Six weeks to the day earlier, the Boston Bruins trailed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 in the third period of game seven. In the first round, the Bruins scored twice in the final minute to force overtime before winning 5-4 in one of the greatest comebacks/collapses in Stanley Cup Playoff history. Monday night however, it was the Bruins who learned just how fleeting success can be, and how it feels to have the rug pulled out from under you.
Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart as the Chicago Blackhawks stole game six of the Stanley Cup Final 3-2, and with it, earned the franchise’s fifth Stanley Cup championship. Bolland’s tally with 58.3 seconds remaining represents the latest regulation game-winning goal in Finals history. Patrick Kane was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for Playoff MVP, only the fourth American-born winner of the award.
Chicago was the best team in the league from the beginning, going the entire first half of this shortened 48-game season without a regulation loss. After getting past Minnesota in five, they trailed Detroit 3-1 in the second round. But they could not be denied, even after the apparent winning goal was remarkably disallowed late in game seven against the Red Wings, defenseman Brent Seabrook won it in overtime. The ‘Hawks dispatched the defending champion Kings in five before this battle against the Bruins.
While the shortened regular season could be seen as farcical, the playoffs were better than ever. Many believe the Stanley Cup is the toughest trophy in sports to win, and that the playoffs are as good as anything sports has to offer. This abbreviated season meant the players had even more energy, were even sharper, and the competition was even better. Absolutely no asterisk is necessary by Chicago’s 2013 title, and no apologies need be made.
The tone was set right away as game one was an all-time classic, lasting three overtimes—with Andrew Shaw’s deflection winning it 4-3, just as the clock struck midnight. This series saw three overtime games, tied for second most in Final history. The Bruins won game two’s overtime game 2-1 to even the series and got a dazzling shutout from Tuukka Rask to win game three, 2-0 in Boston. The remainder of the series belonged to Chicago.
In the most exciting Final game in years, Brent Seabrook’s second overtime winner of the playoffs gave the Blackhawks a 6-5 victory in game four to tie the series at 2 headed back to Chicago. There, the ‘Hawks got a pair of goals from Kane and an empty netter from Bolland, to win 3-1 and set up Monday’s drama.
It is Chicago’s second championship in four years though only eight players were on the roster for both. Coach Joel Quenneville, quietly the sixth-winningest coach in NHL history, establishes his Hall of Fame resume’ with his second Cup. Unlike 2010, the core of this team appears secure so this team figures to be at the top for quite some time to come.