"It's a different level of unbelievable."
That's what Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on the ice of a mostly empty TD Garden, minutes after his team won a second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
Perhaps the finish of that game was particularly unbelievable—I mean, two goals in 17 seconds against the "impenetrable" Tuukka Rask—but you couldn't be too surprised after all you've seen this year, right?
After that record-breaking start where they trekked into March without getting beat in regulation. After ending the year with the second-most goals scored and least goals allowed. There was no acceptable ending to this story other than a championship, and they delivered on that promise.
Much like the 2010 champs had Those Moments during their regular season (down 5-0 vs. Calgary, win 6-5; chasing Luongo at the UC) and That Moment during the Cup run (Game 5 vs. Nashville), the highlights that'll make this season's expertly edited banner-raising video are apparent.
>> Completely torching reigning Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick for five goals on only 22 shots on opening night. The Blackhawks didn't like watching someone else raise a banner.
>> Ray Emery's utter theft of two points in Calgary.
>> Jamal Mayers swiftly dishing out justice to Raffi Torres just 2 minutes, 35 seconds into an early February game. (Hate on hockey-fighting if you must, but this one was necessary and galvanizing.)
>> Corey Crawford making the existence of www.didtheblackhawksgetashutout.com completely irrelevant. A few times.
>> That Game on the first Sunday in March on national television against the Red Wings that seemed to be played at hyperspeed, ending with the first time most of America saw the Kaner Shuffle in live action. Definitely the first time Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard saw it in person.
>> Even the regular season finale at St. Louis was memorable for the fact that half the team didn't even travel to the Gateway City. They had a more important goal, and they didn't care how blatant the gesture was.
>> And all the workmanlike 3-0 or 3-1 games the Blackhawks steamrolled through, where you checked the shots-on-goal counter after 40 minutes and saw that once again, the Hawks had allowed only a number that couldn't even drive legally in Illinois.
As usual in the NHL postseason, the intensity grew with every passing round. In the Minnesota series, Cal Clutterbuck became my all-time favorite NHL player's name to autocorrect.
The Detroit series was a two-week lesson in torture and faith for the fan base, a final Western tilt to say farewell before the Red Wings left the conference. And That Moment when That Ref took away That Goal in Game 7, followed by Brent Seabrook's greatest shot of his career.
The L.A. Kings were dethroned, as the Blackhawks were the first team to make Quick appear less-than-superhuman in the playoffs in more than two years. Those three rounds were mere appetizers to the main course that was served in Boston, as a six-game series played more like seven and a half.
As you're still up on that fancloud, basking in every single ray of glory reflecting off Chief Blackhawk, consider the possibility that you got to witness what was arguably the greatest single season in NHL history. (And in case you wanna play the "short season" card, consider the grinder they survived: I'd say 71 games in 156 days is a hell of a lot more impressive than 104 games in 249 days done in 2010.)
Consider that the 2013 Blackhawks should be mentioned in the same breath as the 1985 Bears and the 1996 Bulls.
Consider that you may see Andrew Shaw receiving a hero's welcome at any Chicagoland establishment he enters for the next 30 years.
Consider that you'll see statues of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane erected on the United Center sidewalk in your lifetime.
And consider 13 reasons why we might be back here in 12 months: Toews, Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, Brandon Saad, Shaw, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmersson, Johnny Oduya and Corey Crawford are all signed for 2013-14.
But also consider that your parents and grandparents waited 49 years between Cup No. 3 and Cup No. 4.
So consider yourself lucky, Chicago. Party safe on Friday, and make sure you party.
RedEye special contributor Alex Quigley can be heard on WGN Radio 720.
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