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Boston Bruins Stanley Cup

Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Champions. It has a nice ring to it, at least on the shores, hills, valleys, and towns of New England. With all the articles and posts I’ve written over the years, it truly is odd that this is my first regarding sports of any kind. I doubt it will be my last.

Recapping the Impressive Stanley Cup Championship Season of the Boston Bruins

There were a lot of ups and downs on the road to the Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins. Expectations were fairly high going into the season however a lot of questions remained. Many thought that Tuuka Rask would replace Tim Thomas as the #1 goalie. Many wondered how well injured players, particularly those with concussion injuries (such as Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron) would hold up in the 2010-11 NHL season. I think the biggest cloud over-hanging the team however was the utter collapse in the playoffs last season against the Flyers. Suffice to say there were a number of fans who wondered how on earth the team would recover from that painful memory.

Cool Management Reaction to End of 2009-10 Campaign Got Team Off on Right Foot

Credit management however, for keeping the bulk of the team intact. The draft (enhanced by a savvy trade of sniper Phil Kessel to Toronto) yielded the second pick, used on speedy sniper Tyler Seguin. Like many high picks to enter the NHL before him, Seguin had high expectations placed on him by the fan base. Mercifully however he was not thrown to the wolves by coach Claude Julien and management. Cool management decision-making clearly was a hall-mark of the 2010-11 season for the Bruins. Although there were many times the team or management could have reacted with hot heads and made bad plays or reactionary trades, this management team of Julien, Neely, Chiarelli, and Jacobs waited before making rash decisions. The strategy clearly paid off.

Consider the fan-base and their desire to see the new kid on the block get bigger minutes. Those who know the game best could see he had a lot of talent – certainly talent enough to play in the NHL. On the other hand I think it pretty clear (from watching him get man-handled in the dirty areas of the ice) that his body was not yet strong enough to compete in the areas where he needs to to be effective. As a result Tyler had to earn his minutes most of the time, although some of his minutes definitely came as a result of injury to better, more established players. The reward for making the young player earn his time on the ice? Howabout those flashy goals in the conference finals? Did one cause lead to the result? There’s no way to answer the question but clearly Seguin’s play will get better as time goes on. Sitting him at times for uninspired play didn’t hurt his long term development, that’s for sure. Julien took criticism for that, but who can judge his decision making now?

Injuries Threatened Key Bruins Players

Injuries to a number of the top players, most notably Marc Savard, put the Bruins’ season in jeopardy. The injury to Savard crippled the Bruins power-play, which had been functioning respectably during the season. The combination of play-makers Savard and Bergeron with Chara and snipers Ryder and Horton kept teams honest on the man-advantage. Once Savard was cut down by another shot to the head it seemed like the power-play (and the Bruins chances at making the playoffs) were dwindling.

Enter the Jacobs and the Opening of the Checkbook

Although the Bruins were hanging around near the 8th spot in the playoff race, it was evident to seasoned fans that the roster they had wasn’t going to cut it: the forward line was not deep enough, the power-play was abominable, and the defense was relying too much on Tim Thomas night in and night out. Enter Peter Chiarelli and the management team: good-bye Mark Stuart, Blake Wheeler, a prospect and this year’s 2011 1st round pick in the draft and hello Chris Kelly, Rich Peverly, and Tomas Kaberle (source: aolnews).

Kelly and Peverly paid immediate dividends, combining for scores immediately upon pulling on the spoked-B sweater. I don’t think any GM will tell you that they know exactly how things will work out when they pull the trigger on the trade, but Bruins-brass has to be happy with the way the deals worked out. Critics will complain that the addition of Kaberle did not improve results on the power-play, but anyone who watched those games with a critical eye pre- and post-Kaberle will tell you different. True, the scoreboard didn’t show any surge in power-play goals, but the quality of play on the man-advantage went WAY up with Kaberle in the mix. His ability to move the puck sharply from the blue line to teammates was evident. The fact that this was a great improvement without netting many goals is testimony to HOW BAD the power-play was BEFORE Kaberle’s arrival.

Fighting Their Way into the Playoffs

Two of the biggest games of the season in my mind were played against Montreal. The first resulted into a 7 goal rout in which the Bruins beat the stuffing (both with fists and goals) out of the hated habs. The second key game resulted in the devastating hit by Chara on Max Pacioretti. Although many complained the hit was dirty and comprised of intent to injure – again cooler heads prevailed (this time at league offices) and Chara was not further disciplined.

As a result the captain was able to continue his physical tough play without constantly looking over his shoulder. Habs fans should remember that Chara is a big target night after night, and he doesn’t get a break when someone goes out of their way to get a back-side hit on him when he’s chasing down a puck in his own zone. I think history will look kindly on the way the NHL ruled on the Pacioretti hit: an unfortunate hit on a fast moving skater by a large man at the worst possible part of the ice – a.k.a. part of the game. Move on.

Enter the Playoffs and Those Dreaded Montreal Canadiens

At the beginning of this year’s playoff run, there were only two teams I was genuinely concerned about: the Canadiens (for obvious reasons to any hockey historian) and the New York Rangers. WHAT?!?! You heard right: the Rangers. Not one other team in the league had Boston’s number this year the way the Rangers did. That New York team was TOUGH, in the same way that our boys were TOUGH. Had the Bruins not advanced, the Rangers would have been my team for the playoffs. Tough play is Boston hockey, and there was no way I was going to root for some Oscar winning bunch of divers (like far too many teams up north and west, though decorum prohibits me mentioning them by name). Hockey for any real Boston fan is grind it out, bang-’em, bruise ’em, out-work and out-tough ’em hockey. Gordie Howe would have been welcome on our team for sure.

We wouldn’t have our Bruins any other way. Speaking of taking the grind it out, out-work, out-tough, out-play effort – is there any better story in hockey EVER… than the story of Tim Thomas? This guy was playing in nerf land out over in Europe. Anybody else would have packed it up and called it a career, but not true New Englander Thomas. The former UVM goalie stuck with it, kept believing the hockey pond kid’s dream of making the big play to win the Stanley Cup… and as a result yesterday Tim Thomas raised the Conn Smythe trophy for Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP. To this life-long New Englander, sweeter words I have never written for public consumption.

Considering just how many words I have written in my lifetime… that should say alot.

I loved watching this team this year. It would have been a shame if they had been knocked out by the Canadiens or the Lightning (a worthy opponent IMO). But there will be no shame in Boston this year. This year, the Cup belongs to New England’s Boston Bruins. WELL DONE!

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No Comments updated November 20, 2013