BOSTON – “Forever,” Johnny Boychuk said, still in disbelief. “You’re going to remember it forever.”
Two goals in 17 seconds, at 18:44 and 19:01 of the third period. A 2-1 lead turned into a 3-2 loss before you could blink, a Game 7 turned into garbage bag day faster than you can spell Bobby Orr.
For as long as a Toronto Maple Leaf fan will remember three goals in the final 10:42 of regulation – the final two just 31 ticks apart – Bruins Nation will remember this Chicago Blackhawks smash and grab Stanley Cup final win.
“It’s terrible,” said Boychuk, who had a front row seat to David Bolland’s dramatic Cup-winning goal. “It’s the total opposite of what happened with Toronto. We’re up one, and ready go to Game 7. Then, all of the sudden, it’s… over.”
You can attend a dozen Stanley Cup playoff tournaments without seeing a series end like this one did. Follow the Bruins, and you saw it twice this spring alone.
"It's not the same," Andrew Ference denied. "That was the first round. This was the Cup final."
Yes, there is much irony in the fact that it hurts more this morning to be a Bruins fan than it did on May 14 to be a Maple Leafs fan. Much irony indeed.
"You just don't see that stuff coming," Tyler Seguin said. "I don't know what to say."
There simply wasn’t anything to choose between these two Original Six sides this spring. Six stunning games, an aggregate score of 16-15 for Chicago. Thrilling finish after thrilling finish.
One team would take hold of the play for eight, nine minutes; on the rare occasion, an entire period. Then the other would give their heads a shake and steal the play right back.
And as always, each team's medical staff are the forgotten seventh man, doing whatever it took to dull the pain just enough for two teams full of wounded hockey players to entertain.
Nathan Horton had a separated shoulder. Marian Hossa had a nerve issue and couldn’t feel one of his feet. Tyler Seguin has a recurring hip issue that slowed him down. Jonathan Toews was being held together with sticky notes and maple syrup, his all-around game so superior that no number of injuries could stop him from being Chicago's best player whenever his team required it.
Patrice Bergeron may have been the worst of all, revealing post-series that throughout the series he had collected a broken rib, plus cartilage and muscle damage in his rib cage. He suspected that he had sustained a separated shoulder in Game 6.
"It's the Stanley Cup final. Everyone is banged up," he said. "Everyone wants to help the team. I couldn't do that in Game 5, mostly because they were worried about my spleen being hurt. That's why we had to go to the hospital, but everything was fine. It was just the ribs and muscle and soft tissues. I would have liked to have stayed in it, but I was going through a lot of pain."
Try working out some time with a busted rib. The harder you breathe, the more it hurts.
Now try playing the Stanley Cup final, against an opponent that knows you’re vulnerable, its players going out of their way to drill you hard and clean whenever possible, hard and dirty if that's all there is.
The fact Bergeron logged 17:45 in Game 6 is stuff for NFL Films.
"We love each other in here," said Boston centreman David Krejci, who had five assists but stopped scoring in this final after nine goals through the first three rounds. "We want to play for each other and to have him on the bench and on the ice was great."
"He's a warrior. He loves the team."
Perhaps it’s because the Bruins had been on the other end of one of these only two seasons ago, winning the Game 7 in Vancouver that touched off riots. Or perhaps it’s that, somehow, they all knew they'd been living off of borrowed time since winning a Game 7 against the Maple Leafs that they really had no business winning.
We have seen more disconsolate post-Cup dressing rooms than this one, but in hindsight, that may be because those teams knew they were likely a one-off. This one could win it again next season.
"It's tough to put words to describe how we're feeling right now," Bergeron said. "It hurts. You've got to give credit to Chicago, they played a great series, but at the same time it's the last thing you want to say, it hurts to see them hoisting the Cup."
All it took was a clutch Toews goal, another world class play by the Blackhawks captain which led to a Bryan Bickell goal, then a series of bounces the likes of which only a Leafs fan can appreciate this morning.
"D-man shoots it, it hits something in the middle, changed directions," replayed Boychuk. "It hit off the post and right on (Bolland's) tape. Perfect. Right on his stick."
"You get a couple of bounces, and your season is done."