Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Boston Sports Moment of 2011

#1: Bruins Win First Stanley Cup since 1972

ESPNBoston made their own countdown midway through ours, and placed game 7 vs. Vancouver third in the top ten. Wait, what? Seriously, the game that allowed Zdeno Chara permission to take the Cup from Commissioner Gary Bettman is behind the victory parade the next week and the raising of the banner the next October?

A great sports moment for me is something that gives me the unknown, a game or series that has something on the line. I loved watching the banner go up in Boston in the 2011 season opener just as much as I loved watching the duckboat parade. But both of those events had planning, both were productions. And neither happen if Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas don't lead the Bruins to their first road win of the series on that fateful night in southwest Canada. The entire day of game 7 I was anxious, every twenty minutes thinking to myself that my favorite team was going to be playing in arguably (by all means try arguing with me on this) the most intense athletic event that professional sports offers us that night.

There was a perfect storm of emotions for a diehard B's fan going into that night. Confidence was certainly flowing, as Boston had run the Canucks off the Garden ice in game 6. Roberto Luongo had been inconsistent while Thomas played pretty much lights out the entire playoffs. Caution
and doubt crept in as well, with Vancouver stepping up its physical game in the three home games to that point, all victories for the Western champs. The stage was set for an all or nothing game to decide a championship. The fact that the game was being played in Canada was a bonus for me as well, although Boston remains one of the few American cities that can create that type of atmosphere.

The game began with both teams earning scoring chances. Daniel Sedin hit a backhander that nearly squeaked between Thomas's legs ten minutes in. Five minutes later Bergeron hit an awkward one-timer past Luongo for a 1-0 lead. Midway through the second, Vancouver got it's best opportunity of the game, as Alex Burrows dragged the puck away from Thomas, sending him scrambling and out of position. Burrows got a shot away past Thomas but Chara was able to lunge in front of the goal line and make a leg save. Brad Marchand's wraparound was followed by a Bergeron shorty on a breakaway and put the game away. Vancouver's efforts proved fruitless in the third, as the Bruins played flawless in their defensive zone, and Marchand scored his second on an empty net, sending the Bruins bench into euphoria for the final minutes.

The Stanley Cup was the final piece to the puzzle for the Boston sports fan. It was special to the region for this reason specifically. For Bruins fans of our generation, this season was extra special, following the past three postseason heartbreaks. A game 7 blowout to Montreal in '08. A game 7 OT loss to underdog Carolina in '09. A 3-0 series lead fell apart against Philly in '10, including a 3-0 lead in game 7 as well. To be able to win three game 7's in this postseason, culminating with a 4-0 victory over a team that generated massive amounts of hate from Boston's faithful over a two week span made it even sweeter. A memory I'll never forget, and the defining moment of the year that was.

Side note: If you really aren't into hockey but love New England sports, there is literally no better time than TODAY to become a Bruins fan. They are the best team in the league, in the midst of a two month span that has seen them lose a whopping three games in 24 chances, and to top it off they are playing the Dallas Stars tonight. The last two games against Dallas have been absolute bloodbaths. Everybody loves fights and goals, and I guarantee this game will have plenty of both. Shawn Thornton is going to cause someone on Dallas to need stitches tonight, I'd bet the wife and kids on it.

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