When the Boston Bruins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 in the deciding game of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference championship series, three former University of Maine players had their seasons ended.
Right wing Teddy Purcell and defensemen Brett Clark and Mike Lundin came a whisker away from advancing to the finals.
Purcell’s stock has soared dramatically as he is currently seventh in the league in playoff scoring with 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) in 18 games.
But there is also a Maine tie, in a roundabout way, to the Vancouver Canucks, who will host the Bruins when the best-of-seven final series begins Wednesday night in Vancouver.
Former Black Bear defenseman , two-year captain and assistant coach Dave Nonis spent 10 years with the Canucks, first as their senior vice president for hockey operations and then as general manager.
He was fired in 2008 and is now the senior VP for hockey operations with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Nonis was one of the men who helped build the foundation that transformed the non-descript team in the funky uniforms into a Stanley Cup finalist.
He worked for former Canucks GM Brian Burke and they were two members of the management team that was able to draft the high-scoring Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, with the second and third choices during the 1999 draft.
The Sedin twins combined for 60 goals and 138 assists during the regular season. They were the Canucks’ top two scorers.
Burke also drafted standout power forward Ryan Kesler, shutdown defenseman Kevin Bieksa and traded for offensive-minded defenseman Sami Salo.
After Burke’s contract wasn’t renewed by the Canucks in 2004, Nonis became the Canucks’ GM and he stamped his mark on the franchise by obtaining goalie Roberto Luongo in a six-player trade with Florida; drafting the likes of left wing Mason Raymond and defenseman Alex Edler and obtaining free agent left wing Alex Burrows.
Burrows, Edler and Raymond are Vancouver’s fourth-, seventh- and eighth-leading scorers in the playoffs with 14, 9 and 8 points, respectively, and Luongo is 12-6 with a 2.29 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
Henrik Sedin told Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun that he and his brother were indebted to Burke and Nonis.
“Brian drafted us to the Canucks in ‘99. After that, Brian and Dave could have gone the easy route and traded us. They didn’t. We appreciate that,” said Henrik Sedin.
The Bruins’ ability to contain the Sedins will be one of the key to the series.
What is amazing about the Bruins’ march to the finals is they have accomplished it with an awful power play. They will enter the finals operating at 8.2 percent on the power play.
By contrast, the power play has been a big reason behind the Canucks’ success, operating an an impressive 28.3 percent efficiency rate.
Their penalty-killing percentages are similar: Vancouver at 80.6 percent and Boston at 79.4 percent.
But those numbers go by the wayside now.
Goaltending plays a major role and Boston’s Tim Thomas and Vancouver’s Luongo have the same goals-against average: 2.29 and same record (12-6). Thomas has a .929 save percentage and Luongo’s is .922.
This will be an intriguing series.
The Canucks have more speed but they also have some productive physical players. The Bruins have more effective grinders/physical players but they also have some speed.
Prediction: Bruins will win in seven.