Bruins win Cup, Thomas earns MVP

For the second straight season, an Original Six franchise has captured Lord Stanley’s Cup.

The Boston Bruins blanked the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 at Rogers Arena in Game 7 on Wednesday to earn the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since Bobby Orr’s team in 1972.

Tim Thomas made 37 saves for his second shutout of the series to clinch the victory and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. The Flint, Mich. native made a meteoric rise in the NHL after years of playing in minor leagues all over the world and now has MVP hardware and a Stanley Cup ring to prove his efforts.

Thomas is only the second American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Brian Leetch was the first and earned the honour in 1994 when the New York Rangers beat the Canucks in seven games as well.

With his first stop of the night, Thomas passed former Vancouver goaltender Kirk McLean’s 1994 record for most saves made in a single NHL playoff with 762. Thomas set the new mark for busiest playoff goaltender at 798 and the most saves in a Stanley Cup Final with 239.

Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand each scored twice to lead the Bruins, while linemate Mark Recchi picked up an assist in the last game of his career.

Recchi retires with his third Stanley Cup championship after 23 years in the NHL.

The city of Boston takes home its seventh major sports championship since 2000, as the NFL’s Patriots (three), MLB’s Red Sox (two), NBA’s Celtics and now the Bruins have all captured league titles in the new millennium.

Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo made 17 saves but will likely continue to be branded as a goaltender who struggles in big games.

The pace was frenzied to open the contest, a physical translation of the nerves and emotions associated with a seventh game in the Stanley Cup Final. The Canucks controlled the play for most of the first 10 minutes, feeding off of the energy of the thunderous hometown crowd.

Boston broke the ice with the all-important first goal 14:37 into the opening frame when Marchand curled along the side-boards in the Vancouver zone and slid a backhand pass to Bergeron in the slot, who swatted a low shot past Luongo’s right pad.

In the second period, Marchand continued to haunt the Canucks, winning a loose puck battle and racing around the net to stuff a wraparound past Luongo for a 2-0 Bruins advantage. Marchand’s 10th goal of the playoffs came at 12:13 of the middle frame, drawing assists from Dennis Seidenberg and Recchi.

The referees let the players decide the outcome in this one, not calling a penalty until jailing Chara for two minutes for interfering with Ryan Kesler 16:07 into period two.

Vancouver’s power play had been its strength all season long, but was just 2-for-31 in the Stanley Cup Final up until this point. Trailing 2-0, the Canucks desperately needed to find some offensive chemistry to pull themselves back into the game.

Instead of capitalizing with the man advantage, the hockey gods harshly collected on a favour they had granted Vancouver earlier in the playoffs.

Much like the friendly bounce off a stanchion that allowed Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa to score an overtime series winner against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final, a Boston clearing attempt jumped off of the glass to give Bergeron a shorthanded breakaway.

Bergeron used the deflection to gain a step on a flat-footed Christian Ehrhoff, charging down the ice towards Luongo. At the last second, Ehrhoff tripped Bergeron and momentum carried the puck across the goal-line to give Boston a 3-0 lead with 2:25 to go in the period.

With only 8:26 remaining in the third, Vancouver got another chance on the power play but once again the team was unable to capitalize. The Canucks simply had no energy and appeared to be already defeated by the bigger and faster Bruins.

Marchand sealed the deal for the Bruins with an unassisted empty-net goal with 2:44 remaining, extending Boston’s lead to 4-0.

Boston follows in the footsteps of the Chicago Blackhawks, another Original Six franchise, who ended their 49-year Stanley Cup drought in 2010.