BOSTON -- Last month it was announced Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid was a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which goes to the player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
Though the Masterton might be one of a couple trophies Crosby takes home later this month, he won't be playing for the Stanley Cup.
McQuaid, whose nomination easily could've been the highlight of his season, made sure of that, scoring the goal that put the Bruins into the Stanley Cup Final.
McQuaid, who scored one goal during the regular season, beat Pittsburgh goaltender Tomas Vokoun 5:01 into the third period in support of Tuukka Rask's 26-save shutout for a 1-0 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final at TD Garden on Friday.
After the sweep of Pittsburgh, Boston will play for the Cup for the second time in three seasons against the Chicago Blackhawks.
McQuaid has scored seven goals in four NHL seasons, and prior to this playoff year did not have one in the postseason, skating in 32 games in 2010 and 2011 (he missed last year due to injury).
"Well, it obviously feels good. It feels good to be able to contribute that way when you don't normally," McQuaid said. "But I think you look at so many great efforts we had from guys tonight. The last 10 minutes of the game, guys were all over the ice, doing whatever it took to preserve that goal. You know, Tuukka was phenomenal again for us."
McQuaid is never one to take credit. His nickname, "Darth Quaider" (given to him by teammate Andrew Ference), is a tribute to the way he plays with such a mean streak and utilizes his size (6-foot-4, 197 pounds) the best he can.
One might've thought McQuaid was some sort of droid when he was able to join the Bruins for the start of training camp and the beginning of the regular season. In September, he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which can cause lethal blood clots. He underwent two surgeries for a blood clot in his shoulder in October and had a rib and a neck muscle removed. The recovery time was expected to be three-to-four months, but he returned to the ice in December. Once the lockout ended, he skated in 32 regular-season games and had a goal, three assists and an even plus/minus rating.
"Yeah, obviously it feels great to get to this point," McQuaid said. "We have a little ways to go yet to where we want to be. But, you know, we're getting closer. Yeah, I guess personally, you know, in December I wasn't thinking too much even about playing hockey, it was just trying to get back healthy. It's definitely nice to see how things come full circle like that."
Bruins coach Claude Julien said, "He went through obviously a tough situation in the fall. To be able to come back and play with us, not only that, but score a big goal for us tonight, is certainly a big boost to his morale. Certainly he's got the players and his teammates behind him as far as being happy."
In the Bruins dressing room, McQuaid is stationed next to Zdeno Chara. The Bruins captain, who's known for his work ethic as much as for his on-ice abilities, has watched McQuaid mature into a NHL regular who has served as a third-pair defenseman on two teams that have reached the Final.
Chara is aware what a reward the game-winning goal is for McQuaid.
"It's great. Obviously he's sitting right next to me and I know how well he's preparing himself for every practice, every game," Chara said. "And to have a guy like that, really humble, quiet and playing extremely hard every game, to get a winning goal, it's great to see. You're used to seeing guys that are supposed to score, score. But when you see a guy that is not known for scoring and getting that big goal, it's twice as nice."
McQuaid doesn't have a scorer's mentality. He admitted he wasn't thinking anything when he received a pass from Brad Marchand, stepped up and fired his slap shot at the net. He said he "got pretty good wood on it."
"It's always those guys that step up at the right times, and just another example," Marchand said. "It shows our depth. Different guys step up on different nights. And [McQuaid's] the hero tonight."