Playoff hockey is full of intense battles, blood, injuries, fights, players laying it all on the line, and thrilling finishes. The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins both accounted for two of the best postseason finishes I’ve ever seen during the 2013 playoffs. Boston pulled off a stunning victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals versus the Toronto Maple Leafs while the favor was returned in the Chicago Blackhawks’ Game 6 triumph over the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Game 7 in the 1st Round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs : the Boston Bruins vs the Toronto Maple Leafs
Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is as good as it gets. Toronto and Boston played one of the most memorable Game 7’s of all time at the TD Garden during the first round of the 2013 Eastern Conference Playoffs. The home team was on the verge of elimination, trailing the Maple Leafs 4-1 with less than fifteen minutes left in regulation. Hope seemed bleak and it looked like Boston was going to suffer a disappointing early exit from the postseason until Nathan Horton provided his team with a spark. There was 10:42 remaining in regulation when Horton capitalized on a beautiful centering pass from Milan Lucic to bring the Bruins within two goals.
Toronto turned up the defensive pressure after Boston’s second goal. Time ticked off the clock and the Bruins’ season was fading with every second and minuted that passed. The end seemed near with Boston’s lack of offensive production over the last three games of this series.
Fast forward to a the final 1:30 of regulation. At this point, Boston pulled goalie Tuukka Rask and fans had begun to exit the stadium. But Milan Lucic came up with another big play for the Bruins at the 1:22 mark. Boston had possession in Toronto’s zone when the puck found Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. The 6-foot-9 defenseman fired his 100 + mph slap shot at the Maple Leaf’s net. Goalie James Reimer couldn’t handle the rebound and Lucic was there for the put back. Trailing 4-3 Boston and the TD Garden suddenly had a pulse.
Head Coach Claude Julien wasted no time in putting the extra attacker on the ice once play resumed. The Bruins promptly set up an offensive attack in Toronto’s zone with the final 60 seconds of their season possibly approaching when a miracle happened. Daniel Krejci found Patrice Bergeron with some open space on the right side of the zone. Bergeron sent a scorching wrist shot into the top shelf of the net past Leafs goalie James Reimer. The TD Garden erupted and now Boston had a breath of new life. They turned a 4-1 deficit into a 4-4 tie in less than fifteen minutes. Wow.
The Bruins scored two goals in a 31-second span during the final 1:22 of regulation to force overtime, and they weren’t about to let this opportunity slip through their finger tips. Boston came out of the locker room and jumped all over the visitors in overtime. The home team knew they had Reimer and the Maple Leafs on their heels, so they went for the knockout blow early and often. After a series of favorable scoring chances, Bergeron played the role of hero again. Bergeron’s initial shot was turned away by Reimer but the Bruins corralled the loose puck. Eventually, the puck found its way back to Bergeron’s stick and there was a wide-open net in front of him. The Bruin’s assistant captain scored his second goal of the game, ending a wild Game 7.
This game changed the outlook of Boston’s season. They went from the brink of elimination to winning 11 0f their next 13 postseason games. For the next few weeks Boston looked unbeatable, dominating the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bruins even out performed Chicago through the first three games of the Stanley Cup Finals. Game 7 defined the Bruins post season run and it almost fueled a championship run.
Stanley Cup Finals Game 6: The Chicago Blackhawks vs. the Boston Bruins
The Blackhawks stole momentum from the Bruins by winning Games 4 & 5 after falling into a 2-1 series deficit. Boston was on the verge of elimination again as the series went back to the TD Garden for Game 6. Julien’s squad delivered the first blow in a knockout contest. A flurry of offensive chances were generated by the Bruins in the opening period – they outshot Chicago 12-6. Corey Crawford and he defense did all they could to keep Chicago in the game. Boston was on the board first after Chris Kelly cleaned up a rebound in front of the Blackhawks net, tallying his second goal of the playoffs. Fortunately, the President Trophy winners were able to hold an electric Bruins attack to a single goal. Boston led 1-0 after the first period. Captain Jonathan Toews and his teammates responded to Boston’s early dominance in the second period, tying up the score 1-1 going into a pivotal final 20 minutes of regulation.
Let’s skip ahead to the final ten minutes of the contest. Tensions were running high in a back and forth contest that saw plenty of scoring chances but few goals. It began to look as if the first breakthrough would be the final one. Lucic came up big again for Boston, netting the go-ahead goal with 7:49 left in the final period. This wasn’t the first time that the Blackhawks were confronted with adversity this postseason. Chicago has stepped up when facing a challenge all postseason and tonight wouldn’t be any different.
The waning minutes of regulation faded away without Chicago scoring the equalizing goal. The more time that passed, the more it looked like this series was heading back to the Mad House on Madison for Game 7. Desperation sunk in for head coach Joe Quenneville’s squad during the final two minutes. Crawford was pulled from the net as Chicago sent another skater on the ice in search of the game tying goal. The first line possessed the puck in Boston’s zone with about a minute and half left in the game. Patrick Kane fired a wrist shot at Rask, who saved it to his blocker side. Duncan Keith gained control of a loose puck in the middle of the zone and dumped a pass down low to Toews, who crashed the left side of the net and sent a centering pass to the Bryan Bickell. The powerful forward one timed the centering pass past Rask, tying the game at 2-2 with 1:16 left in the period!
The TD garden grew eerily quiet after Chicago scored the equalizing goal. Everyone watching could sense Boston’s energy level and momentum fading. Chicago pounced on the Bruins like a lion hunting wounded prey. All purpose forward Dave Bolland started another offensive rally shortly after the faceoff. Bolland came streaking down the center of the ice, entering the opposing zone. Bolland quickly dished a pass off to Michael Frolik, who threw the puck on net. Rask turned away the shot to his blocker side and a scrum formed along the left side of the boards with multiple players battling for the puck. Eventually, the puck found the stick of Michal Rozsival. He blasted a slap shot towards Rask. Rozsival’s shot was re-directed off of Frolik but it struck the left post! The man who started it all – Bolland – came from behind the net from and was there for the put back! Bolland dropped his glove and stick in celebration with his team 58.3 seconds away from winning the Stanley Cup while crushing the spirits of Boston sports fans. The Bruins weren’t able to salvage another historic comeback and they lost the contest 3-2 and the series in six games.
Both teams had stellar postseasons headlined by improbable comeback victories. Boston’s Game 7 victory against Toronto may go down as the greatest Game 7 comeback in NHL history. They scored two goals in 33 seconds and erased a three goal discrepancy in the final period of regulation. Boston carried their momentum from Game 7’s victory all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. With that being said, the Blackhawks comeback is better. Many thought they were 1:16 away from going back to Chicago on Wednesday night to play Game 7. Blackhawks fans were down in the dumps thinking the Bruins still have a chance in this series. Instead, little did we know, they were 1:16 away from winning their second cup in four years.
The Chicago Blackhawks Game 6 victory is more impressive since they had more on the line. Boston’s season was on the line in Round 1, while Chicago’s season and the Stanley Cup were jeopardized in Game 6. Not only did the Blackhawks score two goals in shocking fashion like the Bruins, they did so in less time. Chicago tallied two goals in 17 seconds to go from a potential Game 7 to Stanley Cup Champions. They had more on the line on a bigger stage. If Boston had won, they would’ve had momentum on their side going into Game 7 while Chicago would have faced an immense amount of pressure being the home team. People will remember Game 6 as one of the greatest finishes in finals history, let alone playoff history. How can a first round game compete with that, even if it was Game 7? It can’t, so the Blackhawks get the nod due to the fact that there was more at stake. Because it’s the cup.