2000-01 Season Recap
Ray Bourque had just one thing left to accomplish. In 22 years of service, he scored 410 goals and dished out 1169 assists, becoming the leading scorer by defensemen in NHL history. He played in 19 NHL all-star games, earning MVP honors in 1996 in front of his home crowd (Boston). He won five Norris Trophies as the league's top defenseman, more than anyone but Bobby Orr (8) and Doug Harvey (7). But there was still that glaring hole in his resume — a Stanley Cup.
Back in the 1999-2000 season, with his Bruins languishing out of the playoff race, Bourque was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs won their division and the their first two playoff series, but were eliminated by Dallas in the Western Conference Finals.
At the start of the 2000-01 season, rumors swirled that this would be Bourque's last, Cup or no Cup. Bolstered by the defense of Bourque and the newly acquired Rob Blake, the goaltending of the incomparable Patrick Roy, and the scoring prowess of captain Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, the Avalanche stormed to 118 points and the best overall NHL regular season record.
But that is when the season really began for Bourque and the Avalanche. It was Bourque's 21st year of postseason action, more than any player in NHL history. He dubbed his quest, "Mission 16W," in reference to the 16 wins (four playoff series) it would take to win the Cup.
Colorado breezed through the Vancouver Canucks in Round 1 (4-0), averted a Los Angeles Kings comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to win Round 2 in seven games, then took care of St. Louis with relative ease (4-1) in the Western Conference Finals.
Twelve down, four to go. The Avalanche advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals to battle the Eastern Conference winners and defending Cup champion New Jersey Devils, whose home arena is coincidentally located at Exit 16W off the New Jersey Turnpike. If possible, this version of the Devils was improved from their 1999-2000 championship club. Aside from their usual spectacular defense, spearheaded by Scott Stevens and goalie Martin Brodeur, the Devils' offense was much-improved, featuring three of the league's top 20 scorers in Patrik Elias (96 pts.), Alexander Mogilny (83) and Petr Sykora (81).
As expected the series was tightly contested, and the two teams went into the pivotal Game 5 tied with two wins each. Elias and Mogliny staked the Devils to a 2-1 first period lead that Brodeur made sure they would not relinquish. The final was 4-1 and the Devils were in the driver's seat, up 3-games-to-2 heading back to New Jersey. But Roy wouldn't hear of losing. He played flawlessly in Game 5, stopping all 24 shots he saw, to record his second shutout of the series and fourth of the playoffs. Colorado won 4-0 to set up a Game 7 showdown in Colorado. For Bourque, it had become "Mission 1W."
In front of over 18,000 rabid fans, Colorado came out of the locker room blazing. By the end of the second period, two goals by Alex Tanguay and one by Sakic had given them a 3-1 lead. And that's the way it finished. Ray Bourque had his first championship.