The record start to the regular season and the President’s Trophy were a promise.
The Blackhawks kept it Monday night.
In the most improbable, impossible way.
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Down 2-1 with goalie Corey Crawford on the bench in the third period of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, Bryan Bickell banged in the tying goal with 1:16 to go.
Seventeen seconds later, Dave Bolland slammed home a loose puck.
One minute, the Hawks seemed headed for a Game 7. Next thing you know, champions.
Authoring a shocking end to a stunning season, the Hawks indeed had made good on their word and actions. The Hawks had delivered their second Stanley Cup in the last four seasons.
But here’s the thing: From the opening faceoff and into the second period, you wanted to ask the Hawks if they knew they had a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins were desperate. Their season hung in the balance. They played like it, smoking the Hawks with pressure, shots and hits.
And then it got worse for the Hawks.
The Bruins banged in the first goal, and then ramped up the pressure, winning almost every faceoff, piling on the hits and firing shot after shot. At one point, the Bruins had out-chanced the Hawks 16-3.
But suddenly -- and suddenly is what Game 6 was all about -- the Hawks had tied it as Jonathan Toews snapped a rolling puck past Tuukka Rask in the second period. A battered captain who couldn’t finish Game 5 was starting the Hawks in Game 6. That’s so Stanley Cup playoffs.
After Milan Lucic scored what looked like a killer third-period goal, the dramatics started. It was quick and amazing and final.
Patrick Kane made a play in the corner. Toews lifted David Krejci’s stick in the circle. Toews fed the slot. Bryan Bickell went to the area made for toothless grins and rang the free-agent cash register with just 76 seconds left. Johnny Oduya came back from a difficult 2012 playoff to get a puck through from the left point. Dave Bolland made history. Toews hoisted the Cup.
They all did. They all earned it. Michael Handzus after 15 seasons. Jamal Mayers and Michael Rozsival, the other senior citizens. A bleeding Andrew Shaw. A phenomenal Duncan Keith. A pelted Niklas Hjalmarsson. A damaged Marian Hossa. A flying Patrick Sharp. A redeemed Brent Seabrook. A versatile Marcus Kruger. An indefatigable Michael Frolik. A legitimized Corey Crawford. All of them.
And don’t forget the committed Rocky Wirtz and brilliant John McDonough. The astute Stan Bowman and masterful Joel Quenneville, too. Someone should’ve carried them around the ice.
The Hawks served notice they were a great team early. They completed the deal the way great teams do, no matter how excruciatingly late it came.
The Hawks were bloodied and battered. They were resilient and relentless. They wore the pressure and they finally killed it. They won two games on Boston ice.
Big hearts get the big trophy.