2001 Stanley Cup Final
A lot of memorable NHL Stanley Cup Final series stick in your mind because they involved an upset or a ferocious struggle waged by an overachieving underdog. But the 2001 Stanley Cup was a classic because it involved a head-on collision of the two best teams in the NHL that season — a situation that is not always the case in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 2001 Colorado Avalanche and their Final opponent, New Jersey Devils, were powerhouse teams at the height of their power. It promised to be a whale of a series, and it was.
Two Great Hockey Teams
For starters, consider the goalie matchup: Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. Not only were they arguably the best goalies in the league that season, they were among the best goalies ever to play in the NHL. Colorado had the best regular-season record in the NHL, with 118 points. Its lineup included captain Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Rob Blake and a 40-year-old legend Ray Bourque, who had never won a Stanley Cup. The Devils — defending Stanley Cup champions — were the top team in the Eastern Conference, with 111 points, whose lineup included Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias, Alexander Mogilny, Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer.
Road to the Final
In the East, New Jersey beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 in the Conference Quarterfinals, and then knocked off the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in a hard-fought Conference Semifinals. In the Conference Finals, the Devils won handily, 4-1 over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In the West, the Avalanche breezed past the Vancouver Canucks 4-0, then won a tough series against the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 before beating the St. Louis Blues 4-1.
2001 Stanley Cup Final — Game Summary
- Game 1 was played May 26 at Pepsi Center in Denver. Colorado made a strong statement with a convincing 5-0 win. Roy made 25 saves for the Avalanche, and Brodeur stopped 25 out of 30 shots for the Devils.
- Game 2 was played on May 29 in Denver, but this time the game was a close defensive struggle, with the Devils coming out on top 2-1. After Sakic scored on a power play in the first period, New Jersey responded with two first-period goals to take a lead that held up for the rest of the game. Brodeur had 19 saves; Roy 18.
- With the series tied 1-1, the scene shifted to Meadowlands Arena on May 31. The Avalanche, to nobody’s surprise, bounced back with a 3-1 win. Again, defense was strong for both teams: Roy had 21 saves on 22 shots, and Brodeur had 18 saves on 21 shots.
- With Colorado up 2-1, Game 4 was held on June 2 at the Meadowlands. Guess what? Another close game. The Devils, after falling behind 1-0 in the first period, rallied for a 3-2 win. Roy had 32 saves on 35 shots, and Brodeur had 10 saves on only 12 shots for the Avalanche. The series was tied again.
- Back in Denver for Game 5 on June 4, the Devils pulled off a minor surprise, beating the Avs convincingly, 4-1. Shots were close again, 23 for Colorado and 26 for New Jersey. New Jersey was up 3-2 in the series, and ever so close to the Cup.
- Game 6 was held at the Meadowlands on June 7. Backs to the wall, the Avs roared back with a 4-0 win, on only 18 shots to the Devils’ 24. Roy stood out by repulsing a vicious first-period attack by New Jersey. The series was tied 3-3.
- Game 7 was played in Denver on June 9. With everything on the line, Colorado scored three straight goals and held on to win 3-1. Brodeur stopped 19 shots, but Roy stopped 25 — in doing so, helped the Avs win their second Stanley Cup.
Bourque had his Stanley Cup, at last. With that accomplished, he retired — a fitting cap on a tremendous 23-year NHL career.
(Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons)