Brad Marchand was a member of the Boston Bruins in 2013 when a 17-second stretch late in the third period of Game 6 of Stanley Cup Final left the 2011 champs devastated.
Leading the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 on a third-period goal by Milan Lucic, and down 3-2 in the series, the Bruins entered the final 90 seconds with a Cup-deciding Game 7 in their grasp.
And then it slipped away.
Bryan Bickell scored with 1:16 left to tie the game and Dave Bolland followed Bickell’s lead, scoring with 59 ticks remaining to end the series, crushing Boston’s dreams of two Cups in three years.
Six years later, and prior to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final where Marchand’s Bruins would take on the St. Louis Blues, Marchand was still wrestling with those demons.
“It still hurts to this day,” Marchand said. “Probably look back more on the loss and what I’d do differently than the win. You lose something like this, you’re that close, you worked that hard — it never leaves you. Hopefully, we don’t feel that again.”
The Bruins were that close and they worked that hard in 2019. But like 2013, the same result –a loss — emerged, this time in Game 7, ushering in a fresh set of heart-wrenching memories that aren’t likely to vacate any time soon.
“By far,” said Marchand, his eyes leaking, when asked if this one hurt the most after dropping a 4-1 decision to the Blues on Wednesday. “It’s a heart-breaker. It’s tough to describe. They just took our dream, our lifetime dream from us and everything we’ve worked for our entire lives. Sixty minutes away from that. You can’t describe it.”
While the Bruins never tasted last place, they had their own struggles in the infancy of the season.
Tuukka Rask got off to a poor start and things didn’t look so great around Christmas in New England.
The New Year would bring new hope, however.
It began on Jan. 1 when Bruins went into Notre Dame Stadium and ground out a 4-2 win at the 2019 Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks. That day would act as an unofficial turning point for the Bruins. The Bruins went 6-3-3 in January before an incredible 11-0-2 run in February and then passed the regular-season finish line with an 11-7-0 run as they marched into the postseason.
The second-half rally cry would prove useful experience in Round 1, where the Bruins would rebound form a 3-2 series deficit against the Toronto Maple Leafs to take that series in seven games. Round 2 required another come-from-behind, this time down 2-1 against the giant-killing Columbus Blue Jackets. Some reprieve would come in the form of a sweep in the Eastern Conference Final and then they forced a Game 7 in the Cup final after a gutsy win on the road last Sunday in St. Louis.
“I love these guys,” Marchand said. “We had a hell of a year. We came very close. I love every guy on this team. I’m very proud of everyone that worked their ass off all year to get to this point. We’re a hell of a group. We came together. We’re like a family. It hurts.”
It’s the reality of hockey’s grandest stage. One team has to lose.
And it was Boston’s turn once again.
“You never know when you’ll get that chance again,” Marchand said. “It could be the last one.”