BOSTON (AP) - The Stanley Cup has never ridden so high.
Six-foot-nine Bruins captain Zdeno Chara _ the tallest player in the league _ will get the first trip around the ice with the NHL championship trophy. He'll no doubt pass it off quickly to 43-year-old Mark Recchi _ now a three-time winner, who has said he is going to retire.
It's a final. Bruins 4, Canucks 0.
The Bruins have their championship caps on, and after a brief celebration they're going through the handshake line now.
Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo _ two Vezina Trophy finalists _ spent an extra few minutes wishing each other well.
Roberto Luongo went out for an extra attacker with about three minutes left, but that just left the goal open for Brad Marchand to score his second of the night. It's now 4-0 with two minutes left.
Kevin Bieksa tried to get in the way, but Marchand scored playoff goal No. 11.
The Canucks just had their second power play. In their first, they gave up a shorthanded goal but didn't get a shot off themselves. This time they fired off three shots on goal. (And also gave up another dangerous shorthanded opportunity to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.)
Still 3-0, Boston. Six minutes to go.
Josh Beckett threw a one-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays, but Red Sox manager Terry Francona knew it wasn't exactly a priority among Boston fans.
"Think anybody will be watching our game," he asked reporters beforehand.
Francona checked in with Bruins coach Claude Julien during the week to wish him luck. The Red Sox skipper admitted he didn't know much about hockey, even though he grew up outside of Pittsburgh and his father, former major leaguer Tito Francona, ran an ice rink after he retired where the Penguins sometimes practiced. (Here's the AP story on the Red Sox rooting for the Bruins: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/06/15/3703863/first-place-red-sox-get-swept.html)
Julien has a chance to become a member of a Boston fraternity that's so far excluded him. All of the other coaches of the major professional teams won championship rings in Boston: Francona won the World Series in 2004 and '07; Celtics coach Doc Rivers won it all in '08 and Patriots coach Bill Belichick has Super Bowl titles from '02, '04 and '05.
If the Bruins can hold on here, that would mean every Boston team has a title in the past seven years. That's never happened before.
Ten minutes to go. Still 3-0, Boston.
If you're Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, what do you do with goalie Roberto Luongo?
Luongo has been great in Vancouver's three wins this series, but when he's been bad, he's been very, very bad. And things look like they're heading that way for him tonight.
The Bruins are up 3-0, and two of the goals were scored after Luongo stopped the initial shot. The Canucks are still in this _ the Bruins blew a 3-0 lead in Game 7 of last year's Eastern Conference semifinals, and do you think maybe they're talking about that in the Vancouver room between periods?
Luongo's backup is Cory Schneider, who was 16-4-2 in the regular season and has been called upon five times, with one start, so far in the playoffs. He's got a 2.58 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in the playoffs.
A fourth goal, and it might be too late.
Patrice Bergeron picked up a hustle goal while shorthanded to make it 3-0 for Boston.
With Zdeno Chara out on the first power play of the game, Bergeron raced to get the puck and then split two defenders as he crossed through the neutral zone. Christian Ehrhoff took Bergeron down before he could get to the crease _ drawing a delayed penalty _ but Bergeron and the puck crashed into the goalie and the puck made it through.
The referee looked at the replay to make sure Bergeron didn't throw it in with his hand, but the play stood.
So it's 3-0. And now the second period is over.
We have our first penalty. It's an interference call against Zdeno Chara that gave the Canucks the first power play of the game in the closing minutes of the second period.
Chara picked up the call during some sustained pressure by the Canucks. Vancouver put some more good pressure on Boston in the early part of its power play, but wound up with nothing to show for it.
Brad Marchand is more than just a gadfly who's been getting on the Canucks nerves.
He's also the highest-scoring rookie in Bruins postseason history.
Marchand scored goal No. 10 with 7:47 left in the second period to give Boston a 2-0 lead over the Vancouver Canucks. Nine was already a playoff record for the Original Six franchise; that one came on Monday night, and it sparked the Bruins to four goals in a span of 4:14.
Marchand went around the back of the net and wrapped it around for the backhand. Roberto Luongo stopped the opening salvo with his stick, but in the aftermath of the initial save the puck rolled over the goal line.
It's the kind of game that bodes well for the Canucks, but the Bruins still lead 1-0 midway through the second period.
Boston's wins had all been high-scoring blowouts, while the low-scoring, one-goal games have all gone Vancouver's way. And yet here we are.
Alex Burrows had another good chance for the Canucks, drawing Tim Thomas out to cut down the angle and then sliding across the slot from the left to the right. With Thomas so far out, it was a long trip and he couldn't track Burrows. But Zdeno Chara was there to block the shot and protect the 1-0 lead.
The first period is over, and the Bruins are up 1-0.
Although it's true the team scoring first has won every game, that doesn't mean there haven't been any lead changes. Vancouver took a 1-0 lead in Game 2, but the Bruins scored twice in a row to take the lead before the Canucks came back to tie it with about 10 minutes left in the game.
Then, Alex Burrows needed only 11 seconds in overtime to win it.
In every other game of the series, the team that scored first never trailed. Three of them have been shutouts.
The Bruins are on the board first.
Patrice Bergeron redirected a centering pass from Brad Marchand past Roberto Luongo with 5:23 left in the first period to give Boston a 1-0 lead of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
The team that scored first has won each of the first six games.
Marchand got to the corner first after a faceoff in the Canucks zone and circled back before finding Bergeron. It's Marchand's fifth goal of the playoffs and the eighth assist of the postseason for the rookie Marchand.
Good tidbit from the NBC crew: The referee pair of Dan O'Halloran and Stephen Walkom last worked together in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals between Boston and Tampa Bay.
In that game, there were no penalties at all.
So far, none in this game, either.
The first three games in Vancouver were low-scoring, but there already have been some quality chances in Game 7.
The Bruins had a loose puck in the paint when Rich Peverley passed it across, but David Krejci couldn't find his way through traffic to knock it in. At the other end, Henrik Sedin went in front of the Bruins net, but his shot was apparently blocked by the leg of Dennis Seidenberg.
It's scoreless through six minutes.
A couple more notes before we get under way.
It's the 16th Game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals. The home team is 12-3. Vancouver was one of the three: It lost to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in 1994.
The Bruins have never played a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup final.
So far this postseason, though, the Bruins have been in two, going to the limit in the first round against Montreal and in the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay. (They swept the Flyers in between.)
Vancouver needed seven games to get past Chicago in the first round but then took out Nashville in six and San Jose in five.
Some good signs for the Canucks: Every game has been won by the home team so far this series, and that's happened six times since the format went to seven games in 1939. The home team went on to win the seventh game three of the previous five times. Home teams are 17-2 in the Stanley Cup final since 2009.
Here's colleague Greg Beacham's pregame story on Tim Thomas to hold you over: http://goo.gl/sb7jh.
When the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, ending an 86-year title drought, there was a total lunar eclipse that turned the full moon red in the sky.
Around Boston, fans are hoping for an astrological repeat tonight when the Bruins play the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Even those of us who don't normally look to the heavens to get their news have to admit: It's a strange coincidence, at the very least, that another Boston team is trying to end a championship drought during another total lunar eclipse.
Of course, who says the stars are favoring Boston?
The Bruins, an Original Six team, haven't won it all since 1972. But Vancouver has never won the Stanley Cup since entering the NHL in 1970. So maybe the signs favor the Canucks.
We'll find out soon. The puck drops at the Rogers Center for Game 7 a little after 5 p.m. local time. That's 8 p.m. back East, where Boston police are bracing for potential bad behavior in case of a Bruins victory. After recent championships by the Celtics, Red Sox and Patriots, there were three fatalities and widespread vandalism. (See the AP story here: http://goo.gl/sbRwp.)
That's also why there won't be a viewing party at the TD Garden tonight that would have let Bruins fans watch the game on the video board; police didn't want an extra 15,000 people gathered in one place.
One place there likely will be crowds: If the Bruins win, two Modell's Sporting Goods stores are planning to open immediately after the game and stay open indefinitely with Stanley Cup championship hats and T-shirts.