BOSTON, MA – With just more than 80 seconds left in the third period, and a 2-1 lead in tow, it appeared as if the Boston Bruins were ready to push the 2013 Stanley Cup Final to a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday evening in Chicago. Writers in the press-box began to frantically search for flights to the Windy City as the sellout crowd of 17, 565 all rose to their feet in joyous anticipation, ready to sing along to the chorus of Boston’s iconic “Dirty Water” theme song that echoes throughout the Garden after each Bruins’ victory.
It was then that, with just 1:16 left on the clock, Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews made an incredible play down low to set up linemate Bryan Bickell for a game-tying tap-in goal at the side of the net. “The tying goal is a great play. They’ve got their best players out there on the ice and then they made a great pass” said Boston head coach Claude Julien. The play was a microcosm of the way Chicago’s captain handled himself all evening long, as No. 19 in white was able to bounce back from an apparent head injury in Game 5 and become the best player on the ice on Monday.
Then, a mere seventeen seconds later, the unthinkable happened. After Johnny Oduya’s long wrist shot from the point had been stopped by Tuukka Rask, Blackhawks’ centerman Dave Bolland was able to out-muscle a pair of Bruins’ defensemen in a battle for the rebound and stuff it home with just 58.3 seconds left on the clock. From down 2-1, Chicago had taken a 3-2 lead in a matter of just 17 seconds. For Boston fans, it was a scene straight out of the most frightening of horror films, as the emotional roller coaster that encompasses every NHL playoff game took them from the thrill and triumph of victory, to the heartbreak and agony of defeat, in less than twenty seconds time.
In a cruel twist of fate that will forever rival some of the most heartbreaking defeats that any Boston sports team has ever endured, the Bruins had suffered a role-reversal, of sorts. Everyone remembers the incredible third-period effort put forth by the Black and Gold in erasing a 4-1 lead in the final moments of Game 7 in the first round against the Maple Leafs. However, this time the Bruins were on the wrong end of an unforgettable, history-making last-minute comeback.
“Sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don’t”, said a distraught Claude Julien, during his final post-game press conference of the season. “We’ve lived through both of them, so we know how it feels on both sides of it, winning and being the losers.”
Make no mistake about it, folks, the Bruins fought and battled just as hard as any team in Black and Gold that I’ve ever seen, including the championship squad that hoisted the Cup just two seasons ago. After the horrific attack on the city of Boston back in April, the Bruins were used as a coping mechanism, as a rallying call to bring people together, something to take our minds off the tragedy that had just unfolded in our own backyard. For the past two-and-a-half months since that dreadful nightmare of an April afternoon, the Bruins have been a huge part of the recovery process in Boston, as their incredible postseason run became a welcome distraction to all those affected.
“In the back of our minds, we wanted to do it for those kinds of reasons, the City of Boston, what Newtown has been through, that kind of stuff. It hit close to home, and the best way we felt we could try and cheer the area was to win a Stanley Cup” said Claude Julien, who fell just short of capturing his second career Cup championship. “I think that’s what’s hard right now for the players. We had more reasons than just ourselves to win a Cup”, he added.
In sports, for as ridiculously cliché as this is going to sound, the better team typically comes out on top. In what was a Stanley Cup Final series for the ages, the two best squads that today’s hockey world has to offer put on an incredible show. They left it all out on the ice, and in the end, the better team was victorious.
This is why we play the game …
Being fortunate enough to go on the ice and be part of the Blackhawks’ championship celebration at TD Garden was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am honored to have had. Watching players embrace their loved ones and share with their families the triumph of capturing the greatest prize in sports was truly just a remarkable and unforgettable experience. The moment that really sticks out to me was seeing a look of pure elation on the face of 16-year NHL veteran Jamal Mayers, as he took a twirl around the ice with each of his two young children in his arms, celebrating his first ever Stanley Cup championship. Even on a night of heartbreak and disappointment, it was impossible not to crack a smile. Moments like that are what it’s all about, folks. It’s why we love this game so dearly.
Thank You! …
From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank you all for the support and readership all season long! It is tremendously appreciated! I look forward to discussing the offseason with you in the coming weeks (and months), as the Black and Gold will be faced with some serious roster decisions, as a couple of key players are set to hit the open market. I hope you all had as much fun this season as I did. Can’t wait to do it all again in three months.
Ben’s Three Stars of the Night:
2) Bryan Bickell (1 Goal/2 Shots/3 Hits)
3) Milan Lucic (1 Goal/2 Shots)
Series: Chicago Wins, 4-2.
Looking Ahead: Well, after an incredible 2013 campaign, we look ahead to a brief three-month offseason that kicks off with the NHL Entry Draft this coming Sunday in Newark, New Jersey.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Contributor to the New England Hockey Journal. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.