NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, center, presents the Prince of Wales Trophy to the Eastern Conference finals champion Boston Bruins who defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 in Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference final series, Friday, May 27, 2011, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
BOSTON - The Prince of Wales trophy sat untouched on a table in the middle of the ice. It's not the one that Zdeno Chara is hoping to take for a skate.
Instead, the Boston Bruins captain waved his teammates over to pose for a picture.
"I liked the touch that Zee had, bringing the group around the trophy. I haven't seen that before," general manager Peter Chiarelli said Saturday, a day after the Bruins beat Tampa Bay 1-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to earn a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. "You know, it was just a good time. It was a good moment, just for the organization, and it was a feel-good moment. So I was able to enjoy that for a little bit."
Tim Thomas stopped 24 shots for his third career playoff shutout—his second of the conference finals—and Nathan Horton deflected a pass from David Krejci into the net with 7:33 left for the only goal. With that, the Bruins earned the right to play the Vancouver Canucks for their first Stanley Cup since 1972.
"It was a special feeling," Chiarelli said. "You look over and see the ice, see these guys and watch how they celebrate, how they, how emotional they are. You felt good for them, you really felt good for them. ... Then immediately after that feeling passed, I realized that we have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. And I'm still feeling that today. That's a great feeling."
Although four of the first six games of the conference finals were high-scoring affairs that left both goaltenders struggling for answers—and left Tampa Bay's Dwayne Roloson on the bench—the finale was defensive duel with no penalties at all. Lightning coach Guy Boucher said the entire game felt like sudden-death overtime, and it might as well have been.
Horton's goal allowed the Boston fans to celebrate, but it wasn't until the final seconds ticked off the clock that the players streamed over the boards and fans began showering the ice with souvenir towels. The Bruins surrounded Tim Thomas to congratulate him on his second shutout of the series, and no one seemed happier than backup goalie Tuukka Rask, who has not played in the post-season.
"Tuukka was like mugging about 10 guys," Chiarelli said. "He was moving around the most and jumping on guys. So that was just kind of funny."
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly brought out the conference trophy—Boston's first since 1990—but Chara was only mildly interested in the shiny bauble.
"I thought it would be great to have all the guys with it," he said. "It's a team thing. It's something I decided to do and everybody liked it."
And that told Chiarelli that he had the right man wearing the captain's "C'' on his sweater.
"It says a lot about the team," Chiarelli said. "You're probably thinking about a bunch of different things, like, 'Wow, we made it,' and all this stuff. Well, you can tell what's first on his mind: Let's get the team up there. And you look at the photo afterward—it's a pretty cool photo.
"He's growing exponentially as a leader, and I'm certain that he would say also that his support group is very strong. And it has been getting stronger as a group. So he's a very effective and very good leader for this team."
The Bruins took the day off Saturday to rest after their seven-game series. They will return to practice Sunday and leave Monday for Vancouver, where they will play Games 1 and 2 on Wednesday and Saturday. The series returns to Boston on June 6 and 8.
The first casualty of their Stanley Cup run: A "Glee Live!" concert at the TD Garden had to be rescheduled.
Also Saturday, Chiarelli confirmed that Horton was fined by the league for spraying a Tampa Bay fan with water after Game 6. Chiarelli did not disclose the amount of the fine.
"That's an unfortunate incident," Chiarelli said. "I didn't really focus on it and I didn't talk to Nathan about it. He has been fined. So that issue has been resolved."