Seventeen seconds. That’s how long it took for the Boston Bruins to watch a tenuous–but still completely manageable–2-1 lead evaporate into a 3-2 loss and Stanley Cup Final loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night. Watching it live was like watching some sort of nightmare come to life. Sure, this is just the latest in a rather ignominious series of Boston sports heartbreaks among all four of the major sports, but wow, did this one hurt.
After an incredibly strong first period that even included effective power plays and a Chris Kelly goal, as well as an appreciative standing ovation for Patrice Bergeron when he took his first shift, the home team came out onto the shoddy (Tuukka Rask would use a different word) ice for the second period looking radically different in a bad way. The Blackhawks tied it. The mood of the game shifted wildly.
Milan Lucic tried to rally the troops late, just like in Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game 7, and he quite nearly got it done with his go-ahead goal late in the third. The Bruins killed a late penalty successfully and it seemed as if they would pull it off, force a Game 7, get one more chance to prove people wrong and one more chance to net Lord Stanley for the second time in three years.
Then came the nightmare. Then came the tying goal, followed almost immediately by the go-ahead, so late in regulation that it really couldn’t be answered. Miracles had happened before in these playoffs, but there would be no more of them, not that night. In the locker room immediately after, you could hear the sounds of the Blackhawks cheering as the Bruins spoke in hushed tones about their loss.
David Krejci sat at his stall, still fully dressed, shell-shocked. Tyler Seguin admitted to crying. Bergeron disclosed a variety of injuries: a broken rib, a separated shoulder, torn cartilage and muscles, plus reportedly some possible nasal issue going back to that fight against Evgeni Malkin, which seems like it was years ago. But Bergeron played like a total champion. He played about 17 minutes through all that pain. Yet in the end, he said that Chicago raising the Cup on his home ice is what hurt the most.
Were there mistakes? Yes, there were. Were there more injured players? I don’t doubt it for a second. I suspect Zdeno Chara is hurt since he was uncharacteristically bad this series. His defense partner, Dennis Seidenberg, might be dealing with something too. Nathan Horton also separated his shoulder. We’ll probably learn a lot more tomorrow during clean-up day, something that no Bruins fan wanted to happen tomorrow.
Coping with a loss like this is tough for fans. Some of them are looking ahead to the future and the difficult salary cap situation the team will face very soon (I will study that further in a separate piece). Some are asking questions that may not have easy answers. Others are giving Chicago quite a lot of credit for their job well done–perhaps a bit more than usual for a Final series, although I know I personally had no trouble building up a healthy “Stanley is on the line and they stand in front of it” enmity for the ‘Hawks.
We will get one last golden moment in this odd little lockout-shortened season: the one-day draft coming up this Sunday to close out the month of June. But then that’s all, folks, until the Bruins cubs all gather for development camp starting on July 10. Training camp comes later. Sometime this summer, Bergeron and Torey Krug will each get married. At least we know for sure the 2013-14 season will be its proper length and start on time.
Right now, though, all of that is cold comfort to a fan base who dared to dream, who believed, who were lifted by the team when their city was scared and wounded.
Here’s to the Bruins–and here’s to next year.