Stanley Cup Champions: How sweet it is
Other-worldly centers. Concussion brothers. Rocks. Krejci and Bergeron.
It’s taken me two days to post, because, quite simply, the shock of it all had overcome me. I had to stare at my bedroom ceiling yesterday morning for quite a long time to let the feeling sink in. Then I grabbed breakfast and re-watched the game. Especially the Cup ceremony and celebration. It still doesn’t seem real.
The season’s humble beginnings at O2 Arena in Prague give me the chills. They lost to the Phoenix Coyotes in that opening game, before stomping them the next. The Bruins never did things the easy way this season, but they did them the right way. They sometimes did them the hard way. But they battled. If the scars of the second round of the 2010 playoffs were there, they alternated between being abundantly visible and nearly non-existent. In every move the Bruins made, they worked to cement their leads, protect their goalie, protect each other, defend their honor, their dignity.
It wasn’t easy. There were ugly and pathetic losses this season. The Bruins looked slow, confused, around December. They called for Julien’s head. Savard’s career all but ended. Defensive cog Mark Stuart was sent packing. Seguin wasn’t exactly the heroic wunderkind some expected in the regular season. The messiah came in the form of Kaberle, but didn’t deliver until much later. They fell 2-0 to the Canadiens.
But they rebounded. They were healthy. They were focused. They didn’t look in the rear-view mirror and all those who criticized and despised Claude Julien were turned aside. They forged onward. Every cliche in the book was enacted. They threw it all away.
And they came out on top.
I was genuine when I said I didn’t know what game seven would bring. The first period was tense, close. The Canucks had several exquisite chances in that period. But when Bergeron popped that puck home towards the end I had a slight twinge in my stomach at that moment, not knowing whether it was real, whether they had in fact taken the first goal for themselves. But they had. The second period brought only more apprehension. The Nucks were firing on Thomas fast, high and from the top of the circle. Why? I don’t know. Only Ryan Kesler looked alive. Gradually, their players broke down. The goals by Marchand and Bergeron only served to illuminate further just how dominate and reliable the second line has been all season long. Their chemistry is astounding. Their ability to locate one another on the ice rare. Losing Recchi to retirement was inevitable, but it doesn’t mean his grit and feistiness around the net won’t be mourned. He showed serious legs on that one great breakaway in game seven too. But alas, he must go now. At 43, it is over. A great tribute to his career was Julien’s leaving him on the ice for the final 90 seconds. Whomever assumes his place, whether it’s Caron or someone else, will benefit from the clever horses that are Marchand and Bergeron.
And in the third, the Canucks seemed poised for comeback. But the comeback never came back. Marchand’s glee and exuberance with his empty-net goal may have seemed unnecessary, but the Bruins have been hurt by things in threes these last few years. It made sense that a 4-0 game might signal the nail being driven in the coffin. From then on, assuring a shutout for Thomas appeared paramount. And so it was accomplished. And so it was over. The Bruins never let the Canucks up off the mat, at home, in their own building.
And so the Bruins won the chalice that eludes the vast majority of players that ever skate in the NHL. Seeing Chara, the tallest man ever to win it, and only the second European captain to do so ever, clasp the Cup, was a moment to behold. A man so loathed in the wake of the Pacioretty incident, a man that had given his body time and again in his paternal role, finally had his time in the sun. The Bruins gathered round, the cheering ensued, the smiles widened, dears began dripping down faces. And the rest is history.
Sweet, sweet history. Congratulations, Bruins. You deserved it. We deserved it. And that’s all that can be said.
Only pictures can do it the tiniest justice.
Krejci back home with the Cup in Boston, last night. And home it is.