Editor's note: Before the Stanley Cup Final began, RedEye and the New England Sports Network agreed that the losing city would write a column celebrating the other. Here's NESN senior assistant editor Mike Cole with his pat on the back from Boston.
The better team played better when it mattered most, and that's why the Chicago Blackhawks are running around hitting up Chicago's finest watering holes with the Stanley Cup right now.
It wasn't always necessarily clear, but after six grueling games, it's almost impossible to argue that the Hawks weren't the better team. They were, and as is often the case, the better team was the victor.
Bruins fans have made a hobby out of building hatred for not only the opposing team, but the opposing fan base. We saw it in 2011 with the Canucks. We've seen it forever with the Montreal Canadiens. However, there was no such animosity this time around.
If you're going to lose to anyone, it might as well be the Blackhawks and the city of Chicago. The Hawks handled themselves with class all series long. Sure, there was some casual chippiness here and there after the whistle, but that's going to happen, especially when there's so much at stake. But for the most part, the Blackhawks handled themselves with class, and you could tell they respected the Bruins.
As for the fans of Chicago, they're tough to hate, too. Chicago is good people. They're going to enjoy this, and they're going to bump their chests, as they should. But they all value the same types of things Bruins fans do.
Those valued qualities are the same thing that won the Cup for the Blackhawks. They were tough. They were clutch. They played as a team. It wasn't always particularly pretty, but aesthetics are often for losers (or Canucks fans). It got the job done, and when the Cup comes rolling through the streets of Chicago, that's all that's going to matter.
Joel Quenneville pushed the right buttons. He made the decision to pair Jonathan Toews and Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane together after Game 3, and the series was never the same. Corey Crawford, despite all the doubts about his leaky glove side, allowed just three goals in the final two games. With the Hawks trailing by a goal in the final minutes of Game 6 in enemy territory, the Blackhawks made plays that won themselves a Stanley Cup.
They earned it.
"But the resiliency of our team was in place all year long," Quenneville said early Tuesday morning after watching his team celebrate on the TD Garden ice. "The depth of our four lines made it such a great season and a fun team to coach as well. And the back end, the contribution and the goaltending combo we had with Corey running with it here in the playoffs. It was one of those seasons, fairytale ending and an amazing season."
The series won't soon be forgotten in Chicago or Boston, albeit for far different reasons. Here's hoping we get Round 2 in a little less than a year from now.
Mike Cole is a senior assistant editor for NESN.com.
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