One year ago, Tim Thomas(notes) sat on the Boston Bruins' bench and watched as the Philadelphia Flyers came back from a 3-0 series deficit in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and eliminated the Bruins.

It was the end of a miserable season for Thomas, whose effectiveness was limited by a hip injury. He lost the No. 1 goalie job to backup Tuukka Rask(notes).

But as Thomas had done for his entire career, he fought back; and one year after watching his team fail in spectacular fashion, he raised the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP following the Bruins' 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 -- the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 39 years.

A 9th-round pick by the Quebec Nordiques in 1994, Thomas didn't play his first NHL game until the 2002-03 season after bouncing around the minor leagues and spending parts of four seasons in Europe. Some would have quit after being unable to achieve their goals right away, but that's not Thomas' style. He's always been a fighter; whether it's outside or inside his crease.

An aggressive and emotional player, Thomas' style defined this Boston Bruins team: a hard-nosed, gritty bunch that may not play the sexiest brand of hockey, but in the end, their play stands out and get the job done.

As each game of the Final passed and the Bruins clawed their way back into the series after falling into a 2-0 hole, it quickly became evident that there was only one choice for the Conn Smythe Trophy, win or lose.