By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) – Here’s how you can sum up the Bruins’ run through the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It took a major miracle to extend the drive for the Cup past the first round, and it took a minor miracle for the Chicago Blackhawks to end the Bruins championship dreams.

In between, the Bruins proved they were the class of the Eastern Conference. And then when it came to the title of the most dominant team in the NHL, they were second best. There’s no reason for them to hang their heads.

There were far more positives during the Bruins’ run, starting with the 3-1 lead they grabbed on Toronto in the first round, and then the comeback for the ages against the Maple Leafs in the third period of Game 7. That they needed just nine games to eliminate the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins showed that the consecutive losses to Toronto leading up to that Game 7 were just a bump in the road.

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After sweeping the “world’s best players” and the rest of the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals, the Bruins maintained mostly the same level of play, even as their injuries (publicized and behind the scenes) piled up. The only things that changed were the caliber of the opponent, and the bounces.

Those two aspects of the game are linked. The Blackhawks were by far the best team the Bruins faced and the best team in the NHL this season. They proved that with their record-breaking start to the regular season and their .750 winning percentage in the regular season and playoffs. Teams with that much talent, when they play as well as they can, typically earn the breaks and the bounces. Thus, Dave Bolland was in the right place at the right time for the game-winning goal in Game 6 Monday.

There are two ways to look at what happened to the Maple Leafs in the first round and the Bruins against Chicago in the Cup finals. Truly, you shouldn’t look at either as a collapse but as the product of talent and determination rising to the occasion. The Bruins took the victory from the Maple Leafs just as the Blackhawks took the Cup from the Bruins.

Maybe a team can feel more pride when it pushes a series to seven games before losing. Considering all the overtimes in the Bruins-Blackhawks series, and the closeness of the total score (17-15 Chicago), the Bruins can puff their chests, once they’re healthy and awake enough, knowing they didn’t let any ounce of energy go to waste.

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There were certainly alarming issues that arose during the Cup finals for the Bruins, like the continued inability of Tyler Seguin to score, the slow play of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, and the disappearing act of Brad Marchand. But there’ll be plenty of time to tackle those issues, and analyze and solve them.

As the Blackhawks plan for their parade, their appearances on David Letterman and other celebratory events, and the Bruins get ready to clean out their lockers, it’s worth remembering that a team that was 10 minutes away from a first-round exit forced the best team in the league to play nearly perfect hockey to win the Cup.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for and also contributes to and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.


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