BOSTON – A lot of people have argued over the past two weeks that the NHL got a Stanley Cup final it never deserved, as though a clunker of a series would have been far more preferable.
We’ll take what happened instead, thanks. Yes, the millionaires and the billionaires deprived us all of three months of hockey. Get over it. Labor disputes do that from time to time. It wasn’t as though the league or the players had it in for all of us.
And if they wanted to pay us back, this year’s playoff, capped by one of the most intriguing and entertaining Stanley Cup final series in years, should have gone a long way toward soothing the hurt feelings. If you didn’t enjoy this year’s Stanley Cup final, there is no hope for you as a hockey fan. Go find something else to watch because it rarely, if ever, gets better than this.
In fact, the final game was a microcosm for the entire series itself. Like seriously, did anyone envision the Chicago Blackhawks staging a furious comeback to tie the score with 1:16 left, then win it 17 seconds later? Any team that can do something like that in the hostile environment known as the TD Garden deserves to be called a champion.
This hockey was as good as it gets, with perhaps the exception of the Olympics when the best players in the world are playing. Game 4, the one that ended in overtime with 11 goals scored, was one for the ages. So was Game 1, when the Blackhawks rallied from two goals down to tie the score late and win it three overtimes later on a goal by the unheralded Andrew Shaw.
And one thing in which we can probably all take solace is that there’s a good chance we haven’t seen the last of these two teams in this situation. Both are well-managed, extremely well-coached and built to have success in both the regular season and the playoffs. As the Blackhawks celebrated on the Boston ice, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli could be seen inconspicuously eavesdropping from the runway that leads to the ice from the Bruins dressing room. The look on his face said it all. Chiarelli couldn’t seem to hide the immediate disappointment, but had the distinct look of someone who expects to be celebrating like that again in the near future.
For all that was wrong with this season and the third lockout, there was much to celebrate. Each of the Original Six teams made the playoffs for the first time in 17 years and featured two Original Six Stanley Cup finalists for the first time since 1979. When teams in markets that matter are doing well, it’s good for the entire game, the hockey world and the industry of hockey.
But this was primarily about the players. Players such as Patrick Kane, who looked really distracted at his media conference after scoring two goals to lead the Blackhawks to a 3-1 win in Game 5. There was a good reason for that. His girlfriend Amanda had undergone an emergency appendectomy earlier that day and Kane still hadn’t seen her. Yet he managed to put that aside and score two of the most skilled goals of the playoffs.
It’s also about players such as Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins, who played much of the final with broken ribs that became so painful he had to leave Game 5 and go to a Chicago hospital for observation. But he played Game 6, presumably in an enormous amount of pain, which was increased multifold when the successive hits from Michal Rozsival and Bryan Bickell separated his shoulder. It’s also about players like Jonathan Toews, who was knocked out of Game 5 after three hits to the head, but returned to be one of the Blackhawks stars in Game 6. True to form, Toews would still not discuss the nature of his injury, even after winning the Stanley Cup.
So feel free to say the NHL got a Stanley Cup final it didn’t deserve. But the people who pay money to watch this game and devote their energies and emotions to it very much received the Stanley Cup final they deserved. And so did the Chicago Blackhawks, Stanley Cup champions for 2012-13.
ONE-ON-ONE WITH DAVE BOLLAND
Team success has followed Dave Bolland at almost every level and this time he was the hero, when he scored the game-winning goal in the 2013 Stanley Cup final with just 59 seconds remaining in the third period. Ken campbell caught up with Bolland during the championship celebration.
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