Bruins return to Stanley Cup final for first time since 1990

The Sports Network

5/29/2011 9:28:35 AM

(Sports Network) - While the Canucks last played for a title 17 years ago, it's been an even longer road back to the Cup Finals for Boston, which made its last appearance in the NHL's championship round in 1990.

The Bruins ousted Tampa Bay for this year's Eastern Conference title by beating the Lightning, 1-0, in a decisive Game 7 in Boston. It was the second Game 7 victory of this postseason for Boston, which went seven games against Montreal in Round 1 before sweeping Philadelphia in the conference semifinals.

Boston, which was ousted in five games by Mark Messier and the Edmonton Oilers in the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals, hasn't won a title since Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito led the franchise to the 1972 crown. All told, the B's have claimed five Stanley Cup titles in their storied history.

After the way the 2010 postseason ended for Boston it may surprise some folks to see the Bruins representing the East just one year later in the Cup Finals.

Last spring, Boston became just the third team in NHL history to lose a series after holding a three-games-to-one lead when it was eliminated in seven games by the Flyers. However, the Bruins made quick work of Philly in Round 2 this year to help exorcise those playoff demons.

Of course, a Stanley Cup title would help further erase the memory of that historic playoff collapse.

Boston is a team built on strong defense and solid goaltending, but the B's showed some offensive punch in eliminating the high-powered Lightning in the conference finals, scoring 21 times over the seven games. The Bruins are averaging 3.22 goals per game for the entire playoffs and have yielded just 2.50 scores per contest.

David Krejci and Nathan Horton have been Boston's best forwards in this postseason. The former is leading the playoffs with 10 goals and has also added seven assists, while Horton has also notched 17 points (8g, 9a) and scored the only goal in Boston's Game 7 victory over the Lightning.

Including Krejci and Horton, the Bruins have six players with 10 or more points in the playoffs and valuable two-way forward Patrice Bergeron is third on the team with 15 points on four goals and 11 assists. Bergeron sat out the first two games of the last round with a mild concussion, but returned for Game 3 and posted two goals and one helper in the last five games of the series.

Krejci led his club with five goals in the last round and was tied with Horton for the team lead with seven points. Michael Ryder and rookie Tyler Seguin also added three goals and three assists apiece against the Lightning.

Seguin, the second overall pick in last year's draft, played the first two postseason games of his NHL career with Bergeron out in the last round. The 19-year-old was so impressive that he remained in the lineup for the rest of the series, pushing fellow forward Shawn Thornton to the press box.

The Bruins would like to get increased offensive production from power forward Milan Lucic, who has three goals and six assists in 18 games this spring. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Lucic does have a plus-nine rating for the tourney and is third among Boston forwards in ice time, averaging 18 minutes, 13 seconds per tilt.

Power-play scoring has been a big problem for Boston all year long and things have only gotten worse in the playoffs. The Bruins have scored just five times on 61 chances with the man advantage this spring for a paltry 8.2 percent success rate.

Boston's defense and goaltending usually makes scoring against the club a difficult task, but the Lightning gave the Bruins more than they could handle at times in the conference finals. Even with two shutouts by Boston goaltender Tim Thomas, Tampa still managed 21 goals over the seven-game series.

Thomas won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender in 2009 and is considered to be the favorite for the award this year. The 37-year-old is 12-6 this postseason with a 2.29 GAA and .929 save percentage. Thomas set an NHL record with a .938 save percentage over 57 games during the regular season.

Boston's defense is led by mammoth blueliner Zdeno Chara, who can dominate games with his combination of skill, size and physicality. Chara, who is 6- foot-9 and 255 pounds, was a Norris Trophy winner in 2009 and is a finalist for the top defenseman award this year as well.

Chara, who boasts the hardest slap shot ever recorded, has just two goals in this year's playoffs, but he has added three assists and is leading his club with a plus-11 rating. The Slovakian is also averaging 28:17 of ice time per game, which is second on the team to fellow defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.

Seidenberg and Tomas Kaberle are leading Boston's blue line with eight points apiece this spring, but the former is seeing much more action. Seidenberg is averaging 28:22 of ice time per game, while Kaberle, who was acquired during this season in a trade with Toronto, is at 16:31.

Kaberle has scored all eight of his points on assists and five of them came in the last round against Tampa.

Andrew Ference is second among Boston defensemen with seven points, while Johnny Boychuk is leading the club with three goals from the back end. Both Ference and Boychuk are averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per outing.

Boston has also allowed 13 power-play goals on 63 shorthanded situations this postseason.