Thanks to the leadership and the play of captain Jonathan Toews late in the Stanley Cup final, the Chicago Blackhawks finished the way they started the 2013 NHL lockout-shortened season -- on top.
BOSTON -- There was the heart and soul of the Chicago Blackhawks lying flat on his belly on the TD Garden ice, frantically flailing his stick.
The final seconds were ticking down on the Stanley Cup final and Jonathan Toews was trying to swipe a loose puck into an empty net. He was so determined to make sure the 2013 NHL lockout-shortened season finished the way it began five months ago -- with the Blackhawks on top.
That's the way it ended. The Blackhawks, the team that galloped out of the gate with a record 21-0-3 start, celebrated their second championship in four years with a miraculous finish to defeat the Boston Bruins 3-2 in Game 6 Monday night.
Moments earlier, Toews had set up linemate Bryan Bickell for the game-tying goal with 76 seconds remaining in the third period. Then, 17.7 seconds later, he watched from the bench as Chicago defenceman Johnny Oduya clanked a shot off the post. But Dave Bolland beat Boston defenceman Johnny Boychuk to the rebound to knock in the game winner.
What a dramatic way to finish such a classic final in this strange season. After he shook the hand of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and was given the Stanley Cup, Toews told reporters to send word back to Chicago barkeeps to keep their establishments open because they were coming home to celebrate.
"What can I say about [Toews]," Bolland said afterwards. "I don't get that opportunity if he doesn't step up and set up Bickell. [Toews] constantly reminds [me] to play with passion and to never give up. We never gave up.
"You can't explain that [finish]. It was one of those things we were just happy to get the tying goal and then next thing you know we won."
Toews produced when it mattered
Toews didn't enjoy a banner post-season. But he was there when it mattered most in the last three games. He scored in Game 4. He set up his linemate and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Kane for two goals in Game 5.
He tied the game in the second period, and then made such an important pass to Bickell, despite the fact he had his "bell rung" and missed the third period back in Chicago on Saturday.
"He's a great player," Kane said. "He's played big in a lot of big games. He won the Conn Smythe our last playoffs [in 2010] and was awesome in that Olympic gold-medal game, and made some big plays tonight, a big goal, a big pass to Bickell to tie it up. He's just a competitor.
"That's really all you can say about Jonathan Toews is he's a competitor, and he leads the team in the right way, and we all follow."
Bolland followed. He suffered through some difficult times in this run, too. He was horrible in Game 3 and was demoted to the fourth line for the rest of the series. But the game winner put him in an emotional high.
"It is the greatest feeling," said Bolland, who promised to bring the Stanley Cup to the Blue Goose Tavern in his hometown of Mimico, Ont.
His picture hangs in the infamous haunt from the last Blackhawks celebration. So does a photo from his time with the gold-medal winning 2006 Canadian world junior team. Many of Brendan Shanahan's best moments are captured there, too. Shanahan was Bolland's local hero growing up.
Like Bolland, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford also benefited from Toews leadership. He also had a rough outing in Game 3. But he hung in there and played well the rest of the way.
"I still can't believe that finish," he said. "We never quit."
Besides Toews injury, Marian Hossa played with a serious back injury.
Patrice Bergeron played with broken rib
On the Bruins' side, their heart and soul Patrice Bergeron played with a broken rib, and torn rib cartilage after a hit from Chicago's Michael Frolik in Game 4. Then he suffered a separated shoulder in the series finale.
Jaromir Jagr and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara also played hurt.
Did another lockout-shortened season hurt the game? Not in the end. The final was outstanding, a classic. The finish was one for the ages.
Especially, seeing Toews get that prized mug from Bettman and what happened next. Toews passed it to 36-year-old Michal Handzus, who then passed on the Stanley Cup to 38-year-old Jamal Mayers.
Eventually, the trophy found its way to another deserving long-time hockey man in assistant coach Mike Kitchen.
It truly was a magical night, and Toews was the lead performer.
Tim WharnsbyTim's worked the sports beat at The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun, specializing in Canada's one true sporting obsession - hockey. He knows the players, the coaches, the backroom boys and most importantly, the fans. That's what he brings to his stories. Knowledge, fairness and understanding are trademarks of a Wharnsby story. That's what you will get here as he writes for CBCSports.ca.