Thu Jun 16 12:48am EDT
It's kind of obvious at this point, but Brad Marchand(notes) provided significant contributions en route to the Boston Bruins' snapping their nearly four-decade Stanley Cup drought. Dude was terrific.
But I'm not here to talk exclusively about him. I'm here to break down the Stanley Cup game-winning goal. He assisted on it, but the league's most underrated player, Patrice Bergeron(notes), scored it.
If you hit "stop" on the running-time stopwatch of Earth's history, Tim Thomas(notes) would be this moment's top NHL goaltender, without competition. He's about to win the Vezina Trophy for the second time in three years, he just won the Conn Smythe Trophy, and those things add up to one simple fact: You don't have to put up a lot of goals in front of him to win.
The Bruin's tallied their first goal of the game with 5:23 to go in the first period, and it would be the only one they needed on the night to take the Cup back to Massachusetts. (They eventually racked up another three snipes. They weren't necessary, but probably provided a little breathing room for you B's fans out there.)
The first Bergeron goal was simply all that they needed Wednesday night. So how did it happen?
As a refresher, the Bruins' first goal of their 4-0 win:
Tied at zeroes late in the first, with the game — and more importantly momentum — still up for grabs, a faceoff took place in the Canucks zone. Henrik Sedin(notes) cleanly beat Patrice Bergeron on the draw, back between his legs, but defensemen Christian Ehrhoff(notes) and Sami Salo(notes) were beat to the puck by the 23-year-old Brad Marchand.
The Bruins' energetic pest took the puck up the wall as a good forward should do — from there, he had the option to cycle it, use his defense, or simply throw it on net.
He saw another option.
In front, there was some mild defensive confusion. Mark Recchi(notes) was cruising through the slot, and Patrice Bergeron was hanging around there too. The Canucks had their centerman and a defenseman nearby, which is exactly the defensive coverage they've worked on all season long. Even winger Alex Burrows had sagged down from the slot to help, exactly as he should.
But standing beside a player isn't quite the same as covering him, and Bergeron had found that soft spot — near players, but not actually covered by one. He was between layers.
When all the defensive players think "he's got 'im, right?", problems tend to ensue.
Marchand tossed the puck from his backhand to one of the trouble areas in front. Those pucks can often get swept to the boards without a second thought, but in this case, it ended up exactly in that soft spot where Patrice Bergeron had been standing, and he had just enough room to get his stick on the puck.
Amidst the chaos, Luongo had no hope.
That's one of my most hated goalie clichés — he had no chance on that one Edzo! — but sometimes it's a reality.
Patrice Bergeron had directed it towards the goal and tucked in their first of the night; when you have all-American hero Tim Thomas in your net, you often don't need any more.
On Wednesday night, they didn't.
It was 1-0 for the team from Boston, and the B's never looked back.