BOSTON – The Chicago Blackhawks snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in Game 6, scoring two goals 17 seconds apart in the final minute and a half to turn a 2-1 loss into a 3-2 Stanley Cup victory.
David Bolland was the hero, scoring the Cup winner with just 58.3 seconds left in regulation time. Bryan Bickell had tied the score with goalie Corey Crawford on the bench for a sixth attacker.
The story lines were plenty for the Hawks in the 2012/2013 season, which concluded in perhaps the most dramatic fashion in recent memory. Jonathan Toews suffered what many thought was a concussion midway through game five and played a pivotal role tonight, scoring the tying goal in the second period to give the Hawks some life.
Linemate Patrick Kane was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He had a hat trick in game five against Los Angeles, including the series winner in overtime, and he had two goals last Saturday to propel the Hawks to a critical 3-1 win in game five to set up tonight’s victory.
Perhaps the happiest person in the hockey world not a member of the Hawks is Steve Yzerman. The executive director of Team Canada for Sochi had to have been impressed by the incredible goaltending of Corey Crawford, who must now be a serious candidate for one of the three spots available next February.
Crawford was at his best in the first period tonight, keeping the score 1-0 for Boston at a time when the Bruins dominated play and could have easily built a lead of two or three goals.
The 2013 Hawks roster consisted of nine Canadians, five Americans and eight Europeans. The latter group included four Swedes (Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Viktor Stålberg, and Marcus Krüger); two Slovaks (Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus), and two Czechs (Michal Frolik and Michal Rozsival).
The Hawks started this abbreviated, 48-game season by registering a point in a league-record 24 straight games from the start of the season, but after an easy series against Minnesota found themselves trailing 3-1 in games to Detroit in the Conference semi-finals. Only a heroic rally saved the team from early elimination, capped by Brent Seabrook’s goal in overtime of game seven.
Chris Kelly gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead tonight in game six of the finals with the only goal of the opening period, but Toews’s tying marker in the second set the stage for a dramatic final period of regulation. Milan Lucic converted a David Krejci pass in the slot to make it 2-1 Boston with 7:49 remaining, and in the context of the game it surely felt like the winning goal.
Coach Joel Quenneville pulled Crawford with a minute and a half remaining in regulation as Kane carried the puck deep into the Boston end. Toews took the puck behind the net, fired a brilliant pass in front to Bickell, and the game was tied with only 1:16 remaining.
However, while everyone in Boston and watching on television was preparing for what seemed to be the inevitable overtime, Johnny Oduya took a quick point shot through traffic that beat Rask and hit the post. The puck came right to Bolland, who lifted it into the empty net before anyone could get to him. A 2-1 deficit became a 3-2 lead seemingly in the blink of an eye. A minute later, Chicago had won the Stanley Cup.
And so, for the second time in four years, the Hawks have been crowned NHL champions. Given the relative youth of their lineup – not to mention their experience – it would seem this will not be the last Cup for Toews, Kane, and Company.