We've all seen the instances where the most talented team did not win a series, or a game, or a championship. We saw it again last night in Vancouver as the Canucks were attempting to win game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals on their home ice. Vancouver had been to the finals once before, in 1994, and lost to the Rangers in seven games. After close 3-2 and 1-0 wins at home in the first two games, one might have assumed that Canada would win their first Cup since Montreal in 1993. The stage was set, the faster, most talented and highest scoring team in the league had a huge hold on the series. Game three was in a sense do or die for Boston. To go down 3-0 to Vancouver would have been a death sentence. Instead, Boston responded in a huge way. The Bruins absolutly pummeled the Canucks 8-1.
Most people say that was undoubtedly the turning point in the series. Aaron Rome's hit on Boston's Nathan Horton seemed to inspire the B's. After a scoreless first period Boston erupted for four goals in the second and four more in the third. A message had been sent by Boston, and in the process I think it got in Vancouver's head. I think being beaten 8-1 did something to them. Boston, despite being down 2-1 still, seemed to have all the momentum in the series. They would not relinquish it. In game 4 an inspired Tim Thomas and company blanked the Canucks 4-0. Uh oh Vancouver.
The British Canadian response was weak, but they managed to eek out an extremely tough and tense game 5 by a 1-0 score to take a 3-2 series lead. Now they would have two chances to finish off the Bruins. Neither time would they get close. Game 6 back in beantown saw a 5-2 Boston route. It became clear that even though Vancouver had pulled ahead 3-2 in the series, that they had won the Presidents Trophy as the best team in the league in the regular season, THEY themselves were really the underdogs and had lost any and all control over the series. They were now going back home tied 3-3 with what turned out to be unbearable pressure to win...for a whole country.
The first goal was imperitive for Vancouver, they needed all the momentum they could get. All hope for that ended when Patrice Bergeron snapped a shot past Luongo from the slot at 14:37 of the 1st period. Uh oh multiplied by a million. One could now feel the tense nervousness and frustration throughout the whole Rogers arena in Vancouver. This wasn't happening, not again. Not on their own ice...but it was. A slow, agonizingly ground-out demise. Brad Marchant scored at 12:13 of the 2nd period to deepen the whole, and two minutes later Bergeron netted his second goal of the night, a shorthanded fluke goal that was a nail in the coffin. An empty net goal late in the third was mearly a formality. The Bruins skated the cup on Canadian ice.
Grit and tenacity had beaten the piss out of skill and finesse. If there was ever the time to declare a seven-game series a seven-game sweep, this is it. Look at the box-scores if you want to dismiss me. The Canucks quite literally dissapeared after game 2, and never came back. They couldn't skate, couldn't get a single bounce and couldn't hit the side of a barn. Boston had imposed their will onto Vancouver, and in the process they mentally dismantled the Canucks so badly they crumbled.
One final note I want to make. I was very impressed with the city of Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympic games. It's a gorgous city and the people seemed amazingly welcoming. What I saw last night after the game was very different. Just as they had done after losing in 1994, Vancouver fans rioted and tore apart their city on world-wide television. Fires were set, people hurt and buildings damaged. Congratulations Vancouver, way to represent yourself. Just over a year over from the closing of the Olympic games, your fan-base and populace does this:
Keep your hooligans locked down on nights like that Vancouver. Even Detroit and LA think that's kind of whack.
Until next time.