Murph wraps a fantastic 2010-11 NHL Season

Well NHL fans – what a ride this 2010-2011 hockey season has been for us all! From my time in Prague way back in October covering the Coyotes and Bruins, to the All-Star Game in Raleigh in January, and of course being in Boston for Games three and four last week – this has been a phenomenal journey.

Tim Thomas speaks to media in Prague
Tim Thomas in Prague

I had a weird feeling back in Prague that Tim Thomas and the Bruins had some plans up their collective Black and Gold sleeves – but I had no idea of how grand those plans were!

Tim Thomas had a season for the ages. This guy has had to scrape and fight for his job, and ultimately respect from NHL fans and media alike. Will this Conn Smythe effort finally bring him into the talk of the greats in our game?! Thomas will surely win the Vezina trophy in Las Vegas next week, and no one can take away this playoff run. His 798 saves in the playoffs this season is the best total in history – enough said! Oh I guess his numbers were ok too – a .940 SV%, and a 1.98 GAA with four shutouts – superhuman.

I remember at the All-Star game that Bruins captain Zdeno Chara seemed restless when asked about his team and the issues they had against the Flyers in the last playoff run. He had a steely look – a look that said he had unfinished business and that he would attain his goal. It’s funny looking back now how focused and business-like both Chara and Thomas were. I guess Chara’s resolve paid off in this run – his plus-16 led all players. He was physical night in and night out, and a pillar of strength for Boston on the penalty-kill…he was a true leader – the definition of a Captain.

Zdeno Chara in Raleigh

The Canucks had a great run – make no doubt about it. Beating the Blackhawks in seven in the opening round and showing great character after blowing a three game lead to advance. The Predators played hard against them, but they found a way to win, and the Sharks went all out. Ryan Kesler was on fire against the Preds and the Sedins got it going against San Jose. They seemed to be able to find a hero throughout to get the job done. Kevin Bieksa’s big goal will be remembered amongst Vancouver fans for years to come. The shame here is that there had to be a let-down for someone in this final. Canada’s Stanley Cup drought continues – going back to 1993.

The B’s are the first team in NHL history to win three game seven’s in one playoff run. They went the distance with bitter rivals Montreal, Tampa Bay, and of course again in the final. They swept the Flyers in round two to avenge the crushing defealt Philly handed them last season. You could say that the loss in round two of the 2010 playoffs – blowing a three game lead to lose at home in seven to the Flyers, was a galvanizing moment for the Beantowners. They knew they were better than that…they knew they had to make up for it.

The acquisitions at the trade deadline of Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly were also shrewd moves by Boston General Manager Peter Chiarelli. Both played huge parts in this incredible story – proving that depth – not big names wins championships.

The fans I encountered in Boston last week were hungry for a Bruins’ result. They had tasted glory with the Patriots, the Celtics and of course their beloved Red Sox all in the past seven years. I spoke with plenty of NHL fans who were calling it ‘the Bruins time.’ Well it has arrived – with a 4-0 Game seven gem. They have taken their place in Boston sports folklore. They have attained the top prize.

“You’ve been waiting a long time, but you got it,” Tim Thomas said to the fans, “You wanted it, you got it. We’re bringing it home.”

For the Canucks this could be their galvanizing moment. Falling just short of their goal must be beyond tough – but they know how good they can be. Losing Aaron Rome and Mason Raymond was hard on their lineup. Roberto Luongo’s struggles in Boston also a blow. But that team is a great team. That team – if they can re-group and come back strong and focused next season – could once again be Stanley Cup Contenders. We just have to hope that the riots in Vancouver in the aftermath of the loss Wednesday can soon be forgotten.

Murph on the TD Garden Ice
Murph on the TD Garden Ice

Bruins ‘grey beard’ Mark Recchi will leave the game on top as he announced his retirement after the win at age 43. Recchi is a testament to hard work and mental focus. While his younger counterparts on the Canucks – the Sedin brothers – struggled statistically in the series, Recchi had seven points in the seven games. ‘Rex’ as he is called by his teammates, leaves the NHL with three Stanley Cups (Penguins, Canes and now Bruins).

Well it was a pleasure to cover the NHL and some key hockey events in the 2010-11 season! Murph On Ice is back this year bringing you along again for another great NHL run.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce

Murph On Ice Stanley Cup Journal – June 6th

The Bruins took to the ice here at TD Garden this morning looking like a hungry bunch. It also seemed that familiar surroundings were just what the doctor ordered for the club, and there were smiles and the odd joke between the players as they went through some shooting and one-on-one drills.

Coach Claude Julien was tight lipped about lineup change possibilities, and the defenseman were in black and forwards in white, thus line combinations were not a factor.

No doubt about who will start in goal tonight for Boston. Tim Thomas took limited work and left the ice well before the rest of the team. Mark Recchi did not take the skate this morning and was just getting some more rest ahead of tonight’s contest.

The Bruins skated for about 45 minutes before opening the dressing room to the awaiting media. The thought on all our minds – what do the B’s need to do to get to Roberto Luongo?

Michael Ryder knows the Bruins have to get some big goals tonight in Game 3.

“We need to get traffic to the net,” Michael Ryder said, “we need to find ways to score and get some bounces to get them off their game.”

Indeed the Bruins would love to get a few early tonight, with only two goals in two games thus far a bounce-back effort would be huge.

“All year we’ve battled and bounced back,” Ryder stated, “we did it against Montreal, and if we win tonight then it’s a whole new series here.”

No doubt that a loss tonight pretty much seals the Bruins fate, and puts Vancouver just one win away from glory. A big factor being talked about here in the Garden is the home-town crowd and noise tonight for Game 3.

“We expect it to be pretty rowdy and loud,” smiled Brad Marchand, “our fans have been great all year, so looking forward to that tonight. We have a great crowd to feed off, so I think it’s going to be a crazy game.”

If the Bruins can pull off a big home win tonight, then we have the makings of a great series here in the Stanley Cup Final. A loss and we’re just looking at damage control. From what I experienced in the Boston dressing room here this morning, it looks like the team has no intention of giving up after two tough losses in Vancouver.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce