Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers and personalities remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.
Today, Adam Gretz looks back at Dave Bolland’s goal to win the Chicago Blackhawks the Stanley Cup.
This isn’t necessarily about the goal itself.
It wasn’t a highlight-reel play, or a superstar putting the puck in the net with a signature move, or even a team or player that I had any particular personal rooting interest in.
It was about the moment. The experience. And everything that came along with it and everything that followed it.
It was Game 6 the 2013 Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins, and the Stanley Cup itself was in the building.
At that point I had been writing about hockey full-time for about five years and had already attended hundreds of games for work and as a hockey fan. Regular season games, outdoor games, playoff games, and yes, several Cup Final games. One thing I had never had the opportunity to witness in person was the Stanley Cup actually being handed out.
On this night, it was a possibility as the Blackhawks and Bruins took the ice with the former holding a 3-2 series lead.
It became a reality when Dave Bolland jammed a loose puck into the back of the net with 58 seconds to play in, capping off an insane final two minutes in what is still one of the most exciting hockey games I have ever had the joy of witnessing in person.
The goal itself was the definition of an “ugly” goal.
An innocent shot from the blue line gets thrown at the net, while a third-liner crashes the crease and is in the right place at the right time to pounce on a rebound off the goal post and put it in the net.
At this point the Blackhawks’ dynasty hadn’t been born yet. They had won their first Stanley Cup (2010), but a salary cap crunch had ripped apart a lot of its depth and that first championship was followed by consecutive first-round losses (to Vancouver in 2011 and to Arizona in 2012). The potential was there, but their legacy could have still gone either way
In this particular postseason Jonathan Toews — later known for being one of the most clutch players in the league — was getting absolutely crushed for a lack of production (he scored just one goal in his first 20 playoff games), starting goalie Corey Crawford was having both his glove and blocker side brutally criticized and scrutinized, and even Patrick Kane had gone seven consecutive games at one point in the playoffs without scoring a goal.
Even with all of that the Blackhawks were still just one game away from winning another championship. It was a testament to how deep of a roster they had assembled, and just how good the entire team was that their best players could slump for so long and they could still just be a game away from a championship.
The game itself was full of scoring chances, close calls, near misses, and some great goaltending that kept it a 1-1 game for the first 53 minutes. Then, with just seven minutes to play in regulation, Milan Lucic scored to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. It was then that everyone started to prepare for what seemed to be an inevitable Game 7. It wasn’t just a possibility, it was simply going to happen. There was no way the league’s best defensive team at the time (Boston), with Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Tuukka Rask all at the height of their power as players, was going to give up that lead, in that game, in that building.
Simply. Not. Happening.
As the clock ticked away, I was doing the same thing every other writer in the press box and/or media room was doing — putting the finishing touches on an initial column on how the Bruins had forced a Game 7 and ready to submit as soon as the clock hit zero.
And then, with 1:16 to play, it all started.
Bryan Bickell tied the game for Chicago, forcing everyone to put their Game 7 plans on hold and start preparing for overtime in Game 6.
Those new plans would only last for 17 seconds.
Because that’s how long it took for Bolland to follow Bickell’s goal and score the game-winner.
There are so many things I remember about that moment. The deafening, stunned silence of TD Garden minus the emphatic cheers of the thousand or so Blackhawks fans in attendance. Bolland forgetting that there were still 58 seconds to play in regulation and throwing his stick and gloves to the ice as if he had scored an overtime goal. Me highlighting every word of the story I had written about a Bruins win and hitting the “delete” button to start over with an entirely new story. The adrenaline of rushing down to the tunnel and waiting to get on the ice to conduct player interviews for the winning team. Actually walking around on the ice while players still celebrated with the Cup. Then frantically writing a new story on the Blackhawks’ second championship (the first team to win multiple Cups in the salary cap era). Going back to my hotel at 2:30 in the morning, and staying awake for the next four hours — still trying to comprehend the insane comeback I had just witnessed — to catch an early train back home.
But the madness did not stop there.
It is incredible to look back at the sequence of events that goal and that game set into motion.
The Blackhawks as a team were now on their way to becoming a mini-dynasty.
The Bruins, just 76 seconds away from forcing a Game 7 where anything could have happened (maybe they win and become the dynasty?), ended up making Tyler Seguin their scapegoat (something they highlighted and put out there for public consumption) and traded him to Dallas in a deal they would have literally nothing to show for just a couple of years later.
The Blackhawks, facing another salary cap crunch, traded Bolland to the Toronto Maple Leafs just six days after he clinched a championship for them. He would play one injury-shortened season for them before signing a huge free agent contract with the Florida Panthers, something they may not have happened had his 2013 postseason gone the way it did.
I did not care who won the game or the series. I just wanted to experience a good series and maybe get a chance to see something cool happen.
It all delivered, and there still is not a goal that stands out to me more, even if the goal itself was relatively simple.
PREVIOUSLY ON MY FAVORITE GOAL:
• Darren McCarty shows off goal-scoring hands during 1997 Cup Final
• Alex Ovechkin scores ‘The Goal’ as a rookie
• Marek Malik’s stunning shootout winner
• Paul Henderson scores for Canada
• Mario Lemieux’s end-to-end masterpiece; Hextall scores again
• Tomas Hertl goes between-the-legs
• Borschevsky’s goal sealed with a kiss