Will Trumps Skill
By Thomas Chace Jr.
June 6, 2011
When the Stanley Cup Finals began in Vancouver the experts predicted the Canucks would win. They had the best record in the NHL and were prohibitive favorites to win their first Stanley Cup in their 40 year existence. They claimed the Canucks were more skilled than the Big Bad Bruins. They said Vancouver was too fast and just as big as the Bruins. They have twins who will probably win back to back MVP’s. Ryan Kesler is one of the best players in the world, and he plays on the second line. Their goaltender, Roberto Luongo, is one of the finalists for the Vezina Trophy. Vancouver has the best power play, a great penalty kill, great coach, great fans, and on and on, and on.
In Vancouver, the Canucks won their home games in demoralizing fashion. Game 1 was a nail biter until the Canucks scored with 18.5 seconds remaining in the game. In Game 2 it was Alexandre Burrows, a new Bruins villain, who scored 11 seconds into overtime. Burrows had bitten Patrice Bergeron’s gloved hand in Game 1 but faced no league punishment in a bizarre ruling. Things seemed to be going according to plan, although reality dictates that either team could have won those games.
A return to Boston on a long flight after those losses could not have been a picnic. Yet it was exactly what Boston needed to review their mistakes and heal their wounds. They made but a few mistakes but the Canucks made them pay each time.
Game 3 was in Boston’s barn, and fan favorite Shawn Thornton was replacing rookie Tyler Seguin. The Boston crowd was in fever pitch when highlights of birthday boy Cam Neely were shown on the Jumbotron. Ironically, Neely was obtained by the Bruins on this day, 21 years ago, from Vancouver. The Bruins fans matched the Vancouver disciples with their own singing of the National Anthem with crooner Rene Rencourt. The Bruins came out banging bodies and crashing the net. Veteran Mark Recchi and defenseman Andrew Ference nailed Kesler with great checks early.
However, more bad Bruin karma was to come. Aaron Rome sent first line winger Nathan Horton to Massachusetts General Hospital on a stretcher, on a questionable shoulder to head hit that was compounded by his head slamming on the ice. Rome received a five minute major for intent to injure, which gave the horrible Bruins power play a chance to even the crime. No such luck. There were too many passes and not enough shots. Goaltender Luongo did make several tough saves but the B’s once again failed on their man advantage. They did however, have a great penalty kill which soon followed. Tim Thomas made perhaps his best save of the series on Mason Raymond with 1:07 left in the period. There was no score after one period of play.
When the experts discounted the Bruins, they did so without considering their resolve. Two years ago they lost to Carolina in the playoffs, a series they should have won. Last year they lost to Philadelphia after leading three games to none and leading 3-0 in Game 7. This year’s first round series with Montreal left them down two games to none after two losses at home. They won in seven games. The Bruins dispatched Philadelphia in a sweep to resolve last year’s nightmare. When Tampa Bay had them on the ropes, they came back and won in seven games.
Just eleven seconds into the second period, Andrew Ference scored and the Bruins led 1-0, the fans went ballistic. Thornton then drew a penalty and believe it or not the Bruins scored on their man advantage, as Recchi scored to make it 2-0. The Canucks looked completely out of sorts, icing the puck and giving it away. All the momentum was with the Bruins. This turned into mayhem in the stands when Brad Marchand threw a head fake at Luongo on a breakaway and scored a shorthanded goal making it 3-0. Daniel Paille nearly scored another shorthanded goal moments later. With 4:13 left David Krejci scored to make it 4-0 to end the second period. Krejci now leads the playoffs in goal scoring with 11. Special teams surely favored the Bruins tonight.
Many expected Luongo to be relieved of his duties in net. The third period featured a lot of face washing, some fighting, and some bad blood that has festered since Game 1. The Bruins scored their second shorthanded goal by Daniel Paille and peppered Luongo to the tune of an 8-1 final. Tim Thomas was outstanding, especially in the second period where he stoned the skilled Canucks one shot after the other.
Tonight it was clearly will over skill in a duel that was supposed to feature only one team with bullets. Turns out that Tim Thomas will probably win his second Vezina Trophy in three seasons. David Krejci maybe the most underrated skill player in the NHL, and Zdeno Chara maybe the best defenseman in the world. The Bruins and their fans showed how much heart, resolve, and will they have and they look forward to trying to even the series on Wednesday night.