Destiny's darlings: The Boston Bruins
One May 29, venerable hockey writer Stan Fischler tweeted the following:
The Bruins have less of a chance to win The Cup than Atlanta has of retaining the Thrashers.
He wasn’t alone. The vast majority of hockey experts, from Puck Daddy to ESPN to THN, picked the Vancouver Canucks to easily skate off with the Stanley Cup against the overmatched Boston Bruins. After all, the Canucks had scoring powerhouses Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Selke Trophy finalist Ryan Kesler, and Olympic gold-medal winner and Vezina finalist Roberto Loungo. The Bruins? Sure, they had their own Vezina candidate in Tim Thomas, but their top regular-season scorers (Milan Lucic and David Krejci) had totaled just 62 points each. Zdeno Chara was a Norris finalist and former winner, but had been panned by some as overrated and overhyped. Thomas? A freakishly lucky goalie whose success rested largely on the Bruins’ defense-first system. Or so many said.
The Canucks, NHL royalty as the Presidents Trophy winner with the best regular-season record, looked down their noses at the rag-tag Bruins as the media all but crowned them champions before the first puck drop.
The disrespect manifested itself in Game 1, when Alexander Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron’s finger during a scrum, and continued in Game 2, when Max Lapierre taunted Bergeron by shoving his fingers at the Bruins center’s mouth.
And that’s when Nemesis stepped in.
Today, nemesis refers to someone’s particular enemy, but in ancient Greece, Nemesis, according to Wikipedia, “was the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris (arrogance before the gods). The Greeks personified vengeful fate as a remorseless goddess; the goddess of revenge. The name Nemesis is related to the Greek word νέμειν [némein], meaning ‘to give what is due’”
Nemesis showed up at the TD Garden with revenge on her mind; the Bruins blew the Canucks out in Games 3 and 4 by scores of 8-1 and 4-0, respectively, to even the series.
The Canucks pulled ahead 3-2 in the series after returning to Vancouver and winning 1-0, but apparently hadn’t learned their lesson. Loungo criticized Thomas’s goaltending technique, calling the one goal allowed one he himself would have stopped due to his superior positional play. Given a chance to clarify his statement the next day, he plaintively said he had “pumped (Thomas’s) tires all series,” and that Thomas has said nothing nice about him.
What kind of professional athlete, one making $10 million per year, needs validation from his opponent? As Thomas said after Game 6, “I didn’t know it was my job to pump his tires.”
Perhaps Loungo took his cue from his coach, who whined that Thomas played too far out of his crease and made a formal complaint to the NHL about him. Or Daniel Sedin, who allowed a 5-foot-nothing rookie (Brad Marchand) to use him as a speed bag late in Game 4. What kind of a man – what kind of a hockey player? – allows that to happen? What member of the Bruins wouldn’t have knocked Marchand into the middle of next week?
So Nemesis had to be smiling on Game 7 as Thomas solidified his Conn Smythe trophy, as Marchand and Bergeron scored two goals each (talk about divine retribution!), and Chara lifted the Stanley Cup to the rafters as the Bruins celebrated their first Stanley Cup since 1972.
Postscript: The night of Game 7, there was a total lunar eclipse over parts of Africa and Asia. The last time the world witnessed a lunar eclipse was Oct. 27, 2004, the night the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series since 1918.
Photo from boston.com