The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat is how Jim McKay summarily described ABC’s Wide World of Sports coverage for all those years worth of events he covered for the network. So true is the introductory slogan in the life and death nature of the Stanley Cup playoffs. This past Monday night was an example of these emotions all crammed into six and a half minutes of play for my absolutely beloved Boston Bruins. It took a while but the hangover and mourning has finally subsided enough for me to talk about things.
Without delving into the details of a Game 6 victory turned heart-ripping defeat, what goes around comes around in professional sports as well as in life. The Bruins were on the chopping block during the opening round of these 2013 playoffs when, after blowing a 3-1 lead in games, they found themselves ten minutes away from elimination in Game 7 against the pesky Toronto Maple Leafs. Only big game hunters Horton, Lucic, and Bergeron rescued the team from early vacations in the most stunning of miracle playoff hockey comebacks. one of those guys, Lucic, appeared to have the Black and Gold set for a deciding Game 7 to settle the fight for the greatest trophy in all of sport by scoring with six and a half minutes left in the match. Destined for victory, the Bruins wound up losing just as inexplicably as the Leafs did on that Boston night a month earlier. The better team simply won the Cup. The Blackhawks finished what they started and went wire-to-wire as every game was like Affirmed and Alydar in 1976’s Triple Crown races; one horse wanted it more and finished, while the other was gamely a half step behind.
Almost everybody’s favorite team has undergone the roller coaster ride of a win-turned-loss and losing a championship. Even the Yankees and the planet’s best closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, put their fans through it in 1996 and 2001. Live by the sword, die by the sword is an example of the irony in another cliche. For those of you old enough to remember, Hakeem Olajuwon and his high-flying, dunking teammates of Phi Slamma Jamma got beaten by a last second rim-rocker in N.C. State’s improbable 1983 NCAA Championship. The sixth attacker magic the Bruins used, came back against them in spades and made them runners up in the process.
No excuses. None! It wasn’t about injuries or coaching or gamesmanship. The Blackhawks completed every game like champions… they finished. Not much in life gives me greater joy away from my kids than the Boston Bruins. I still am proud of them all and still revel in 2011 and the positive emotion of their Stanley Cup run. Two guys who were steady in 2011 and even better in 2013 post-season play were two of my favorites; Milan Lucic was a beast every night and Chicago looked disinterested in engaging him. Adam McQuaid (#54), my boy, was a +9 for the playoffs as a third pair defensemen – it’s time he get more ice time and recognition. Way to go Quaider!
DJ Eberle, tomorrow.