In their first 81 years of existence as a National Hockey League Franchise, the Chicago Blackhawks were only able to hoist the Stanley Cup Trophy three times. But since 2010, winning the Stanley Cup Championship has become a regular habit for the Blackhawks. Last night the Blackhawks finished off the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games for their third Stanley Cup Title in six years. And in the process the Blackhawks have jumped ahead of the Los Angeles Kings as far as being the team of the decade. But one of the things that made this title run so special for the Blackhawks is that they were able to clinch on their home ice at the United Center as the folks in Chicago were able to see their favorite team take it in the Windy City for the first time since 1938.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has taken the lessons that he received from his Hockey Hall of Fame father in Scotty Bowman and built a winner in Chicago. Under Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, Chicago has a core of players consisting of right winger Patrick Kane, center Jonathan Toews, goalie Corey Crawford, defenseman Duncan Keith, defenseman Brent Seabrook, left winger Patrick Sharp and right winger Marian Hossa that along with defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and center Marcus Kruger have been around for all three of the team’s Stanley Cup Championships this decade. And in the current era of the NHL where the salary cap and parity are reigning supreme, the Blackhawks have found a way to overcome the system that is in place to sway consistency.
After losing last season to the Kings in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals on their home ice, the Blackhawks never sulked and they came back to work for the 2014-2015 National Hockey League season. The Blackhawks finished the regular season with a record of 48-28-6 which was good for fourth place in the Western Conference and third place in the Central Division. But once the playoffs began you had the feeling that all of the Blackhawks previous playoff experience would come in to play. That experience and resolve allowed the Blackhawks to get past the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six games. The Blackhawks would sweep the Minnesota Wild in the second round to set up a date with the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals. The Ducks were the top team in the Western Conference this season and they felt that they had the right formula to win the Stanley Cup.
But the Blackhawks resolve and determination would be on display in Game 2 when they would defeat the Ducks in triple overtime and again in Game 4 where they would be victorious in double overtime. With the series tied at 2-2 entering Game 5, the Blackhawks found themselves trailing 3-0 early on. But Chicago would rally to cut their deficit to just one goal before the Ducks scored late in the third period. Undaunted, the Blackhawks would score a pair of late goals in regulation to force overtime. And although the Blackhawks would go on to lose Game 5, they had renewed confidence when they took the ice for Game 6 in Chicago. The Blackhawks would defeat the Ducks in Game 6 by the score of 5-2 to force a decisive Game 7 in Anaheim.
In Game 7, the Blackhawks played like they expected to win while the Ducks played as if they hoped to win which was the deciding factor. Two goals by Toews in the first period gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 advantage that they never relinquished as they went to defeat the Ducks 5-3.
And in the Stanley Cup Final, the Blackhawks would face a Lightning squad that was looking to make history as they were seeking to defeat an Original Six team of each round of the postseason.
After winning Game 1 in Tampa, the Blackhawks would lose the next two and they were faced with a must-win scenario in Game 4. The Blackhawks would be up for that challenge with a 2-1 triumph before defeating the Lightning in Tampa in Game 5 by the same margin. And when the Blackhawks took to the ice in Chicago last night for Game 6, they sensed their victory and unfortunately for the Lightning, they did as well.
After a scoreless first period that was highlighted by missed opportunities for the Blackhawks, they got it going in the second period when Keith scored on a rebound. And in the third period, Kane would clinch the Stanley Cup Championship with his 11th goal of the postseason. But in the Stanley Cup Final, you cannot forget the effort of Crawford between the pipes.
At one point during the playoffs, Quenneville benched Crawford in favor of backup goalie Scott Darling. And like a true pro, Crawford responded when he came back to the starting lineup which was highlighted by him giving up just two goals over the last three games of the Stanley Final to a Lightning team that can score with the best of them.
Chicago prides itself as being “The City of Broad Shoulders” and all of those broad shoulders will have no problem in carrying their favorite hockey team around town for the immediate future. Bowman has built a team of stars and their core will remain intact. The Blackhawks have a head coach in Quenneville that preaches winning, and more importantly he never loses his cool. Like most winning organizations, the Blackhawks don’t point fingers, they pick each other up, and they have a locker room full of guys that hate to lose more than they enjoy winning. And now that hatred for losing has allowed the Blackhawks the chance to bask in all that winning has to offer as they’ve now spoiled the hockey fans in Chicago by making their June party a regular thing.