Hockey season may come to a close tonight. The Stanley Cup will be in Boston waiting for the Chicago Blackhawks if they can beat the Bruins in game six of the Finals. If not, a one game fight for the title will take place in the Windy City on Wednesday. Thus far it has been a great series.
It probably was a good sign for the Stanley Cup Finals that both teams overcame extreme adversity just to reach the championship series. The President's Cup winning Blackhawks trailed Detroit three games to one in the Western Semifinals. After a 4-1 home win in game five, the Hawks overcame a 2-1 deficit heading to the third period by scoring three goals in just over 10 minutes and then holding on for a 4-3 game six victory.
Game seven was tied late into the third period when it appeared that Niklas Hjalmarsson gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead with 1:47 left. However, the goal was waved off because of a controversial penalty behind the play. All was forgotten when Brent Seabrook scored a few minutes into overtime sending the Hawks to the Finals.
Meanwhile, Boston seemed destined to fall in their first round playoff series against Toronto. The Leafs led game seven 2-1 after 40 minutes and then extended the lead to 4-1 five minutes into the final period. When Nathan Horton made it 4-2 with 9:18 left, a miracle was still needed. Milan Lucic tallied with six attackers on to make it 4-3 with 1:22 remaining. Patrice Bergeron tied the game 31 seconds later. Bergeron potted the game winner six minutes into overtime for an improbable victory.
Three of the five games during the Finals have gone to overtime. The Bruins 2-0 victory in game three is the only contest that wasn't a one goal game in the final minute of regulation. The margin for error in the series has been razor thin. Both teams have suffered major casualties.
Chicago's Marian Hossa missed game three because of an upper-body injury. In game five Bergeron was taken to the hospital for observation. The Hawks Jonathan Toews did not play in the final period of game five because of an injury. The level in which the games are being played, and the heart many players have shown makes it easy to forget that the start of the season was delayed.
For months it was unclear whether we would have a 2013 Stanley Cup winner. The lockout was not resolved until January 6, and games did not begin until January 19. Instead of the normal 82 game season, each team played only 48 regular season contests. It seems like a long time ago that players and owners agreed on limiting contract extensions to eight years, negotiated a salary floor and cap, and allowed teams to amnesty certain contracts.
The product, when on the ice, continues to be supreme. It took a lot of bickering to get this season underway, but it has been a great show. Any fan without a vested stake in one team or the other has to be cheering for Boston tonight. The hockey world deserves to see a game seven.