STANLEY CUP REDUX

Blackhawks win second of decade

BY CHAYIM TAUBER

Here’s why the Stanley Cup Finals are a whole ‘nother animal than any other show in sports. Whereas LeBron was lauded for playing a large stretch with his headband knocked off, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins played with a broken rib, torn cartilage, and a separated shoulder and Andrew Shaw played after taking a puck to the face in Game 7 with the Cup on the line.

This was the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals in a nutshell: The Boston Bruins; portraying the paradigm of physicality, toughness, and “old-school hockey,” lost a thrilling Stanley Cup Finals to the high-scoring, high-powered Chicago Blackhawks (90s hockey).

It was an original 6 matchup (the first time since 1979) that saw three of the six games decided in overtime and saw the championship decided in a 17 second flurry at the end of Game 6. Until about the last minute and 15 seconds of Game 6, this series was very much up-in-the-air and could have gone either way.

Boston’s tenacity has been one of the themes of this postseason, coming back in miraculous fashion in Game 7 v. Toronto, and returning volley against the powerful Blackhawks throughout the series despite being the offensively inferior team. They lost Game 1 in triple-overtime on a double-deflection that gave Chicago the 1-0 lead in the series and the momentum. The ever-resilient Bruins won the next night on a Daniel Paille overtime wrist-shot to even the series. Another dominant Tuuka Rask performance the next night in the form of a shutout gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead with home-court advantage the rest of the way. Then the Blackhawks offense took over.

The Blackhawks kept taking the lead in Game 4 but the Bruins refused to yield, tying it up and forcing the game into overtime for the third time in four games. It was a Brent Seabrook slap shot that eluded Rask and breathed new life into the series for Chicago who needed that game in the worst way.

A game later, Patrick Kane continued his torrid pace and timely goal-scoring as the Blackhawks won the most decisive game of the series 3-1. Kane notched 9 goals and 10 assists throughout the postseason to net the Conn Smythe trophy as the postseason’s best player.

A game later, the Bruins did exactly what they were expected to do. They bounced back. The Bruins took a 2-1 lead into the fourth quarter as Tuuka Rask once again did everything in his power to overcome the shadow of Tim Thomas and bring the cup to Boston. He did, with the exception of the last 90 seconds of the game as Bryan Bickell knotted the game with a minute and 16 seconds left and Dave Bolland stuck the dagger in the Bruins hearts a mere 17 seconds later, snatching the Cup from the jaws of defeat and an all-or-nothing Game 7 (or at the very least, from yet ANOTHER overtime nail-biter).

The Blackhawks raised the cup for the second time in four years in a Stanley Cup Finals that became an instant-classic. It was the perfect prologue to a season that otherwise would have been marred and remembered as the “lockout season.” It was a spirited series equally noteworthy for the heart and resolve of the Boston players (Bergeron in particular) as well as for the nail-biting-manner in which this series was played.