Sweet Home Chicago: Blackhawks Win Stanley Cup

Sweet Home Chicago: Hawks captain Jonathan Toews lifts the Stanley Cup following the Blackhawks 2-0 home victory over the Lightning in Game 6 to capture the franchise's third Cup in six years. The first time they clinched on home ice since 1938.  AP Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/Getty Images

Sweet Home Chicago: Hawks captain Jonathan Toews lifts the Stanley Cup following the Blackhawks 2-0 home victory over the Lightning in Game 6 to capture the franchise’s third Cup in six years. The first time they clinched on home ice since 1938.
AP Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/Getty Images

For the third time in six years, the Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champions. They are officially a modern day dynasty after defeating the Lightning 2-0 in Game 6 at loud United Center where they celebrated their first Cup win on home ice in 77 years. Both 2010 and 2013 came on the road in Philadelphia and Boston. You have to go back all the way to 1938 for the last time they clinched on home ice.

Poetically, all three wins came in six games. I guess that’s the magic number for these Hawks. A team led by captain Jonathan Toews and leading scorer Patrick Kane with a core to die for featuring Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith, who fittingly scored the Cup clincher late in the second period from Kane and Brad Richards. Richards had a hand in both Hawks’ goals including Kane’s put away with 5:14 left. A play set up by the superb skating of Brandon Saad, who was the Hawks’ best forward in the series. His speed backed up the Tampa D and a great drop to Richards allowed him to dish across for Kane’s first of the series. Of course, Showtime saved his best for last recording a goal and assist after only posting one helper the first five games.

Astonishingly, the Hawks bested the Lightning in six despite only three points apiece from Kane and Toews. However, Toews factored in scoring in Game 4 and setting up Patrick Sharp in Game 5. Both identical 2-1 wins with the more experienced team shining through. Indeed, the championship mettle proved to be the difference with the Hawks holding the high powered Bolts to two goals in the last three games.

Similar to the Rangers, the Lightning didn’t score in a tight checking low scoring game. Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov played hurt and Ben Bishop somehow started with a torn groin. At least it won’t require surgery. How he played after missing the conclusion of Game 2 and sitting out Game 4 for rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy is a wonder. The amazing aspect is he played well the final two games allowing four goals on 61 shots. The only bad goal was Sharp’s in Game 5 when he came out and got run into by Victor Hedman allowing Sharp a freebie. Goaltending wasn’t the issue for Tampa. Offense was. Steven Stamkos didn’t score a goal in the series. Despite some great chances, the Lightning captain was unable to bury any past Corey Crawford including hitting a crossbar with the game still scoreless. He was snake bit.

The Bolts’ most effective line was their checking unit anchored by Craig Paquette with former Ranger Ryan Callahan and J.T. Brown. That line did a solid job throughout blanketing Toews and Kane forcing winning Stanley Cup coach Joel Quenneville to split them up with Kane going back to the second line with Richards and Saad. It worked. He had Marian Hossa play with Toews and Sharp.

A big factor in their third Cup victory was deadline acquisition Antoine Vermette. At one point, Quenneville didn’t play him earlier this postseason. But Vermette came up large scoring two game-winners including Game 5 at Tampa. He also won big faceoffs and anchored a strong third line featuring talented rookie Teuvo Teravainen and Kris Versteeg who returned to Chicago and won his second Cup. He also was part of the 2010 championship team.

The Hawks also got strong contributions from their fourth line with Andrew Shaw proving to be a royal pain in the ass. He produced 12 points during the run and did yeoman work on the forecheck with Andrew Desjardins and Marcus Kruger. They had a tremendous playoff.

There are so many great stories. None were better than Kimmo Timonen with the proud veteran defenseman of 17 years capturing the Stanley Cup in his final game. The 40-year old former All-Star who played mostly with the Predators and Flyers was given one last chance to play on a winner when Philadelphia GM Ron Hextall traded him to Chicago. Timonen overcame blood clots which cost him most of the season before returning to play 16 games for the Hawks. He didn’t play every game during the run but was needed after Michal Rozsival went down. Though Quenneville used him sparingly, it was great to see him skate the Cup with Toews doing the classy thing handing him the hardware after receiving it from commissioner Gary Bettman. You could see how much it meant to him in a emotional interview with NBC rover Pierre McGuire. What a way to go out.

Speaking of Lord Stanley, I enjoyed seeing Timonen hand off to Vermette who won’t be back with the Hawks due to unrestricted free agency. He was a rental and did the job once Quenneville trusted him. Every move they made panned out including the coach benching Crawford in their first round win in favor of hometown backup Scott Darling who got it done against the Predators. Crawford returned and won his second Cup as a starter. Following Vermette was Richards with the elder statesman winning his second Cup and first since 2004 with his former team the Lightning when he won the Conn Smythe. Richards had a impact setting up both goals to finish with 14 points (3-11-14) during the run. Kudos to him. Must feel pretty sweet.

What this Hawks championship is about is perseverance. Being able to overcome the loss of Rozsival which hurt their blueline. Quenneville leaned heavily on Keith, who was an iron man playing over 30 minutes while not missing a beat. It’s amazing to think what the former Norris winner did carrying the load while pacing all defensemen in scoring with 21 points (3-18-21). That included a beautiful winner when he jumped in off the rush taking a perfect Kane feed and followed up his own rebound past Bishop with 2:47 left in the second. Keith is a magnificent player. He took a pounding against the Ducks logging ridiculous minutes in games that went to sudden death last round. His play was outstanding and made him a unanimous selection for the Conn Smythe becoming just the ninth defenseman to win Playoff MVP. He joined elite company with Bobby Orr heading the list.

The Hawks were able to do it because of a top three that features Keith, Brent Seabrook and underrated Niklas Hjalmarsson who always draws the tough assignments. Along with ex-Devil Johnny Oduya, they logged a ton of minutes carrying the load. Quenneville rotated Timonen and Trevor van Riemsdyk in for shifts. To be able to win that way is amazing. It’s so hard especially in today’s physically taxing game. It really tells us how strong their top four is. Especially Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson who was tremendous in Game 5.

The Lightning’s best player was Victor Hedman who was all over the ice throughout. He was brilliant. His performance during the postseason was outstanding. Had they won, he might’ve beaten out Johnson for the Smythe. Hedman had four points in the Stanley Cup Final- all assists. He finished with 14 points (1-13-14) and was a team best plus-11. Swedish countryman and partner Anton Stralman was also steady throughout finishing with nine points (1-8-9) and going plus-one. It’s that top tandem along with a young nucleus featuring Stamkos, Triplets Johnson, Kucherov, Ondre Palat plus Alex Killorn, Valtteri Filppula and Bishop that should make the Bolts a strong Stanley Cup favorite next year. They’re my early pick to come out of the East. Jonathan Drouin got a taste of it and should be a bigger part.

The only thing I dislike is the coach. I find Jon Cooper to be the most obnoxious coach I’ve ever seen. He just is so arrogant. The way he handles the media is similar to John Tortorella but with more of a smugness that rubs me the wrong way. So when he admitted he’d seen many coaches discuss being on the losing side but never thought it’d be him, it just sealed it. I hope he doesn’t sleep much tonight.

As for our former players, I have nothing but admiration for them. Especially Callahan who gets crapped on by bitter fans. In the end, he had every right to do what he did getting his big payday. He didn’t owe the Rangers anything. Glen Sather had no problem overpaying Dan Girardi or Marc Staal with limited no trades. That was his choice. He sacrificed the future for two years of Martin St. Louis who at least got them close last year. Unfortunately, St. Louis has little left and is moving on. I wish him well. What Slats paid was ridiculous. No way should he have coughed up two first round picks. It’s absurd. But that’s what this GM does. He did similarly for Keith Yandle who probably will bolt the following summer.

Kudos to Richards for proving he still could be an integral part of a championship roster. Big ups to Stralman, Callahan and Brian Boyle who worked their tails off. In the end, they wound up on the better teams. So be it.

Congrats to the Hawks and their fans. They once were Cup starved with nothing since the days of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita plus Glen Hall way back in 1961. Now, they have three in six years. Pretty remarkable. Unbelievable.

That concludes a great season. It’s officially the offseason with the NHL Draft coming up. Plus your usual wild and crazy rumors such as Rick Nash to Buffalo. Sure thing Elliott Friedman. Cam Talbot to Edmonton. Perhaps. We’ll wait and see. For now, let’s just try to take a deep breath. There are awards finally getting handed out for the season. Then the much anticipated draft with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel along with some pretty significant prospects who we’ll take a look at. Then July 1. Get ready for the summer!

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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