Most of the time in sports, when a team “upgrades”, it means they acquired a potential game-changing player through a trade. If you think about it, those big blockbuster player additions rarely workout in the end(cough Pittsburgh Penguins cough). The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t make a big splash at the trade deadline, and although Michal Handzus has been good, he wasn’t brought in as a huge game changing blockbuster addition, like the Penguins went for when they acquired Jarome Iginla, and Douglas Murray. Although, talent wise, the Penguins were upgraded, it never really panned out for them the way they imagined it would, as they were brutally swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Blackhawks on the other hand, were very much upgraded, and not by means of player addition, but they were upgraded through a new found hunger and determination, that can only be found from going from the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows.
During the regular season, the Blackhawks stormed right out of the gates to a record 24 game points streak to start the season, en route to winning the Presidents Trophy, for the nest record in the entire NHL. So, basically the Hawks just powered through the entire regular season to reach historic highs, and were basically on cruise control and still winning hockey games throughout the last month of the season, having already secured a comfortable playoff berth.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Hawks made short work of the Minnesota Wild, by winning the series in 5 games. Even the first game of the second round against the Detroit Red Wings seemed to come very easily to the Hawks, as they dominated throughout all 3 periods. Game 2 however, was a different story, as the Wings upset the Hawks at the United Center. This lead to the Hawks being completely outmatched by the Red Wings during the next two games in Detroit, to give the Wings a 3-1 series lead, leaving the Hawks on the brink of elimination, and a reaching the end of what would have gone down as a disappointing end to what should have been a season/post-season for the ages.
Instead, the Hawks found something in themselves on the edge of the cliff, as they stormed back from the 3-1 deficit to a historic comeback to win the series against Detroit, and advance to the Western Conference Finals to face the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Los Angeles Kings.
In what was either going to be the Hawks doom, or just an overall good series of playoff hockey, the Hawks ended up winning the series in 5 games, much quicker than anyone thought was possible. I wouldn’t go out and say the series was easy, as the Kings put up a vicious fight all the way to the end, but the Blackhawks certainly weren’t the same seeming over-confident bunch that they were, as they headed into the series against Detroit. That’s not a knock on the Hawks, as it’s simply just human nature to become over-confident to the point where you might lose some of your focus or edge, especially if you are the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks who won just about everything that they could possibly win. They never had to dig deep, and find out what they were made of, since they pretty much locked up a Central Division Championship right at the puck-drop of the season. They simply coasted through the season on their talent and chemistry to dominate the league. Once they were nearly eliminated by the Red Wings, a new Hawks team was created, one that wasn’t needed at any point during the regular season. Almost like Bruce Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk, the Hawks became this upstoppable monster that was capable of extraordinary feats, such as forcing Kings’ head coach Daryl Sutter to pull Jonathan Quick from a game.
The Hawks are lucky to have made it this far, as they have(so far anyways) avoided the curse of the President’s Trophy. The Hawks from Game 5 of the Detroit series to this point in time, as they prepare for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, against the Bruins, are an upgraded version of the regular season Juggernaut Hawks. They are now a talented team, that has found it’s soul, and they will have to keep it up, as the Bruins will be the toughest opponents they have faced, during the post-season. The Blackhawks have proved anything is possible, as they have slinced(most of) the doubters, and superstitious fans. So, stay tuned for what should be an incredible Stanley Cup Finals.