The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston on Monday. They rallied with two late goals in a 3-2 victory.
Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images, Vancouver Sun
BOSTON — The season that threatened never to start tried as hard as it could never to end.
Seventy-six seconds from forcing a Game 7 that would have been the latest-finish to a Stanley Cup in history -- not to mention the closest any Conn Smythe Trophy winner would have come to being dubbed Mr. July -- the Boston Bruins took their eye off the ball, and it all slipped away.
From nowhere, the Chicago Blackhawks got goals 17 seconds apart by Bryan Bickell and David Bolland to stun the gritty Bruins and their full-throated crowd at TD Garden -- and truth be told, even shocked themselves -- to win a 3-2 thriller and claim their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
The Presidents’ Trophy winners as the NHL’s best regular-season team did the increasingly rare double.
“It is an unbelievable feeling. My head is spinning. I don’t know what really happened the past 20 minutes,” said Patrick Kane, the dynamic little Chicago winger who was voted winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
He led all Chicago scorers with 19 points -- nine in their final 10 games -- and scored many of the biggest goals along their playoff trail.
”You think you’re going back for Game 7 and you score two goals to win it in regulation,” he said. “We were just trying to get the puck in deep, trying to get the puck on net. Johnny (Toews) made a great pass to (Bickell) and he just finished it off. Then you do it again 17 seconds later. You can’t write the script any better.”
It was not a work of art they fashioned Monday night on that 200-foot slushie on Causeway Street -- the product of what may have been the hottest day ever to end in a Cup final game -- but like the rest of the series, it was compelling theatre, and hard as nails.
“I’m pretty exhausted right now. Once we fill the Cup up, we'll be going pretty good,” said Toews, the blood-and-guts captain who played a fabulous Game 6 though he took a fearful pounding doing it, after missing the third period of Game 5 with what was widely speculated to be a head injury.
Whether the Hawks snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, or the Bruins did the opposite, is a debate for another day.
“Well, I mean, how can you call that?” Toews said. “We knew we needed just one bounce there. Obviously that was a big goal for them to go up 2-1, but you never know what can happen so you don’t stop playing until the end. And it’s a nice finish, not having to go back to Chicago.”
“It's kind of like the season we had,” said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, who joins Chicago Bears founder George Halas and the Bulls’ Phil Jackson in the ranks of Windy City coaches who’ve won multiple championships.
“It was one of those seasons we were almost charmed the way we started the season (24 games without a regulation loss) and the way we ended it. Nobody saw that one coming either way.”
Both teams were physically debilitated by the end. The list of injured players will come out in the next couple of days, and it won’t be pretty, but for starters, Toews probably ought to have been in a quiet room somewhere, Marian Hossa had a disc out of place in his back that made his right foot “all numb all the time” and Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron suffered a broken rib and torn rib cartilage during Game 5, and a separated shoulder in the finale.
“This time around, we know how much work and sacrifice it takes to get back here -- and this is an unbelievable group,” said Toews. “Those guys worked like dogs. We had great players sitting out every day that didn’t get to play. Those guys sacrificed. It feels pretty special when you give so much to something.”
There was no earthly reason this classic final shouldn’t have gone to a seventh game after the Bruins took a 2-1 lead at 12:11 of the third period on a Milan Lucic goal.
But in what became a pattern as the series moved toward the end, the Blackhawks once again were able to find a way around Boston’s towering rearguard, Zdeno Chara, to tie the game on a feed from Jonathan Toews that the giant Chara couldn’t get his stick on -- and Bickell, the former fourth-line plugger who captured lightning in the bottle in these playoffs -- banged it home for his ninth goal of the post-season.
Chara was on the ice for 10 of the last 12 goals the Hawks scored in the series, and no doubt it will come out that he, too, was injured.
Overtime seemed certain, given the dearth of room to move and the tenacity of the checking, but instead, a hopeful point shot by Hawks’ Johnny Oduya was deflected en route to the net, hit the post on Tuukka Rask’s short side, and Bolland whacked it in before the goaltender could recover.
“We all dream about scoring that Stanley Cup winner to hoist the cup, so check that one off the bucket list,” said Bolland. “For sure it was harder (than 2010). We all battled harder. It was a tougher one. We came through it all.”
“Two times. Two times in four years -- there is something about this core. We’ve got to stay together, because I think we can do some special things in the future,” said Kane, who skated through pretty much the entire Bruins team in the seconds leading up to Bickell’s tying goal.
“There were other guys who could have won it, too,” he said. “You look at Crow (goalie Corey Crawford), maybe he got snubbed a little bit. (Bickell) and (Patrick Sharp) -- but it is a great feeling.”
“Kaner is a guy that needs to play with the puck,” said defenceman Brent Seabrook, who scored two overtime winners in the playoffs. “When he’s playing with the puck, he’s so dynamic and skilled and fun to watch. Sometimes we watch him a little bit too much. But he’s a great player and once he started to get it into gear he was going to be lights out. He was lights out in this series and the last couple of games against L.A.”
He also scored the Cup-winning goal to beat Philadelphia in 2010, a wrist shot from a bad angle that somehow found the back of the net.
“But this goal, this ending, nobody saw it coming,” said Quenneville. “And that series and the pace that we just saw for six straight games ... an amazing series. I commend both teams for leaving it out there.”
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