There is a point in every successful playoff run that somebody unexpected steps up to score a big goal or turn around a game with a monster hit.
Last Friday, 26-year-old defenceman Adam McQuaid was that player for the Boston Bruins.
His slap shot early in the third period, a 52-footer that took flight off the stick of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jarome Iginla, proved to be the series-clinching goal in the Bruins sweep in the East final.
McQuaid's goal was a special moment for him and for those who know his story. It wasn't too long ago that his future as an athlete was uncertain because of a medical scare nine months ago.
To be able to return to the Stanley Cup final and hit the ice for the series opener against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on Wednesday is something McQuaid appreciates more this time than their championship in 2010-11.
To be able to play alongside his more famous teammates like Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci, to be able to go up against Chicago's key players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith is something McQuaid values.
"Obviously, it feels great to get to this point," McQuaid said. "We have a little ways to go yet to where we want to be. But we're getting closer. I guess personally, in December I wasn't thinking too much even about playing hockey, it was just trying to get back healthy. It's definitely nice to see how things come full circle like that."
A scary circle, or episode, that began last September after McQuaid had participated in a routine on-ice workout at Harvard University as the hockey world entered the uncertainty of another lockout.
Blood clot scare
The 6-foot-4, 197-pound from Cornwall, P.E.I. experienced pain in his right shoulder and watched as his right arm balloon. He was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital, where it was discovered that a blood clot under his collarbone had developed.
McQuaid wound up requiring two surgeries to fix the problem, one to stop the blood clot and another prevent future clots from occurring. He was diagnosed with a case of thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that causes dangerous blood clots.
To fix the condition, McQuaid needed to have a rib removed as well as part of his neck muscle. He was told he likely wouldn't be ready to play until at least February, if at all.
"That was a different one, a weird one, because we couldn't really do anything because it happened during the work stoppage,'' Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "I wasn't able to medically oversee it or to help it along. It was almost like I was observing it from afar, and it was pretty scary from the accounts that I got.
"I was told that he wouldn't be ready and, in fact, there might be a long period of time into the season when he wouldn't be ready. But credit to Adam, it was a scary thing he went through. The size of his arm, the swelling, it swelled up five or six times the size of his arm. He was really scared and feared for his life.
"It's a terrific story and a testament to Adam's character.''
McQuaid recovered in time for the season opener on Jan. 19. Three months later, he was named a finalist, along with Josh Harding and Sidney Crosby, for the Masterton Trophy, which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
"He sits right next to me [in the dressing room] and I know how well he prepares himself for every practice, every game," Chara said. "To have a guy like that, really humble, quiet and playing extremely hard every game, to get a winning goal, it's great to see.
"You're used to seeing guys that are supposed to score, score. But when you see a guy that is not known for scoring and getting that big goal, it's twice as nice."
Especially when it's a person like McQuaid.
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?