The Boston Bruins hit everything in sight in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, but the Chicago Blackhawks skated circles around them, winning 3-1.
For nearly six weeks, the Toronto Maple Leafs were just a memory.
How had that band of young upstarts, in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, come within 52 seconds of eliminating the Big Bad Boston Bruins? For weeks after, those frantic moments when the Bruins scrambled back to win Game 7 after being down 4-1 with 11 minutes left seemed merely a first-round hiccup.
The Bruins, after all, had found their stride since. They had roughed up the New York Rangers and then, with delicious impudence, sent the prima donnas of Pittsburgh packing in four games.
Then the Blackhawks came out for Game 5 as though coach Joel Quenneville had brandished a cattle prod in the pregame speech, and something shifted. The Blackhawks, who are quite well equipped to match the Bruins' wrecking-ball style of hockey, found a new gear – almost as though they had forgotten they had it – and the Bruins could do nothing about it.
For a moment, it looked like the Maple Leafs all over again.
There can be something mesmerizing about Bruins hockey. For a sport played mostly by big, angry boys with sticks, it can be a default mode. The crowd loves it. North American players have been raised in the Cult of Don Cherry to believe this is "real hockey." You hit me, I'll hit you. And again. And again. It is the endlessly repeating integer of Boston's Stanley Cup equation.
In truth, the real genius of Boston hockey is that it is about making opponents pay an enormous price for every goal. Often, that price is physical. Sometimes, it is mental. The Penguins, for instance, must have wondered when they were ever going to score.
But at its core, Boston hockey is mostly about fundamental hockey.