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Friday, January 6, 2012
Updated: January 7, 6:56 PM ET
Taking a look back at Cup finals

By Joe McDonald
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- The Stanley Cup finals series this past spring between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks was an intense, physical and emotional battle from start to finish.

With the two teams set to meet Saturday (1 p.m. ET) for the first time since the Bruins celebrated on Vancouver ice after Game 7, we take a look back at what transpired in the Stanley Cup finals.

Game 1: Canucks 1, Bruins 0 | McDonald: Goalies the story

With Thomas and Luongo both Vezina Trophy finalists, it seemed coming in as though the entire series would come down to goaltender. That's exactly how things played out in Game 1 at Rogers Arena. Both netminders were tremendous, exchanging highlight-reel save for highlight-reel save as the game remained scoreless until the closing seconds, when the Canucks' Raffi Torres netted the game-winning goal with 18.5 seconds remaining in regulation. Luongo finished with 36 saves, and Thomas posted 33.

Aside from the goalies, the game also featured "The Bite."

During an all-out scrum in the second period of Game 1, the Canucks' Alex Burrows appeared to bite the gloved finger of the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron. Burrows avoided suspension for the infamous biting incident.

Game 2: Canucks 3, Bruins 2 (OT) | Murphy: Five takeaways

Burrows came back to bite the Bruins again, only this time it was on the backside as his overtime goal only 11 seconds into the extra session gave Vancouver a 3-2 victory and a 2-0 series lead. He posted a three-point night in the process.

Game 3: Bruins 8, Canucks 1 | MacMullan: B's bare teeth

Trailing by two games in the series, the Bruins found themselves in a similar circumstance as they did in the first round against the Canadiens. Only this time, the next two games were on TD Garden ice, and Boston needed to take full advantage of the situation.

The Bruins came out flying, and it didn't take long to get their fans into it as Boston tough guy Shawn Thornton laid a big hit on Burrows in the opening minutes of the game.

Unfortunately, the Bruins were the ones on the receiving end of a serious blow to their lineup when the Canucks' Aaron Rome delivered a late hit on Boston's Nathan Horton in the first period. The Bruins forward suffered a severe concussion and would miss the remainder of the Stanley Cup finals. Rome was given a game misconduct and ultimately was suspended for the remainder of the series.

Nathan Horton
Nathan Horton missed the rest of the finals after a blindside hit by Vancouver's Aaron Rome in the first period of Game 3.

Boston used Horton's injury as a motivational factor and dominated the Canucks en route to an 8-1 thrashing.

Even though Horton missed the remainder of the series, he was on the ice with his teammates after their Game 7 win, and, when asked recently about his situation in the spring and whether he'll think about that Saturday, Horton said he would rather look ahead.

"It's going to be a good game, but obviously I want to put it behind me," Horton said. "I think everyone is excited to play them with what happened last year in the playoffs. Fans are excited, and we're excited to play them again."

Game 4: Bruins 4, Canucks 0 | McDonald: Keep energy

Even before the puck dropped, it looked as if the Canucks were in trouble. Bruins legend Bobby Orr stood in the stands during pregame introductions and waved a black and gold No. 18 Horton flag. It was an emotional scene at the Garden, and the Bruins fed off that energy and evened the series at two games apiece with a 4-0 victory.

Thomas continued his stellar play in the postseason. He turned away 38 shots for the shutout, his third of the playoffs.

Thomas explained this week that he won't look back on what happened in the spring but will be focused on Saturday's game.

"When we were playing, it may not have looked like it, but I wasn't thinking about them. I was thinking about what I had to do," Thomas explained. "They were the players throwing the puck at me, but I was focusing on the puck. Even the scrapes I got in with Burrows [Game 4] and [Henrik] Sedin [Game 3], I really didn't spend a lot of focus on that at all. They were just parts of the game that kind of just happened, part of the competition."

Game 5: Canucks 1, Bruins 0 | McDonald: Return home

This game featured another physical battle between the teams, and both goaltenders excelled. In the end, it was Vancouver with a 1-0 victory and a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup in Boston with a win in Game 6.

Luongo, who had been pulled in Game 4, bounced back and played well, making 31 saves for the shutout. Teammate Maxim Lapierre scored the lone goal when he beat Thomas at 4:35 of the third period.

But Luongo turned up the heat during the postgame interviews when he criticized Thomas' aggressive goaltending style. Luongo said he would have made the save on the goal Lapierre scored.

"It's an easy save for me, but if you're wandering out and aggressive like he does, that's going to happen," Luongo said.

Then, between games, Luongo added to his verbal spitfire when he was asked about his comment.

"I've been pumping his tires ever since the series started," Luongo said. "I haven't heard one nice thing he's said about me."

Thomas responded by saying: "I didn't realize it was my job to pump his tires. I guess I'll have to apologize for that."

Thomas talked about that verbal barrage by Luongo this past Tuesday, saying he didn't think much about it then and certainly isn't thinking about it now.

"I don't think about it too much," Thomas said. "The battle at the time and what transpired between me and Luongo, actually my biggest challenge at the time was not letting it throw me off. I was trying not to engage in that, so, because of that, I don't think about it too much right now. Right now, I would have to say we have the mental edge because we won that series, and that's something we wouldn't want to give up."

Game 6: Bruins 5, Canucks 2 | MacMullan: Luongo missed

Thomas did respond to Luongo's criticism, but Boston's goalie did it on the ice with a 36-save performance on home ice. The Bruins scored early and often en route to a 5-2 victory to force the decisive Game 7 back in Vancouver.

Game 7: Bruins 4, Canucks 0 | MacMullan: B's resilience

Back at Rogers Arena, the scene was set in anticipation of a climactic Game 7. Once again, it came down to goaltending, and Thomas proved to be the better netminder as he made 37 saves to help the Bruins to a 4-0 victory and a Stanley Cup championship. Thomas earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for his performance. Teammates Bergeron and Brad Marchand netted a pair of goals each, and the Cup returned to Boston for the first time in 39 years.

Claude Julien
Claude Julien and the Bruins celebrate winning the Stanley Cup.

In the aftermath of the Bruins' victory, millions showed up for the victory parade and the buzz lasted through the summer and only grew larger once the 2011-12 season began with an impressive ceremony at TD Garden on Oct. 6.

After getting off to a slow start, the Bruins are in the midst of an incredible run, and, although everyone knows anything can happen in the Stanley Cup playoffs, there's a possibility these two teams could face each other again.

There's still plenty of hockey to be played before any team in the NHL can begin to think about the playoffs, but no doubt Saturday's game at TD Garden will have a playoff feel to it.

"Emotionally, I don't think it's going to be that big of a deal," Thomas said. "As far as the game goes, it'll be a hard-fought game by both teams because we're both potentially trying to prove something to each other if we ever have to face off again for a series.

"We won the Cup, and it was awesome. We're never going to give it back, but this is a new year and we're shooting for it again," Thomas said. "I don't dwell on the past."

Game on!

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.