Friday, June 17, 2011

Boston Bruins - 2011 Stanley Cup Champions

They Can Never Take It Away
By Thomas Chace Jr.
June 17, 2011

The Boston Bruins are the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions. That will never get old. The Bruins players and their loyal fans brought home the Cup to the city of Boston and to all of New England. A formal celebration in the form of a rolling “Duck Tour” from the Bruins home ice at TD Garden to Copley Square will take place Saturday in Boston. A huge crowd with no intentions of turning over cars or lighting fires is expected.

Boston’s way of doing things has been on display for several weeks now. The Bruins continually displayed professionalism and class throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs and particularly in the Finals. With Vancouver bringing so much attention to themselves by complaining, whining, biting, insulting, head-hunting, and playing a generally unmanly game, the Bruins took it all and gave it back in spades but never talked about it.

There were so many events from the Finals that were memorable. For me, Tim Thomas decking last years NHL MVP, Henrik Sedin, in front of his crease as Sedin attempted to make a play with the puck sent a very strong message. It showed that even the Bruins netminder was going to push back and never give in to any Canuck.

Game 6 in Boston had a similar incident involving the other twin Sedin, Daniel. This year’s likely MVP was treated like a speed bag by pugnacious Brad Marchand, as he jabbed Daniel’s face with multiple punches drawing no push back at all from the Swede or his teammates. When asked after the game why he did that to Sedin, Marchand simply stated “Because I felt like it.” Those actions and that statement would never fly in Bean Town.

I have posed this question to many of my friends. If you only watched the Stanley Cup Finals, would you believe that the Sedin twins are the back to back MVP’s of the National Hockey League? I think not.

The Canucks played a very physical series, especially in the first two games of the Finals. Vancouver soon realized that the Bruins thrive on that physical style of play, and are conditioned for just that style. Where Vancouver had more perceived skill they were playing a Bruins type of game, that took its toll as the series went on. The Bruins were built for physical board play, punishing defenders, and great goaltending. Thomas will likely win all three major trophies available to goaltenders, the Vezina, Conn Smythe, and of course Lord Stanley’s Cup. Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg turned the twins into sisters in the Bruins defensive end. Numerous Bruins players took every opportunity to “let ‘em know you’re there.”

There is much love for this Bruins team for very good reasons. They all get along so well and they truly care about each other. That was evident all season long. Anyone who took liberties with a Bruins player would pay eventually. Patience in hockey is a trademark. The Bruins play a New England blue collar style of play, tough but fair, hard working, with a team first attitude. Like a family. It’s New England through and through. Rugged winger and fan favorite, Shawn Thornton, says “We’re blue collar, not flashy. We work hard. We take pride in that.” Their pride was tested in three Game 7’s in this years playoffs, a new NHL record. They won all three.

The Bruins deserve to be crowned champions. They worked harder, they wanted it more, and they exerted their will on their opponent. They did all of that with class and professionalism, which could describe their coach, Claude Julien. Defying all odds at keeping his job, he turned in a yeoman’s effort and continued to tweak his defensive system to adapt. His players believed in him and bought into his system, culminating in winning the sport’s ultimate prize.

The plane ride home from Vancouver saw the Cup move from player to player, much like it will in the summer of 2011, and as it did on Vancouver ice and their visiting locker room. I hope all of New England will get a chance to enjoy the Cup before the season starts again in several short weeks. The NHL season is over 100 grueling games to the finish, and yet it begins again this summer. Not enough time, in my opinion, to savor this long awaited event. However, they can never take away this feeling or the title of champions.

Chara said “It’s unbelievable. It’s very exciting for the whole city, for us, for the whole organization. It’s a very special day. We’re so happy.”

I’m guessing that Providence will benefit from a surge in interest and attendance next season. They were fourth in the American Hockey League in attendance last year so things bode well in Rhode Island’s capital city. A new coach for Providence will be announced “mid-week” according to Boston GM Peter Chiarelli. Assistant Coach Bruce “Butch” Cassidy is being considered along with several other interviewees. It should be a different vibe this season in Providence after this Stanley Cup Finals victory by their parent club.

This victory will be savored forever by all of New England. I believe a new younger generation of Bruins fans has emerged. They will play, they will watch, and their parents will spend, on the great game of hockey. Like Orr and Espo in the ‘70’s, Thomas and Marchand will be responsible for a surge in the interest of Canada’s game. Ironic, ‘eh!

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