Patrick Kane won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP, but could there have been anyone who soldiered on harder than the Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron, who played with a broken rib, torn rib cartilage and then separated his shoulder in the final game of the season?
It was an extraordinary, bordering on insane decision by Bergeron to keep playing, but probably no crazier than Jonathan Toews suiting up with a suspected concussion.
There was Marian Hossa, with a disc problem in his back, and Nathan Horton's dislocated shoulder and Tyler Seguin had something wrong with him too. On and on it went, a litany of injuries that neither side really wanted to say too much about in the aftermath of the game.
"I'd say 90 per cent of us were banging up with something," said Seguin, after the Bruins' 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks ended their spirited Stanley Cup run. "I'm sure you guys will hear more and more as time goes on after these few days. We wear so much pride on our jersey, and we fight for each other. This city deserved for us to do that, and for us to give it our all.
"No regrets. It's been a very long short year, I guess you could say."
As was this, from coach Claude Julien, who noted that the Bruins were playing for more than just themselves in these playoffs. They were Boston Strong, helping a city recover from the Boston marathon bombings back in April. At every game in these playoffs, they honoured a victim or a first responder. There seemed to be something larger at work here, as they escaped the first round miraculously over the Toronto Maple Leafs and then made quick work of everybody's favourites, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the third round.
"That's what hurts the most," said Julien. "Although we needed to focus on our team and doing what was going to be the best thing for our team to win a Stanley Cup, in the back of our minds we wanted to do it for those kind of reasons, the city of Boston, what Newtown has been through, that kind of stuff. It hit close to home, and the best way we felt we could try and cheer the area was to win a Stanley Cup.
"I think that's what's hard right now for the players. We had more reasons than just ourselves to win a Cup."
Julien did go out of his way to praise Bergeron's efforts in these playoffs. Had the series gone seven, Bergeron might not have been able to play.
"There was nothing that was going to stop this guy from getting in our lineup," said Julien. "That's why I can't speak enough about how proud I am of our players, because of things like that. He wasn't going to be denied that opportunity no matter what."
As for Kane, there was a moment in the last round against the Los Angeles Kings when his confidence was flagging badly. He faced wave after wave of reporters, all wanting to know the same thing. What happened to his scoring touch? Kane had been mired in an eight-game goal-scoring drought and it just wasn't happening for him around the net.
He watched video tape and talked matters over with his father and ultimately, in the next time, tapped in a puck that might have gone in anyway. Kane apologized afterward for stealing it away from Bryan Bickell.
But then Kane did what goal-scorers do and he went on a roll and seven goals in the next seven games won him the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoffs MVP Monday, after the Blackhawks won a 3-2 decision over the Boston Bruins to win the best-of-seven series four games to two.
Kane noted that any number of players on the Blackhawks could have won the award and he was right on that count. From Jonathan Toews to Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith to Brent Seabrook, the Blackhawks were a team that really exceeded the sum of their individual parts.
"You're playing with two great players with Toews and (Bryan) Bickell, they made hockey really easy the past couple weeks for me," said Kane. "We actually came up with a name for myself this morning, calling me the 'Benefish', for being the beneficiary of all their hard work. I had a couple chances to finish and ended up doing that, so got to give them the credit."
Kane was part of the Blackhawks team that won the Stanley Cup in 2010 but then was largely dismantled because of salary-cap issues. He is hoping the same thing doesn't happen to this group. Bickell, who'd been playing with a knee sprain, is set to become an unrestricted free agent this off-season after a strong playoff for Chicago.
"I think there's something about our core – hopefully we can stay together a long time, because that's two Cups in four years, and we seem to only be getting better and better as players as time goes on here," said Kane.