The Boston Bruins won their first Stanley Cup Championship in 39 years, as the defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games. Let's break down the numbers and find out exactly why Boston was able to defeat Vancouver, despite being a significant underdog heading into the series.
Thomas had a playoffs for the ages, finishing with a 1.98 GAA and a sparkling .940 SV%. Dig a little deeper, and you'll find the stat line for the Stanley Cup Finals:
1.14 GAA, .966 SV%, all while facing an average of 34 shots per game. Thomas could have had a Junior League hockey team in front of him and still won the series with those numbers.
Contrast that with Roberto Luongo's ugly Finals numbers:
2.86 GAA, .891 SV%, and that includes his two series shutouts.
It'd be fairly easy to end the series recap right there. Tim Thomas was spectacular, Luongo was inconsistent and shaky.
Let's compare the two teams' offensive production.
The three combined for two goals, three assists, and a -19 rating for the series. Dreadful. 42-year-old Bruins forward Mark Recchi scored as many goals in Game Three as the top three Vancouver forwards did in the entire Finals. Canucks fans can blame Luongo all they want, but with their top offensive talent playing this poorly, it's a credit to the goaltending that this series even went seven games.
Boston scored five power play goals in the Finals; they had only scored five power play goals in the three combined series previously.
Vancouver scored a single power play goal in the series, after leading the league in total power play goals and power play percentage during the regular season.
Boston scored an unheard of three shorthanded goals in the series. Vancouver had none. Boston so throughly dominated the special teams phase of the game that they actually outscored Vancouver on the Canucks power play, 3-1.
Boston looked to be in trouble at the start of Game Three, until Aaron Rome's hit on Nathan Horton knocked him out of the playoffs. Suddenly, the Bruins offense could not be stopped. The Canucks tried playing physical; the Bruins showed them what physical hockey actually looks like.
The biggest difference in this series was confidence. Boston knew that Thomas would cover any mistakes, allowing the Bruins forwards to play aggressive and fast and the defensemen to cheat up in the zone.
Vancouver didn't know what they would get in net from Luongo on a nightly basis. His inconsistency forced the forwards to stay back instead of their crisp, free-flowing passing game that they prefer. Simplistic? Sure. But the fact is Boston beat Vancouver at their own game, and they did it handily.
It may not have been the greatest Finals of all time, but it was certainly one of the most intriguing to witness. These two teams entered the series with no history; they leave as rivals. If they play during the upcoming regular season, it becomes must-see television.