Vancouver missed the chance to win their first ever NHL Championship on Wednesday night, as the Boston Bruins swept into Rogers Arena and left with the Stanley Cup, seemingly without even breaking a sweat.
The Canucks have a strong team, but the Cup still eludes them. Western Canada has seen many champions over the years, particularly in Edmonton during the time of Wayne Gretzky, but also in Calgary in 1989.
With Winnipeg returning to the NHL next season, Vancouver’s local pride has taken a huge hit. You have to go back to 1915 and the Vancouver Millionaires for the one and only time the Stanley Cup arrived in Vancouver.
The Canucks showed a lot of potential at times in Game 7. However, it wasn’t good enough against a very comfortable Bruins team. Had Vancouver played with the intensity they brought early on in Game 7 to their away games in Boston – we may have seen the Canucks winning the Cup.
After edging the first two games, a win in Boston would have put the Canucks in the driving seat. However, Boston responded – and nobody in Vancouver saw the velocity of the response coming.
Tim Thomas was the undisputed Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and nobody came close to challenging the 37-year-old all year long. And in the Finals, Vancouver simply had no answer to the American stopper. The Canucks only scored more than two goals once, in Game 2. This was due to a fantastic response by Alexandre Burrows following “Bite-Gate.” Thomas shut out the Canucks twice in a pair of the finest performances of his career.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin seemed to have found a new lease of life late in Game 6. Henrik scored his first goal of the series early in the third period with a clever backhander and the twins connected well in the early stages of Game 7.
However, the physicality of the Bruins was too much for the Swedes, who were anonymous for a substantial part of the series. Roberto Luongo certainly didn’t have the best of times in Boston, as he surrendered 15 goals in three games at the TD Garden before getting pulled during the first period of Game 6.
The Vancouver stopper made some good saves in Game 7. However, Patrice Bergeron’s shorthanded breakaway, which gave the Bruins a three-goal lead, should have been avoided.
Ryan Kesler wasn’t at his best during the Finals. It seemed as though the American center and several of his teammates were dealing with significant injuries, but Canucks coach Alain Vigneault denied the claims that his team was anything but completely healthy.
Patrice Bergeron was excellent throughout the series, ensuring that Kesler stayed out of the headlines. Vancouver’s downfall was largely self-inflicted. The Bruins’ level of aggression was perfect. However, the Canucks were either overwhelmed by their opponents or were too aggressive and found themselves in penalty trouble.
The Bruins had a plan and executed it perfectly. The confident Boston team took full advantage of their opponents’ weaknesses and made the most of their opportunities. Physical hockey prevailed, at the expense of Vancouver’s passing and movement, which was never going to be effective against a red-hot Tim Thomas.
Vancouver have had a terrific season. They were by far the best team during the regular season. However, they met their match in the Finals. Despite the disappointment at falling at the final hurdle, the Canucks can be confident of being an elite team in the NHL for the next few years.