Hockey fans deserved a great ending.
There was such uncertainty throughout the fall and early winter about whether there would even be a start to the season, so we were owed something like this. Maybe one day, when hockey historians look back on the 2013 NHL season, the lockout that forced the regular season to be chopped down to 48 games will be the first thing that’s discussed. But in the here and the now, in the aftermath of the Blackhawks’ win last night, the lockout is a distant memory. What will be remembered by those who lived through it was this was a great Cup Final, and an absolutely nutty end to Game 6 that secured Chicago’s second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
The regular season was a sprint this year, and without true training camps, it was played under less than ideal conditions. The overall health of the sport wasn’t much of a concern once the lockout was finally settled, but the regular season did have something of a strange vibe to it. Not the playoffs, though. The NHL rightfully sees its postseason as sacred, and the sport is smart enough not to mess with it in the aftermath of a lockout. (This is among the reasons why it’s silly to consider a title in a lockout-shortened season something less than any other title.)
And this postseason was typically great, even despite conference finals series that were way too short. The Cup Final more than made up for those series: Two great teams, three overtime games, a couple of series lead changes, and ultimately, one of the most dramatic finishes in Stanley Cup history.
The word “stunning” is getting thrown around a lot today; I’m pretty sure I’ve used it myself. But what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs so much fun is that you expect the stunning things to happen. You just don’t know when they’ll occur. Last night, for about a minute — and I literally mean for about one minute, in real time — it looked like Bryan Bickell’s goal would lead to yet another game going to overtime. That alone was a “wow” sort of moment.
But Dave Bolland’s goal some 17 hockey seconds later was even more shocking. Briefly, it looked like we were headed to something that’s become familiar—a game in this Final that would be decided with a sudden-death goal. But then Bolland, in the right place at the right time, flipped a script that had already been flipped — one last great moment to send hockey fans into the offseason, amazed at what they’d just seen.
After Game 2 of this series — with the teams tied at one overtime win apiece — I thought it was only right that this series went the full seven games. After having so much hockey taken away from us during the lockout, I wanted my money’s worth in this Cup Final, particularly with such evenly-matched teams competing for the title. But a series need not go the distance to be memorable, and Monday night provided one of the great finishes in the history of the sport. Bruins fans are surely bummed today — much to the delight of the Toronto Sun — but outside of Boston, this will be remembered as an incredible end to an incredible Final.
And as for the city of Boston? Well, we hope Bolland enjoys his new middle name there.