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And then Dave Bolland brought out the beer.
At this point he was a king in his castle. The man nicknamed "The Rat" had come through what was for him an up and down series that most would have readily acknowledged was more down than up.
Bolland had struggled to match up with Boston's best, piling up more penalties than points. The man who had spent plenty of time during the last several seasons centering leading lines with wingers like Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp found himself demoted to the Hawks' third if not fourth group of forwards on Monday night.
But when it mattered most, he scored a historic goal, capping off the Hawks' miracle comeback by knocking in a rebound with a little less than a minute left in regulation to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.
He did so just 17 seconds after Bryan Bickell had tied the game after perfect feeds from Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews.
Soon the game was over, the celebration ensued and after spending plenty of time on the ice with the Cup and family and friends and did we mention the Cup!, the Hawks finally adjourned to their locker room.
It seemed as if the party was winding down for everyone who didn't go with them. But literally 10 minutes later, there were a few Hawks coming right back out for more pictures and more fellowship with the extended Hawk family and the players' family families.
And there was Bolland, box of Bud Light in his hand (it isn't good beer but hey, at least you can drink a bunch of the about-four-percent-alcohol brews and not get too drunk), passing out cans to whoever he happened across.
One of those people was Channel 7 sports anchor Mark Giangreco, who took the beer, said a few more words about how awesome hockey players are and then, despite a question from Ron Magers in the studio back in Chicago, noted he needed to go find a place to drink the beer and walked away from the camera, seemingly done for the evening.
The joy of hockey is the players, the unfailingly polite and humble players who rather than sitting and waiting for minions to bring them whatever food and drink they could have possibly desired instead take the beer in hand and distribute it to folks on the fringe of the party.
On this night it was Bolland who scored the big goal but it could have been any one of more than a dozen potential goal-scorers on this extraordinary team. And the Bolland goal doesn't happen without first Marcus Kruger securing control of the puck on the boards and passing it back to Johnny Oduya at the point.
Oduya launched another of his amazingly accurate point shots and there was Michael Frolik, who did such an amazing job killing penalties all through the playoffs, oftimes with Kruger by his side, tipping it past Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.
It looked like the Bruins had caught a huge break when the puck found the post but then there was Bolland to flip in the rebound.
How cool was it that Hawk stars Toews and Keith combined to set up Bickell's game-tying goal and then it was the team's depth that was on display when less well-known players from the deep well of Blackhawk talent combined for the game-winner?
Just about anyone who watched this series would have acknowledged that these were two very, very evenly matched teams. But the Hawks found a way to make the clever little plays that made the difference, in particular the two-goal rally last night that was so reminiscent of the one in Game 1 that enabled the Hawks to rally from a 3-1 third period deficit and eventually win in triple overtime.
What followed were a couple Bruin wins that put the Hawks within viewing distance of the brink. But then for the second time in the playoffs, the team from Chicago summoned the fortitude to win three straight to close out the series (they of course also did it against the Red Wings in the second round).
Last I checked this morning, the celebration had moved from O'Hare to the Harry Caray's in Rosemont, where hopefully the boys all grabbed some decent steak and eggs or some other late night/early morning feast.
The celebration had gone on all night but it was still just getting started.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on
MondaysTuesdays. He welcomes your comments.
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