Tuesday, June 25, 2013

17 seconds to salvation and celebration

In a season that almost didn't begin at all, we're not sure that we all deserved the six game showdown that the Bruins and Hawks provided for us to bring the season to a finale.

Yet here we were, settling in for a game six, ready to absorb each and every hit, chase the puck into a corner, deflect a shot to a corner or put one in top shelf, the previous five games for the most part a game of attrition, each one requiring a long look at the lineup sheet to see if all hands were on deck.

Game Six continued on with the theme of drama, the Hawks facing an onslaught from a desperate Bruins team, who dominated the first twenty minutes of play as though they intended to run the Hawks right out of Boston.

Claude Julien, clearly impressed with the energy of the Kelly line, returned to them following a TV timeout at 7:19 of the first, rewarded for his belief, the Bruin's energy line provided Boston with the first goal of the game.

The Bruins first period attack was vintage Boston, hard on the fore check, clogging the lanes on the Hawks, they corralled Chicago in their own end for most of the period,  out shooting the Hawks 19-6 after twenty minutes, controlling the play for pretty well every second of that twenty minutes.

Still, for all their chances, for their pace of play which was frantic, the Bruins still only led by 1 goal after that first twenty, a storm weathered by the Hawks, allowing them opportunity to regroup and push back against a determined Bruins squad.

Period two was the Hawks season in a capsule, they never gave the impression that they were going to surrender the game to the Bruins, slowly they returned to the theme that brought them through the regular season and on through three sets of playoff rounds, speed.

The second period found the Hawks clearly back in sync, taking charge of the play from the second
period puck drop, Captain Jonathan Toews, breaking free to pick up the tying goal, shifting some of that momentum back to the Chicago side of the momentum meter.

It was exactly the kind of push back that head coach Joel Quenneville has come to expect from his team, never flustered, always pushing, prodding for a way back into a game.

The breaks between periods, much like the breaks between games, providing for a change of direction that highlighted the flow of momentum that seemed to change by the shift.

The third period , became rather familiar fairly fast, starting out much like the first finding the Bruins bouncing  back to their original game plan, fast on the fore check, bottling up the Hawks in their own end.

Milan Lucic, a force in many games in this six game series once again taking the stage as his, scoring a go ahead goal with 8 minutes to go. The nature of the play suggesting that the Bruins weren't done with hockey just yet.

By the latter stages of the third period, all no doubt were accepting the prospect of a Game 7 in Chicago on Wednesday night, such was the ebb and flow of the play as the desperate Hawks couldn't seem to break through on Tuuka Rask.

As the final two minutes arrived, the Hawks pulled Corey Crawford, seeking a last gasp chance to send the game to an OT frame.

The gamble of an empty net paying off with a goal from Bryan Bickell at 18:44, leaving the Bruin's faithful resigned to an extra period of hockey, an extension of the home ice game for just a little bit longer.

Seventeen seconds later, the Bruins were left in shock, the Hawks taking the lead as Dave Bolland put in what would soon be the series clinching goal, the Bruins left to pull  Tuuka Rask and somehow avoid the fate that had been that of the Maple Leafs at the beginning of the playoff run.

As the seconds counted down, Boston met Toronto in shared disbelief, the stakes for the Bruins significantly higher of course, but a sense of what just happened very much a reprise of the first round that launched the Bruins on their path.

A gift to Toronto based journalists and head line writers it would seem, judging by the volume of their work on Tuesday.

As  the Hawks victory celebration on the ice surface with the big Spoked B came an end, so too did a season that delayed as it was had threatened to test the faith of fans and in the end, in the end rewarding them for their belief with as stellar a Stanley Cup showdown as could have been expected.

The six game series featured many of the themes that makes hockey the game of passion it is, players playing through the pain, battered, bruised, cut. Scoring in waves at times, shutdown completely at others.

Goaltending of vintage quantity for most games, with a horse race of a game in the middle to remind all that every once and a while a shinny match can break out, whatever the size of the rink.

It was a series that captured the imagination from the start, an original six showdown, two storied franchises, with paths to the championship series that provided their own story lines.

Yes, we shouldn't be playing hockey as we close in on Canada Day and the 4th of July, and for the Bruins and the Hawks, summer is going to seem very, very short this year, but we suspect neither would trade the experience.

The Bruins obviously would have preferred a different outcome, in the end they were denied a Championship, but they battled for each and every win, confounded the experts and rewarded their fans with a long march into June.

The Hawks, return to the top of the NHL order, a style of play that hockey fans can only hope is noted by GM's from LA to Florida, Vancouver to Montreal.

Speed and skill, combined with no fear of physical play is still a recipe for success and having a goaltender who rises to the occasion doesn't hurt as well.

The blue print for the league for this year can be found in Chicago, copy and distribute as you will.

Chicago Daily Herald-- Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup
Chicago Tribune-- Blackhawks' 2nd Stanley Cup in 4 years comes in a flash
Chicago Sun Times-- Bolland, Bickell have time of their lives
Boston Globe-- This Bruins team deserved a better ending
Boston Herald-- 'Hawks stun, Bruins done
NESN-- Blackhawks proved to be Better Team As They Reward Chicago Fans with Another Stanley Cup
USA Today-- Chicago is on the verge of dynasty, and it only took 17 seconds
Globe and Mail-- Bruins and Blackhawks battered after a "very long short year"
National Post-- Bruins left searching for answers after Stanley Cup loss
Toronto Star-- Bruins get taste of what they gave Leafs
Toronto Sun-- Blackhawks score twice in final minutes to win Cup
CBC-- Blackhawks win Stanley Cup in stunning fashion

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