By Steve Silverman
(CBS) — A remarkable season ended with the most memorable of finishes.
It seemed inevitable that it would take a seventh game to decide the Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins. Especially after Boston’s Milan Lucic banged home a goal with 7:49 remaining that gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
That opinion was nearly cemented home a few minutes later when the Blackhawks did nothing with a power play that could have allowed them to tie the game.
But the Blackhawks have proven themselves as an indomitable team all season, from their 24-game point streak at the start of the season to the very end.
And the ending was something special. As the clock ticked down past the 1:30 mark, Corey Crawford made his way to the bench and the Blackhawks put on the extra skater.
Jonathan Toews took over, digging the puck out of the corner and then dishing the sweetest pass possible to Bryan Bickell.
That pass got under the body of Zdeno Chara and the big defenseman’s stick got tangled up with Tuukka Rask. That gave Bickell a chance for a made-to-order tying goal, with just 1:16 remaining.
So, of course this game would go to overtime. But Dave Bolland did not get that memo. He went right to the front of the net as Johnny Oduya sent a shot to the net. Michael Frolik deflected the shot and the rebound sat tantalizingly close to the net.
Bolland got inside position on Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk and sent it home.
Instead of going home for a seventh game or sitting in the lockerroom preparing for overtime, the Blackhawks had their improbable triumph.
The team’s second Stanley Cup in four seasons featured a relentlessness that allowed them to beat perhaps the toughest opponent they faced all year. The Bruins were rough and physical throughout the series, and they were dominant in that area in Game 6.
But despite all the bumps that the Bruins handed out – Chara bashed Toews into the crossbar minutes before the late fireworks – the Blackhawks came back in the most dramatic of fashions.
It was a memorable finish for Toews, who scored the first goal for the Blackhawks in the second period and set up the tying goal. He had two assists in Game 5 and he had broken a long goalless streak in Game 4.
“It looked bad for a while, but there was no quitting and we never stopped believing,” Toews said. “We were going to play it out as best we could and the results were amazing.”
Patrick Kane was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, and he tried to deflect the praise and honor that comes with the award. “It could have gone to any one of a number of guys, including Corey (Crawford),” Kane said. “But you can’t say enough about Jonathan Toews. He’s a competitor and he’s a leader. We are always going to follow him.”
Kane talked about how his playoff turned around when he started to play more regularly with Toews and Bickell. “I can’t tell you how great it is to play with guys like that who work so hard to get me the puck,” Kane said. “They made the game so easy for me.”
The Blackhawks had the maturity to withstand a brilliant start by the Bruins. Chris Kelly scored the opening goal of the game for the Bruins in the first period, but the Bruins could have had more if it had not been for Crawford’s brilliant play. The Bruins outshot the Blackhawks 12-6 in the opening period and at least four of those were excellent scoring opportunities.
Nobody appreciated his team’s ability to fight through adversity more than head coach Joel Quenneville. “The resiliency of our team was in place all year long,” Quenneville said. “The depth of our four lines made it such a great season and a fun team to coach, as well. It was one of those seasons, a fairytale ending and an amazing season.”
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.