Rask in disbelief after ‘shocking’ Chicago comeback

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What just happened?

With 59 seconds left in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, that’s all anybody could ask.

Dave Bolland had just scored what would prove to be the Cup-winning goal.

And 17 seconds earlier, Bryan Bickell had equalized with his goalie on the bench.

Really…what just happened?

It marked one of the most impossible, improbable and incredible comebacks in Stanley Cup Final history. When the dust settled, the Blackhawks had erased a 2-1 deficit — at TD Garden, no less — and flat-out stunned the Bruins.

For confirmation, ask Tuukka Rask.

“It’s shocking,” the Bruins goalie said after the game. “Sometimes momentum builds, and that’s what happened.”

The Blackhawks became the first club to win a Stanley Cup-clinching game in regulation time by overcoming a one-goal deficit in the final two
minutes.

The Finnish netminder was then asked if there was a sense of disbelief regarding what transpired.

“Yeah, we’ve done it to somebody else,” he explained, alluding to Boston’s improbable Game 7 comeback against Toronto. “We know how it feels to be on the other side.”

It’s hard to contextualize how rare this was. Famous comebacks often occur when teams trail in games — like Toronto rallying from three games down to win the 1942 Stanley Cup Final.

Within a game, though, such dramatic rallies are far and few between.

They also rarely happen so late.

According to NHL.com, Bolland’s game-winner was the latest in regulation that the Cup-winning goal had ever been scored.

Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg was the last player to score a Cup-winning tally in the third period (7:36 mark, Game 6, 2008 Cup Final) and Calgary’s Doug Gilmour was the last to score one with less than 10 minutes remaining (11:02 mark, 1989 Cup Final).

(Before Bolland, the latest Cup-winning goal scored in regulation was by Boston’s Bill Carson in 1929 — 18:02, 3rd period.)

Thing is, this comeback wasn’t just about Bolland’s goal.

Bickell’s game-tying marker was equally dramatic, coming with Corey Crawford off for an extra attacker and the ‘Hawks 76 seconds away from going back to Chicago for Game 7.

Even the scorer himself couldn’t believe it.

“It was crazy,” Bickell said following the game. “Two minutes left, being down 2-1 — it was a roller coaster.”

Here’s more, from the NHL’s public relations department:

The Blackhawks are just the third club in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup-clinching game it had trailed in the final five minutes of regulation and the first to do so in regulation time.

In 1944, Montreal scored twice in the final five minutes of regulation to force overtime and defeated Chicago 5-4 at 9:12 of extra time on a goal by Toe Blake (Game 4). In 1951, Toronto scored at 19:28 to tie Montreal 2-2 before Bill Barilko’s Cup-winning tally at 2:53 of overtime (Game 5).

In the end, the roller coaster finished with Bolland, an improbable hero if there ever was one.

His had been a playoff to forget — missing the first round against Minnesota with an injury, a 12-game goalless slump — but he came up huge in the biggest moment, echoing a mentality shared throughout the Chicago lineup.

“We never give up as a team,” Bolland explained. “We die hard.”

NCAA standout Foo leaving school, will sign NHL deal this summer

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Spencer Foo, who racked up a whopping 62 points in 38 games this year for Union College, is forgoing his senior season to achieve his “life long dream of playing in the NHL.”

Where that dream takes place remains to be seen.

Foo, 22, won’t be back at Union in the fall, but will complete his spring term at Union and not sign with a pro organization until summer, per the Daily Gazette. The decision comes after a banner three seasons in school, capped off with a junior campaign in which he was nominated for ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and shortlisted for the Hobey Baker.

Foo has reportedly drawn interest from the Flyers. There have also been rumblings of the Oilers being in the mix — Foo is an Edmonton native — but it appears nearly every team has some level of interest. Consider this, from LA Kings Insider:

The Kings are among the teams involved in [Foo’s] courtship, and asked where the stiffest competition was coming from, I was told, “about 29 other teams.”

Foo is an undrafted free agent, so there’s no real rush for him to make a decision. Sounds like NHL teams are more than willing to wait it out.

Announcing the Hobey Hat Trick: Aston-Reese, Butcher, Vecchione

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Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, Denver’s Will Butcher, and Union’s Mike Vecchione are the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Aston-Reese, a 22-year-old forward, had 31 goals and 32 assists in 38 games this season. Undrafted, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month.

Butcher, a 22-year-old defenseman, had seven goals and 29 assists in 41 games for the Frozen Four-headed Pioneers. A fifth-round pick of the Avalanche in 2013, Butcher is still unsigned and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15. It remains to be seen if the Avs will offer him a contract, though it’s been reported they will.

Vecchione, a 24-year-old forward, had 29 goals and 34 assists in 38 games. Undrafted, he’s expected to sign with an NHL team shortly — possibly the Flyers or Wild.

Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel, and Johnny Gaudreau were the Hobey Baker winners in each of the last three years.

After 12-game absence, Boychuk back for Isles

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The New York Islanders, four points back of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and having lost their last two games, will get a huge boost tonight on the blueline.

Johnny Boychuk, who’s missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup on Thursday when the Isles take on the Flyers in Philadelphia. It’ll mark the first time the veteran defenseman has played since getting hurt back on Mar. 3.

(Boychuk draws in at the expense of Thomas Hickey, who’ll sit tonight.)

Needless to say, this is a massive addition for the Isles. Boychuk was averaging close to 21 minutes per night and had 21 points through 59 games before his injury, and led all New York defensemen in shots on goal.

The Isles are going to be an interesting team to watch down the stretch. It’s tough sledding, with five of their final seven contests being played on the road, though that’s mitigated by the fact they’re playing a bunch of teams outside of the playoff picture (Philly, New Jersey x2, Buffalo and Carolina).

McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

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Charlie McAvoy could be in the Providence Bruins’ lineup as soon as Friday against Albany.

Providence also plays Saturday and Sunday, so even if it’s not Friday, the 19-year-old defenseman is expected to get his first taste of pro hockey sometime this weekend.

Of course, the real question is when his Boston Bruins debut may occur.

“He has the attributes to be able to play NHL games right now, absolutely,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, per the Providence Journal. 

McAvoy has yet to ink an NHL contract. He’s in Providence on an amateur tryout after making the decision to leave Boston University. If he plays an NHL game this season, the first year of the three-year entry-level contract he’ll sign would be burned.

Hence, Sweeney’s desire to see McAvoy in the AHL before making any decisions.

“This gives an opportunity for him, first and foremost, to get a chance to play professional games, which is another level for him. [We’ll] evaluate from there,” said Sweeney.

It’s certainly possible, given McAvoy’s talent, that he could help the NHL Bruins right now. The bar is essentially Kevan Miller, Boston’s third-pairing defenseman on the right side. (If McAvoy were a left shot, the bar would be slightly lower, with all due respect to John-Michael Liles.)

The NHL Bruins, who’ve yet to book a playoff spot, have six games left in their regular season. They host Dallas tonight, Florida Saturday, and then they’re in Chicago Sunday.

Assuming McAvoy stays with Providence all weekend, his first real chance to get into an NHL game would be Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Stay tuned.

Read more: Bruins will leave door ajar for McAvoy