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Winning: The way they did it?

June 18, 2011

Lucic screens Luongo.

Old school v. new school. Pre-lockout v. post-lockout. Brawn v. finesse. Grit v. speed.

There’s a lot of ways to square this debate. And it seems to be one that’s been mangled since the closing seconds the 2010-2011 season ticked away a few days ago. There’s a nascent debate at play, one that’s percolated up in a few different media and blog venues. But it seems mainly to be a debate amount the merits of Bruins victory, and the questions that linger with the Canucks’ loss.

As some have noted, the Canucks were the quintessential Cup contending team: good goaltending, a deep d-corps, scoring forwards, a steady coach and a happy city. It was perfect, in a way. But then again, those attributes work for any team, anywhere, any time. What some have raised in recent days is the fact the Canucks were also built with post-lockout rules in mind. As in, less rough stuff. They were built for speed and skill. Not size and tangles and pushing. And that’s fair.

Are the Bruins a team from another era? Eh, I wouldn’t say so. Are they actively promoted as such? Oh course. Peter Chiarelli is the first to speak to “Bruins hockey.” Bruins hockey is an ideology, a way of being. It’s hard to define, I will say that. But “you know it when you see it.” It’s heart, it’s rough and tumble. It’s not diving or drawing penalties. It’s not yelping to the referees. It’s a whole lot of fighting and a good dose of retribution. It’s working as a team and straying from the conventions of hockey superstardom.

I suppose, in a way, yes, it’s defiantly anti-post-lockout hockey.

But so what? It works. Did the referees enable players to get away with more than their fair share of penalties? Absolutely. Did the Bruins exploit this? Yes. But they also won games.

Winning 4-0 in a game seven. Need more be said? If the Bruins were able to shake the Canucks to their foundation with the post-whistle scrums, why didn’t the Canucks come roaring back? If the Canucks are superior, why weren’t the more resilient? Even with injury?

Was this a showdown of different styles, different eras? Perhaps. Does one trumping the other indicate any mind of moral victory of yield any substantive judgment on the quality of the two types of play? In a word, no. It made it more interesting. The Canadiens are quite different from the Canucks, but they share good goaltending, great power-plays and speedy work. That made both match-ups compelling. The Bruins and the Flyers shared so much in common, but the Bruins had ’em beat at that same game this year. The Lightning series was rather strange–jam-packed with great goaltending and the collision of different systems play, above all else. A war of coaching.

But the Bruins and the Canucks, that was something. If the “new NHL” is the future, and the Canucks are the new NHL, then what are the Bruins? And what is their place in the future? There seem to be more teams that resemble the Bruins in the East than in the West, which is curious and illuminating, but perhaps not too surprising (think Penguins, Islanders, Flyers). If the old NHL triumphed over the new, what does this tell us?

Or does it matter?

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