongo may have had more of a hand in putting those goals in his net rather than keeping them out.
Many pundits didn’t predict that the Bruins would take this series before it started, but given what transpired in a wonderful Stanley Cup finals there’s no denying that Boston, which outscored Vancouver 23-8, deserved this Cup more than Presidents’ Trophy winners.
In fact, Boston deserved this Cup victory for Thomas’ play alone. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to rebound from hip surgery a year ago. He wasn’t the starting goalie for this team to begin the year. He bounced back from a rough start in the Montreal series. He came so close to snagging a road victory in Vancouver earlier in the series only to be called out by Luongo after game 5.
He was also the main reason the Bruins upset the Canucks for the Stanley Cup championship.
Turning point: When the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron opened the scoring in game 7 with a less-than-spectacular goal, one had to assume that it was going to be the Bruins night to get the lucky breaks.
In my correspondence with Josh Kramer, moderator and creator of this most-esteemed blog, he predicted that the team to score first would be victorious — as had been the case in every other game in the series — and Josh was correct. So, I guess give him kudos on Twitter.
Three Stars of the game:
- Thomas — Stopped more shots during these playoffs (798) than any other goalie in NHL history.
- Patrice Bergeron — the oft-injured forward delivered the knockout punch with his shorthanded goal late in the second period.
- Brad Marchand—the rookie capped his solid playoffs with a pair of goals in this game. Easily the most hated Bruin by the Canucks faithful.
Black & Decker Tool of the game: Luongo (yeah, really, it’s him again). Luongo is signed to a long-term contract in Vancouver and this contract will now seem like an eternity until he redeems himself for what can only be described as his playoff flub.
Luongo will be more hated in the city of Vancouver than that guy who clubs baby seals at the docks.
If and when Luongo leads the Canucks to a Stanley Cup victory, you may refer to him by the following nicknames:
-Roberto Luongoinghomewithoutacup (a bit of a mouthful, yes)
Other nuts and bolts: Give credit to the Bruins checking line (Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell) for providing quality minutes in a pressure-packed game. The trio saw more minutes in game 7 than they had all series long and rewarded Boston head coach Claude Julien’s faith in them with energy, hits, scoring opportunities and, most importantly, disciplined play.
The Chicago Blackhawks won the Cup last year and now it’s the Bruins’ turn this year. Both teams are Original Six franchises that ended long Cup droughts. Maybe it will be the Toronto Maple Leafs next year hoisting their first Stanley Cup since 1967. Or maybe not.
Here’s to what has been a great NHL season. I promise my next blog post will be non-hockey related.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.