The Chicago Blackhawks are the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions, after eliminating the Boston Bruins in six games in the Stanley Cup Final. If you looked away at the wrong moment, you're probably confused by how all this could have happened. Late in the third period, things were looking fantastic for the Boston Bruins, on home ice.
Tied 1-1 midway through the third, Milan Lucic would hack-and-whack a puck past Corey Crawford to give the Boston Bruins what felt like a new lease on life, and a ticket back to Chicago for a seventh game. That lead would bring them all the way to the final minute-and-change, when the Chicago Blackhawks would pull Corey Crawford for an extra attacker.
When does that actually work? Especially on hockey's biggest stage? It did this time. Bryan Bickell would net a Toews pass past Tuukka Rask to tie the game, and remind everyone in the hockey world that these two teams can't seem to play a game in under 61 minutes. With everyone getting ready to tweet their #bucciovertimechallenge predictions, the Chicago Blackhawks struck again on an absolute cluster of a sequence.
Dave Bolland would poke a puck past Rask, who was severely out of position, just seventeen seconds after Bickell tied the game. With under a minute left in the game, the Chicago Blackhawks had all the offense they'd need to win their second Stanley Cup in four years, and the fifth in franchise history. Absolutely stunning end of the season. I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around it. [Sporting News]
Tyler Seguin is taking the loss pretty hard. He said that he's never cried as much as he had in the aftermath of the Bruins game six collapse, then pridefully detailed the Bruins team toughness by saying that about 90% of the Bruins roster was playing through injuries. Granted, that's true of every team this time of year... but that doesn't make it any less amazing what these hockey players put themselves through. [Boston Herald]
No one personifies that as much as Patrice Bergeron, who was a question mark for game six, after a reported spleen injury suffered in game five. He didn't finish game six without adding more to his mounting medical bills. By the time the Cup was skated, Bergeron admitted that he was playing a broken rib, torn rib cartilage, and a separated shoulder he suffered after the initial injury. People use the term warrior too much in sports. That said, Bergy is warrior. [Telegram.com]
Chicago had a banged up hero of their own, in the Lincoln-bearded Jonathan Toews. You know a National Hockey League captain isn't going to miss a chance to play in a Stanley Cup clinching game, no matter what. Toews suited up despite his bumps and bruises, and was arguably the best player on the ice en route to his second Stanley Cup. [Associated Press]
As should probably have been suspected, Patrick Kane came away with the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As I said in links yesterday, regardless of how you feel about his personality off the ice, there is no denying that Kane is a force on the ice. He was clutch when his team needed him the most, and was awarded with only the fourth Conn Smythe in NHL history to be given to an American. [NHL]
After the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, all the talk was about breaking up their roster and shipping off parts to stay under the salary cap. People said they'd be a one-and-done, and that the salary cap era wouldn't allow for sustained success. Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Antti Niemi and Andrew Ladd were among those let go. Big shoes to fill. [TSN]
Now, just a few years later, ESPN is touting the Blackhawks' legitimate shot at doing this all again next year. Of course it'll be a lot harder now that they have to go through the powerhouse Dallas Stars in a divisional playoff system, right? Right? [ESPN]
As always, with celebrations of a championship come some fans that go over the line. This was year was no exception. The street of Chicago flooded with celebratory Blackhawks fans and some of them didn't behave as they should have. [Chicago Sun Times]
That's the ugly side of sports fandom... but to contrast, here is an article from the United Kingdom that highlights the interactions between a good-sport Bruins fan and some of the young children of the Chicago Blackhawks family. After the game, some of the kids took a victory lap of their own around the TD Garden, while a Bruins fan snapped pictures of their joy, just as the media did of their proud fathers. [Daily Mail]
Not everyone was in the mood to be a good sport, though. As previously discussed, Gary Bettman gets boo'd in every arena in the league every time he opens his mouth or shows his face. I don't think I've ever heard the boos as loud or angry as they were during the awarding of the Cup last night. They didn't even pause for applause when Gary recognized the Bruins' fantastic season. That can't be good for his self esteem. [Sports Illustrated]
With the NHL season now officially over, we can all shift our attention back to the Dallas Stars, as they continue their most drastic overhaul in team history. One of the first orders of business is the annual development camp, which is slated to open on July 4th in Frisco. Mark Stepneski has the preliminary roster, which should be amply supplemented by all the incoming draft picks next week. [Inside Edge]
Mark also has the audio from Lindy Ruff's appearance on Chuck Cooperstein's show on ESPN Radio yesterday. I'm starting to come around to the guy a little bit more every day, personally. [Inside Edge]
Today's video should be an obvious choice, so I'll just leave it with a simple message. Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks on winning the game's ultimate prize. You deserve it, as you were the best team in hockey from game one until the Cup was skated. Enjoy the praise now, because next season, you're the enemy here once again. Norris Division 2.0. Giddy up.