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VANCOUVER It came down to three words for the Bruins in this unexpected run to Stanley Cup glory:
Depth, character and toughness.
Those three traits above all others carried Boston through a long 107-game season that included triumphant rises, precipitous drops and one of the best goaltending seasons ever put together by an NHL netminder.
Depth, character and toughness drove Bostons newest champions throughout their playoff run as they became the first team in NHL Stanley Cup playoff history to win three different Game 7s.
Depth, character and toughness were featured prominently in Bostons perfectly executed 4-0 dispatching of the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 at Rogers Arena. It was a game that left players, management and coaches raving about Bruins hockey.
It was Bruins hockey, you know, said Patrice Bergeron. Weve done this all year. We stayed in tight. There was never any panicking. Not getting too high or too low, and then we got the first goal, which was key.
Tim Thomas was the picture of cool, calm and flawless goaltending while stopping 37 shots in the first road shutout in a Stanley Cup Final Game 7 since before the Michigan native was born. He also became just the second American-born player to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs' best performer.
Thomas provided the biggest dose of character on a hockey club packed with it, and he was obviously the biggest cog in the Black and Gold machine that eventually captured Stanley Cup glory.
Tim Thomas in these playoffs just totally dominated. That's the sign of a great goaltender, said Claude Julien. He was on top of his game from start to finish, and especially in this final round. He was outstanding every game.
He was in the zone, focused, never let anything rattle him and never questioned his style of play. What's happened to him right now is so deserving and I'm so proud of him and obviously the rest of the team.
But the Bruins had so much more than a hot goalie in their Stanley Cup Game 7 victory.
There was Bergeron, who went from great two-way player to force of hockey nature as he tapped into a little surliness and played close to a perfect hockey game in the biggest moment of his life. He finished with five hits as he, along with the Bs fourth line, kept the Bruins grounded early in the game when it appeared like nerves were getting the best of them.
Then Bergeron, the longest-tenured player with the Bruins, broke things open with his offense and scored the games first goal with little more than five minutes to go in the first period. He won a convincing face-off against the closest available Sedin and then darted straight to the net as Brad Marchand danced with the puck in the corner. Bergeron kept his stick down on the ice and then flipped a quick shot off the left post and in the net before Roberto Luongo could recover his bearings.
In years past, the Bruins might have relaxed a little bit with the lead. But this year was different. This year, they poured it on in the second period.
The Bs were outshot 13-8 in the period, but they managed to pounce on Roberto Luongo twice as they capitalized on Canucks breakdowns as Vancouver withered under the pounding of a physical seven-game series.
It was Bostons second line -- its best since month of January -- that eventually did in the Canucks in the middle 20 minutes. Marchand attacked the net after a long Dennis Seidenberg shot from the left point caused a big, fat juicy rebound off the pads of Luongo. Bostons pest then tucked in a wraparound goal before a clearly frazzled Luongo could protect his post.
The Bruins' depth and unrelenting attack never wavered over the course of the seven games, and the Bruins knew it would eventually win out if they could survive their 0-2 start to the series.
It kind of sinks in a little, but with 10 seconds left I kinda lost it and started getting a little emotional, said Andrew Ference, who took on a huge leadership role with the Bruins over the course of this season. When I got to lift it, it all felt very surreal.
There is a lot that goes into it. Lets not kid ourselves. They were really banged up and there were a lot of injuries. We took advantage of that. But if I had to sum up our team in one word it would be 'focus.' We had an unbelievable focus of doing the job, doing all the little things, and rebounding from losses. Not being fazed. Its actually hard to get really emotional now because we really had that focus going for the entire playoffs.
But the biggest difference-maker in Game 7 for the Bruins against a Canucks team that had the best record in the NHL this season? Toughness.
It was the toughness that had always marked the Big Bad Bruins throughout their history. The 2010-2011 intimidating bunch of Black and Gold warriors are fitting descendants of the Bobby Orr groups of the 1970s and the Don Cherry-helmed Bs crews in the latter part of the decade.
"There is such a bunch of character on this club," said Bs President Cam Neely. The demeanor of the players from the moment we got onto the plane until the game tonight, I knew they were focused and ready to play. They were confident going into this game.
Look at the depth of our team. We can roll four lines if the coach wants to, has to or needs to. We have great depth on D and goaltending depth. We had a lineup you might look and down and say that we didnt have any superstars, but weve got some damned good hockey players on this club. We have some really skilled players, but more importantly we play as a team.
When Julien did decide to roll four lines in Game 7, he was rewarded. Shawn Thornton and the rest of the Boston energy line was breathing fire from their opening shift of the game. They did their job, giving the Bruins a visible lift.
Milan Lucic felt it. He led the Bs with six registered hits and created a physical presence when his offense didnt appear. Seidenberg felt it, too. He led all skaters with 28:51 of ice time and was once again an unbreakable stalwart at both ends of the ice while shaking off attackers and shutting down the Sedin twins' line, handing them a minus-7 rating for the evening.
There is little doubt that the Swedish twins will have cold sweat nightmares about the SeidenbergZdeno Chara defenseman pairing that held them to five points in the entire series. The Bs penalty kill was equally scary, limiting the vaunted Canucks power play to a 2-for-30 performance in the series.
The bottom line for the Bs: They played with a physical toughness, dignified air and an unrelenting willingness that is always rewarded by the hockey gods. Those types of players always end up kissing the Cup at the end of Lord Stanleys tournament.
It always takes a little bit of luck, of course. But the Bruins werent relying on luck to beat very good teams in Montreal, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Vancouver before hoisting the 34-pound Stanley Cup over their heads.
They had toughness. They had depth. They had character.
Now they will have their names etched on the Stanley Cup, representing Boston for the first time in nearly 40 years, and nobody will ever be able to take that away from them.