BOSTON (CBS) — It’s no secret that players bring their games to a different level come playoff time, and as the calendar turns from April to May and from May to June, it only rises higher and higher. So by the time Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals rolls around, the intensity on the ice is palpable in the building and even through television.
Yet somehow, in the midst of the hard-nosed chaos that is playoff hockey, Gregory Campbell managed to stand out.
Campbell was on the ice for the Penguins’ third power play of the second period when he put his body in front of a slap shot by Evgeni Malkin. Campbell did what he had wanted to, blocking the shot and preventing it from getting to Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, but he paid a price. A big one.
The gritty fourth-line center remained down on the ice in obvious pain for several seconds, but when he looked completely unable to even get up at all, it was clear this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill pain. ESPN’s Joe McDonald reported after the game that Campbell had suffered a broken leg and won’t play for the rest of this postseason.
Yet, despite the broken leg, play continued, with the Bruins unable to clear the puck out of their zone.
Campbell eventually rose to his feet, putting all his weight on one leg. He reached out his stick to break up a pass, and fearlessly stood his ground, prepared to block any more shots that might come his way.
Eventually, the Bruins were able to kill the penalty and clear the puck, with the sold-out crowd of 17,565 fans giving Campbell an ovation for his effort. As the deafening crowd chanted “Camp-bell” in unison, Campbell made his way down the tunnel to the Bruins’ locker room. He never came back, and he won’t be coming back until next season.
It was the type of extra effort that goes noticed on any team but receives a special level of appreciation on the Bruins.
“Guys really got lifted up,” said Andrew Ference. “It’s amazing what guys can do in the playoffs. … Obviously, some guys get a lot of credit for the big goals and some of the fancy plays. I’m sure everybody in this locker room and I’m sure most people — like hockey players watching on TV — will see a play like that and know how much respect that garners from people.”
“That block right there was Soupy. That’s the way he is,” said Patrice Bergeron. “He sacrifices his body always for the better of the team. Obviously we tried to rally around that and do it for him because he’s a big part of our team, on and off the ice.”
The Bruins went on to win in double overtime, courtesy of a Bergeron game-winning goal. Captain Zdeno Chara said the win was dedicated to Campbell.
“He’s a man that, he does whatever the team needs, and he’s willing to sacrifice his body,” Chara said. “It was an outstanding block by him, and you saw the rest of the time he spent on that kill, he was willing to do whatever he could on that one leg. This one is, for sure, for him.”
The NHL’s advertising slogan for the effort and intensity levels of these playoffs games is, simply, “Because it’s the Cup.” Those four words sum up why these players are willing to endure so much pain and work so hard — for the common goal of winning a championship.
To be sure, that factored into Campbell’s effort on the ice, but it wasn’t the main reason. Campbell climbed to his feet, stood on a broken leg and was willing to step in front of another shot not “Because It’s The Cup.” He did it because that’s who he is.