Thursday, June 16, 2011

City of Champions

This championship surprised me about as much as the first Patriots' Super Bowl win. I still don't think the Bruins are the best team in the NHL. But that doesn't matter - the best team is not always the champion. (See, for example, Super Bowl XLII.)

In the regular season, I thought the Bruins were clearly behind the Caps and the Penguins - well, at least the Penguins before they got all their injuries. And the there are so many elite Western Conference teams that look great: not only the Canucks but the Sharks, Red Wings, Ducks, and Preds are all arguably serious Stanley Cup contenders. And that doesn't include the defending champs in Chicago.

And then the Bs lost their first two games in the playoffs. Home games. To the despised Habs. At the time this meant a 6-game playoff losing streak to the two most despised teams (including the collapse to Philly last year). It really felt like another Spring of nothing for the Bs.

But then, remarkably, the Bs went to Montreal and improbably won two road games! And there was the series of incredible OT wins, and suddenly they've got the Flyers in Round 2. Which the Flyers never showed up for.

Once the Penguins collapsed under the weight of their injuries I thought the Caps were the clear favorites in the East. I still don't know what happened to them in their series against Tampa. I refer the interested reader to Minions.

And then the Bs were embarrassed in Game 1 by the red-hot Lightning, at which point Landru predicted a Tampa sweep. Again, the Bs dug deep and recovered. In retrospect, the series against the Lightning was tougher than the Finals. I can see why Landru hates those guys. They are pesky, but I'll give them credit: they all showed up to play, ever game.

By the time the Finals rolled around, Thomas was so hot I thought he could beat anybody. Luongo kept up the pace on his home ice, and the Canucks went up 2-0, at which point the usual crowd of idiots started saying things like "Is this this series over?" Um, well, didn't you just see the Bruins keep things essentially even for two road games?

When I saw Luongo flounder in Game 3, I knew the Bruins could win this series. I don't think I've ever seen a champion team play as poorly as the Canucks did in Game 3. Also, the Sedin brothers remained absent. Meanwhile, Thomas was lights out and the D was solid with Chara and Seidenberg leading the way. Guys like Brad Marchand I didn't know from Adam three months ago were suddenly playing like all-stars. (OK, who thought Marchand would be the rookie who led the Bruins, not Seguin? Seguin had one great game against Tampa, but Marchand was playing like a veteran by the time the Finals finished. )

So, the make a long story short, Luongo collapsed and Thomas never did, even when he easily could have after the Bruins went down 0-2 on a dreadful overtime goal. There are many recipes for winning the Cup, and Boston took one of the tried and true paths: ride the coattails of a hot goalie.

Does this bode well for next year? I don't know and don't really care. Thomas is 37 and already had a down year in 2009-10 when he lost the starting job to Tuuka Rask. Aside from Mark Recchi, the team should be sticking together for a while, and Marchand and Seguin can only get better.

It's time to just enjoy the moment. Boston's first cup since '72, when I was barely sentient and G. Gordon Liddy was considering an invasion of a suite of rooms at the Watergate Hotel.