CHAMPIONS

CT hawks-bruins55.JPGAfter nearly 2 months of grinding out every second of every shift, sacrificing blood, sweat, and broken bones, the Blackhawks can once again call themselves Stanley Cup champions. It is only fitting that they would clinch the Cup with one of the most dramatic endings to a game in Stanley Cup history. This team was presented with challenge after challenge over the course of this postseason, and they came out on top each time.

Think about everything that the Blackhawks had to overcome in these playoffs to win the Cup. They were down 3-1 in their series with Detroit and battled back to win the series in a crazy 7th game. They were without Duncan Keith in Game 4 in L.A. and found a way to win without him. In Game 1 against Boston, they were down 3-1 in the third period and scored 2 goals to tie the game before winning it in triple overtime. Even in Game 6, the Blackhawks found themselves down 2-1 with less than 2 minutes to go, and somehow scored 2 goals in 17 seconds to tie and win the game, and the Cup.

All year long, the Blackhawks have proven people wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that I did not think this team was built to win a Stanley Cup. So many times I have criticized Stan Bowman for not doing more at the trade deadline. So many times I have stated that the Blackhawks “are too small” and “not physical enough” to win the Stanley Cup. I was wrong. This team had too much heart to lose. Regardless of what challenge was thrown their way, they found a way to overcome it. Whether it was a major deficit in a series, or a relentless physical pounding from Boston, the Blackhawks battled through it all and can now call themselves champions.

This team plays like its captain. Jonathan Toews is the most competitive player in hockey 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Sixif you ask me. He does anything he can to will his team to victory. Maybe the best example of this was when he scored short handed from his knees to tie Game 7 against Vancouver in 2011 with about 2 minutes left in regulation. He never gave up on the play and wasn’t going to be denied. Last night, he displayed this same effort in the final seconds of the game.

With Boston trying to get the puck into the offensive zone, Jonathan Toews was all over the ice making plays on the puck. As the final seconds ticked away, it was Toews who was sprawled out on the ice clearing the puck back into Boston’s own end. Watch it here:

Aside from Toews’ efforts in Game 6, Duncan Keith was all over the ice as well. He played maybe his best game of the playoffs, and it paid off.

dave_bolland.jpg.size.xxlarge.promoI said coming into Game 6 that the bottom two lines for Chicago are what would win them the game, and I was right. It was the fourth line for the Blackhawks that got the winning goal with 58 seconds left in regulation. Johnny Oduya’s shot made its way to the net, and Dave Bolland knocked in the rebound for the game-winner.

While Game 6 started out in Boston’s favor, it was Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks’ penalty kill that kept them in this game. Crawford came up with number of huge saves, and the PK unit was 4-4 in killing off penalties.

This Blackhawks team should go down as one of the greatest in NHL history. They started the season by going 24 straight games without a regulation loss, and finished the season by winning the President’s Trophy with a record of 36-7-5. Yes, it was a shortened season, but this team dominated from start to finish like no one has before.

Looking forward, you can’t help but think that this could be the beginning of a dynasty. The Blackhawks already have 2 Cups in the last 4 years, and if their core can stay intact, who knows what they could do down the road.

I can’t wait to find out.

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