BOSTON — Duncan Keith was standing in the middle of the ice — the Stanley Cup being handed from players to family members to guys in suits to who knows who else — trying to muster up the words to describe what had just happened, what his team had just accomplished, what it all meant.
But his head was spinning and his eyes were darting around. And through his lack of focus, he found the perfect way to nail the magnitude of the moment.
“Man, I just want to go find my Mom and Dad,” he said, before skating off through the mass of humanity that had engulfed the chewed-up TD Garden rink.
Grown men in sweaty, scraggly beards turned into giddy little kids. That’s what a championship feels like.
And the way the Blackhawks won their second championship in four seasons made it all the more difficult to put into words — their mind-bending 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins an epic conclusion to an epic Stanley Cup Final.
Down 2-1 with Game 7 staring them in the face, the Blackhawks pulled Corey Crawford — the only reason they were even in the game to that point —and hoped for a miracle.
They got two. And they got the Stanley Cup.
Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart in the final 1:16 of the third period to send stunned Bostonians trudging for the exits in disbelief and stunned Chicagoans streaming into the streets in delirium.
“Unbelievable,” said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, who scored a goal and assisted on Bickell’s equalizer two days after sitting out the third period of Game 5 after a devastating hit. “It’s even hard to celebrate right now. I’m pretty exhausted. But once we fill the Cup up, it’ll get going pretty good.”
Indeed, a long summer of love is about to descend on Chicago for the second time in four years.
This Cup came seven short years to the day that Toews was drafted by the Hawks, then a moribund franchise with second-class status in a city that’s seen too much losing in its time, with a smattering of fans and yellowing banners in the rafters. It was six years and two days after the Hawks drafted Patrick Kane, awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after his late scoring surge.
The Hawks were champions in 2010. They’re Chicago icons now, for all time, sure to be bronzed and busted and forever remembered — living history. Along with Keith and Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa and Niklas Hjalmarsson and Bolland, the core and the heart of a franchise reborn, they’re two-time champions — with so many years still ahead of them. Toews is merely 25. Kane is 24.
“I’m proud I can be one of those guys that was kept in the organization and can say we won the Cup two times,” said Sharp, again one of the Hawks’ most consistent performers in the playoffs.
And there were new heroes, too. Crawford, who had the unenviable task of replacing a Cup-winning goalie in Antti Niemi,was a playoff question mark answered with an exclamation point, making 23 saves in the win.
Andrew Shaw’s cheek is now the 2013 version of Duncan Keith’s teeth — the energetic third-line center getting knocked out cold by a Shawn Thornton shot to the face, only to come back in the next period and almost immediately pick a fight in the corner. Shaw’s stitches kept bleeding throughout the game, and most Hawks players had a small streak of blood somewhere on their sweaters from the postgame hug-fest.
Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger, reinvented as penalty-killing machines, staved off four straight Boston power plays to open the game, keeping it within reach when it so easily could have spiraled out of control as the Bruins came out with tremendous energy and desperation. But after taking 32 shot attempts to the Hawks’ eight in the first period, they led only 1-0 on Chris Kelly’s goal.
Toews tied it early in the second after another Hawks’ kill, but Milan Lucic’s goal with 7:49 left in an incredibly tense third seemed to seal a 2-1 win for the Bruins.
But then with Crawford on the bench with 1:16 left, Bickell smacked home a Toews pass in the low slot to tie it. Just 17 seconds later, the crowd and the Bruins and the Hawks themselves still shocked by what had just happened, Bolland forever became a part of Hawks lore by stuffing home a Johnny Oduya rebound off the post to win it.
“It was just chaos,” Sharp said. “It was chaos, man. Heck of a way to finish the game.”
Heck of a way to finish the season — one that was preceded by a lengthy lockout, one that started with a historic 21-0-3 start to the season, and one that ended in utter joy and celebration, what first-time champion Michal Rozsival termed, “Happiness everywhere.”
An unforgettable end to an unforgettable season. And the party’s just getting started.
“We had a great season, we won the President’s Trophy, we won the West,” Marian Hossa said. “But we knew if you don’t win the big trophy, the season was not good enough. We found a way to win. Amazing. Just amazing.”