BOSTON (CBS) — June 15 marks the anniversary of the Boston Bruins’ improbable run to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011, ending a 39-year drought between titles.
The Bruins did not have the most skilled offensive players or the best power play in the 2011 playoffs, but they played impeccable team defense, got a legendary goaltending run from Tim Thomas, and had the physical and mental toughness required to become Stanley Cup champions. Defying conventions and overcoming glaring shortcomings, the Bruins proved that season that having the most talent isn’t as important as having the biggest heart.
Despite the Bruins’ triumph over the favored Vancouver Canucks in seven games to win the Stanley Cup, there were times when the team’s chances to win hanged on by mere threads. And despite the bleak lows, the massive highs embodied the visceral thrills that the Stanley Cup Playoffs provide on a nightly basis.
Here are the seven moments that defined the Bruins’ incredible Stanley Cup championship run.
Beating Montreal in overtime of Game 7
The Bruins became the first Stanley Cup champion in history to win three separate Game 7’s, and they did so in thrilling fashion. The first round started off poorly against the rival Montreal Canadiens as the Bruins went down 2-0, but the team battled back to tie the game with two improbable wins in hostile territory at Montreal’s Bell Centre. This was the first small sign that the 2011 Bruins may well have championship DNA.
The series eventually got to overtime of Game 7, where one bounce of the puck would decide who moved on and went home. Fortunately for the Bruins, Nathan Horton emerged as a clutch playoff performer with the game-winner.
Sweeping Flyers, overcoming demons
The Bruins looked as far away from contending for the Cup as any team in the league after their devastating collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers in the previous season, going up 3-0 only to drop the final four games of the series. The Bruins even led 3-0 in Game 7, only to cough up the lead – and their season.
They made sure nothing of the sort happened when the teams met again in 2011. Of course, after another 3-0 lead, the questions rose back up of whether the Bruins would close the deal this time. They did, emphatically, crushing the Flyers 5-1 to move on to the next round and their next triumph…
Game 7 win over Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bruins’ next Game 7 win wasn’t just one of the great Game 7’s in Stanley Cup history. It’s one of the best games of all-time, period.
Horton came through again in this one, netting a goal in the third period of a scoreless, penalty-free contest that featured all of the best qualities of a Stanley Cup playoff game: the speed, the tension, the can’t-take-your-eyes-off-the-screen excitement.
Nathan Horton’s injury rallies team
The Bruins faced yet another write-off from media and fans after going down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks, but they turned things around rather quickly in Game 3. Unfortunately, a bad injury to one of their best players was something of a catalyst for that.
Nathan Horton got knocked out of the rest of the series after taking a vicious hit from Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome, who received a five-minute interference major and game misconduct, followed by a four-game suspension that would turn out to be the rest of the series. The Bruins responded in a big way in that game, firing eight pucks past Roberto Luongo and shellacking the Canucks goalie for four more goals in Game 4, which ran him off the ice.
Horton also helped inspire the team when he poured some melted water from the TD Garden ice onto the rink surface at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, which after the win would become one of the year’s iconic moments.
Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo’s war of waords
It was after Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, which the Canucks won 2-0 and put the Bruins’ backs against the wall yet again, that Luongo sparked one of the more memorable feuds in Bruins history. First, he ripped Thomas’ playing style for venturing too far out of the crease. Then, he complained about Thomas’ lack of compliments for him with the infamous line, “I’ve been pumping his tires since the series started. I haven’t heard one nice thing he had to say about me.” Thomas followed that up with the unforgettable gem, “I didn’t realize it was my job to pump his tires. I guess I’ll have to apologize for that.”
Thomas would have the last laugh, allowing just two goals in the final two games of the series to Luongo’s six and capping arguably the greatest single season for a goaltender in NHL history.
Brad Marchand scraps with Daniel Sedin
To call this a “scrap” would be generous to Daniel Sedin, who got pummeled in the face by Brad Marchand after a whistle in Game 6 of the Cup Finals … and just took it. Instead of giving Marchand so much as a shove back, Sedin instead stood there like a bobblehead and waited for the referee to come over and call a penalty.
Marchand may have looked like a bully in this instance, but Sedin’s lack of a response in that moment, with his team down three goals and staring a Game 7 in the face, encapsulated the identities of the two teams. The Bruins had the grit and nastiness to overcome the more talented team, and the Canucks could not match their level of toughness.
Bruins’ stars shine in Game 7 of Cup Finals
After winning two pressure-packed Game 7’s en route to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Bruins took a different approach in Game 7 against the Canucks: total domination. The three pillars of their success shined brightly in this contest.
Two-way stud Patrice Bergeron scored twice and helped limit the Sedin twins to five shots on goal. Zdeno Chara logged 27 minutes of shutdown defense. And, most importantly, Thomas was once again a rock in the back of the net, stopping all 37 shots that went his way.
The 2010-11 Bruins had already proven they had the mental fortitude to perform at their best when the games mattered the most, and their dominant Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals was the ultimate example of the team’s championship toughness.
What are your favorite moments of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup run? Share your memories in the comments.