We should be watching the clock at work all day, anxiously anticipating Game 7 in Chicago Wednesday night, relishing the possibility of another night of fire on ice. Instead, we’re deconstructing 17 seconds of disaster and coping with the Stanley Cup leaving town with the Blackhawks.
The Bruins ripped defeat from the clutches of victory with an indelible 3-2 loss at TD Garden Monday night in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. The sting of the Spoked-B’s allowing two goals in the final minute and 16 seconds — Dave Bolland’s Cup-clinching strike coming with 58.3 seconds left — to end hockey season in the Hub is like rubbing alcohol on a fresh paper cut.
It hurts, but it should not detract from the journey the Bruins took us on over 54 days, 22 games, and four rounds of playoff hockey. Even if you knew the painful finish ahead of time, would you opt out of the nearly two months of riveting, rollicking, inspiring hockey? If so, it might be time to contemplate turning in your sports fan card.
I wouldn’t want to skip the Miracle on Causeway Street against the Maple Leafs, the emergence of Torey Krug against the Rangers, Gregory Campbell’s one-legged display of courage against the Penguins, or the voiding of superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the sweep of Pittsburgh.
Judging by the Spoked-Believers who chanted, “Let’s Go, Bruins,” at TD Garden moments after their team had broken their hearts, there are others who feel the same way.
The Bruins are as fun to watch as any Boston sports team. They are a true representation of gestalt — a sum that is greater than its individual parts. The camaraderie in the locker room is real. It’s not the faux fraternization of professional sports. The representation of the city is taken seriously, not trivially as a matter of laundry.
“It was fun. It was a great run,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who established himself as a franchise netminder, posting a 1.88 goals-against average and an NHL-best .940 save percentage in the playoffs. “I had a lot of fun.
“It’s great to play with guys like this. We tried to have a lot of fun out there and play hard every night. We made it a great run. Too bad we just couldn’t finish it off. “
They couldn’t finish it off because the Blackhawks were the better team.
The Bruins had more thump, but the Blackhawks consistently had more jump — faster with the puck, faster to the puck. That’s why they won the final three games to erase Boston’s 2-1 series lead and bring the Cup back to the Second City for the second time in four seasons.
And those fortuitous bounces that went the Bruins’ way in the sweep of the Penguins went against them in the Cup Final. They had exhausted all of their frozen good fortune.
Bolland’s goal in Game 6 came because Michael Frolik’s tip of a Johnny Oduya shot took a room-service bounce off the post to Bolland. The Blackhawks won Game 1’s triple-overtime classic when Bolland redirected a puck and then it deflected off Andrew Shaw and past Rask for the pinball winner.
But there was no luck involved in the line of Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and wingers Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane demolishing the Bruins’ defense.
The trio was put back together for Game 4. They combined for six goals and seven assists during the last three games of the series. Slowed by an injury, Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara simply couldn’t keep up, finishing the series a minus-5.
Bickell, who played through a knee sprain, had the game-tying six-on-five goal in Game 6 that triggered the Boston implosion.
It came off a pretty feed from Toews, who had all 5 of his points in the final three games of the series. Kane was Wes Welker-like in his ability to use quickness to find holes in the Bruins defense and walked away with the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
The emotional whiplash of the final 1:16 of Game 6 had as much to do with the Blackhawks rising to the occasion as the Bruins falling down on the job.
There was no unpardonable puck sin committed by a Bruin that led to the team’s demise, no epic error. There is no goat to pin the game on. No one to curse but the Blackhawks and the unforgiving iron.
The end happened without warning and with little explanation.
While it detracted from a great span of hockey, it can’t completely erase it.
We learned a lot about the Bruins this postseason.
We learned that Patrice Bergeron, who played Game 6 despite a broken rib, torn cartilage, and a separated shoulder, is as tough as he is valuable.
We learned that David Krejci, who led the playoffs in points with 26 (9 goals, 17 assists) is the hockey version of Rajon Rondo, a player who takes his inconsistent game to a superstar level when it really matters.
We learned that Krug raising his stick for a one-timer gets you on the edge of your seat.
We learned that Tyler Seguin (one goal in 22 games) and Brad Marchand (0-0—0 in the Stanley Cup Final) still have some on-ice growing up to do.
We learned that what the Bruins accomplished in 2011 wasn’t just a byproduct of historic goaltending. Rask finished with a goals-against average better than Tim Thomas’s 1.98 of 2011 and the exact same save percentage.
“It’s going to take a little while before we can realize the accomplishment that we had in making it to the Final again,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “But right now it doesn’t feel good.”
No, it doesn’t. There should be a game Wednesday night, but there isn’t.
The Bruins left us with a lot of great memories, just not the last one.Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.