On June 15, 2011, the Boston Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. The Bruins failed in their five previous trips to the finals since Bobby Orr led them to championships in 1970 and 1972, losing every time. Remarkable players such as Cam Neely came and went without a Cup, while Ray Bourque had to go to Colorado to get his only ring 10 years ago. But with Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) winner Tim Thomas between the pipes, their giant defensive captain Zdeno Chara and a core of gritty forwards, the Bruins proved they were the best with a 4-0 Game 7 victory over the President's Cup (for best regular season record) winning Canucks in Vancouver.
2 of 12Petr Josek/Reuters
B's win in Prague
Following a bitter end to their 2009-10 season -- an epic playoff collapse after leading Philadelphia three-games-to-none in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Bruins made a fresh start with a 3-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in their opener in Prague, Czech Republic. Winger Nathan Horton scored three goals in the B's first two games in Europe, flashing the potential of their offseason trade for the former Florida Panther and portending his clutch offense in the postseason.
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Marc Savard returns
A central figure in the NHL's ongoing debate about how to curb headshots and concussions, Boston's star center had a long stay on the injured reserve list after Penguin Matt Cooke's blindside hit in a March 2010 game. Savard missed the first 23 games of the 2010-11 season. Once safely clear of his nagging post-concussion symptoms, he returned for Boston's 8-1 win over the Lightning, logging 15:45 of ice time and winning five face-offs. "I think that's the first eight goals the team has scored that I haven't had anything on [the scoresheet]," Savard said. "But I kept telling [coach] Claude [Julien] I was a presence tonight." Alas, Savard's season was cut short by yet another concussion -- his fourth -- on Jan. 22, 2011. His career was left in doubt.
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Brawl with the Habs
The bitter Original Six rivalry boiled over as the Bruins won 8-6 on the scoreboard, but the stat sheet was even more telling -- Boston led 24-21 in penalties. In all, there were 182 penalty minutes, 12 fighting majors and four misconducts during the game. A second-period brawl even included a goalie fight between Tim Thomas and Carey Price. Another bout broke out with 41 seconds left. Oh yeah, there was some hockey played, too. Milan Lucic scored twice, and Nathan Horton added a goal and four assists for Boston.
5 of 12Lou Capozzola/SI; Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images; Damian Strohmeyer/SI
B's busy at deal deadline
The Bruins sent a prospect and their first-round pick in the 2011 draft to Toronto for Tomas Kaberle (12), a 32-year-old puck-moving defenseman who had been hyped as a prime piece of deadline trade bait. (His struggles in the playoffs would prove to be a source of media chatter and aggravation for Bruins fans.), GM Peter Chiarelli sent the message that he was trying to win it as he also acquired hard-nosed center Chris Kelly (23) from Ottawa and productive forward Rich Peverley (49) from Atlanta.
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B's extend win streak to seven
Boston returned home after an undefeated six-game road trip and kept the momentum going with a 2-1 win over the Lightning in what would be a conference finals preview. Milan Lucic scored the decisive goal with 3:42 left in the game when he dodged a pileup in front of the crease and put the puck in the net after it had bounced off an official's skate.
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Chara injures Pacioretty
The Canadiens and Bruins added a new chapter to their bitter rivalry when Boston's 6-9, 255-pound defenseman Zdeno Chara drove Montreal's Max Pacioretty's head into a turnbuckle between their benches during the second period. The hit left Pacioretty with a concussion and fractured vertebra, but Chara received only a game misconduct penalty (no suspension). Canadiens fans, and the team's owner, were outraged. Montreal police announced they would launch a criminal investigation into the hit.
8 of 12Christopher Szagola/Icon SMI
Bruins clinch playoff berth
Brad Marchand's second power play goal of the game, with 3:43 left in the third period, gave the Bruins a 2-1 win in Philadelphia that secured a playoff appearance. The victory left the Northeast Division-leading Bruins with 94 points, six fewer than the conference-leading Flyers with seven games left to play. The B's would finish the regular season with a 46-25-11 record, 103 points, the division title and the third seed in the postseason tournament.
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Bruins slip by Habs in seven
In a highly-anticipated, high stakes meeting of the rivals, it was only fitting that after six games and regulation time of the seventh, they were still battling. But Boston's Nathan Horton was the hero for the second time in the series, scoring less than six minutes into overtime to give the Bruins a 4-3 win in the decisive game. Horton had also scored the game-winner in Game 5.
10 of 12Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images
B's get revenge on Flyers
This time, the Bruins left no doubts. A year earlier, the they'd won the first three games of their series against the Flyers only to let it slip away by falling in four straight, a collapse that had been equalled by only two other NHL teams. But in 2011, Boston refused to give Philadelphia an opening, completing the sweep with a 5-1 win. More good news: Milan Lucic, the team's leading scorer in the regular season, broke through with his first two goals of the postseason during Game 4.
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B's advance to Cup final
Boston survived its thrilling back-and-forth series with Tampa Bay when it ended Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson's perfect run in elimination games with a 1-0 victory in Game 7. After dropping Game 1, the Bruins won two straight and took a three-goal lead in Game 4, but the Lightning scored five unanswered goals in what could have been a momentum-turning victory. Boston overcame that loss to take Game 5 and move within one win of the Cup final. After a 5-4 defeat in Game 6, the Bruins returned home where behind Tim Thomas' second shutout of the series and Nathan Horton's goal with 7:33 left in the third period advanced them to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1990.
12 of 12David E. Klutho/SI
Thomas just too good, <br> Bruins win in seven
Thomas drew a virtual line in his crease throughout these crazy, contentious Stanley Cup finals, and Boston's brilliant goalie just wouldn't allow the Vancouver Canucks to cross it whenever it really mattered. In Game 7, the 37-year-old netminder made 37 saves in the second shutout of his landmark finals performance, Patrice Bergeron and rookie Brad Marchand scored two goals apiece, and the Bruins beat the Canucks 4-0 to win their first NHL championship since 1972.
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