The Stanley Cup playoffs usually render the regular season absolutely meaningless. A two-month grind of intense hockey produces upsets galore and wears even the most dominant of teams down.
But here we are in 2001 with a dream match-up—New Jersey versus Colorado.
It is the defending Stanley Cup Champions and reigning beasts of the Eastern Conference against the President’s Trophy winner from the West. Not since 1989 has the top team from each bracket advanced to the finals, setting the stage for one of the most memorable seven-game series in recent memory.
The storylines are overflowing in this contest—Martin Brodeur squares off against his boyhood idol, Patrick Roy, between the pipes; Colorado rallies without the help of superstar Peter Forsberg, still recovering from a ruptured spleen; Patrik Elias continues his emergence as the best left wing in the NHL on the Devils’ dominant “A” line; New Jersey seeks to become the third expansion team to win three Stanley Cups, joining the Edmonton and Long Island dynasties.
But the angle that has captured the heartstrings of the hockey community is one very dear to Boston—Ray Bourque.
This series marks the third time Bourque has made it to the finals, and this very well could be his last and best chance at taking a sip from the championship chalice.
There has not been a finer defenseman in all of hockey over the past twenty years than No. 77.
He played for some very good Bruins teams, but both times he made it to the precipice, he ran into the juggernaut of the 1980s, the Edmonton Oilers. No team in that decade—not the Bruins, not anyone—could match the likes Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Glen Anderson, and Grant Fuhr.