June 24th wasn’t the day that the Blackhawks expected to finish off their season on, but they came out on top. The Blackhawks ran wire-to-wire as the best team in the National Hockey League, and collected their fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history, and second in the past four seasons. Even though they were the team to beat, the Blackhawks didn’t have it easy; they faced a lot of adversity to be Champions, and in honor of their victory, we count down the top three tide-turning moments of their post-season.
#3: Seabrook Completes The Comeback
The Blackhawks’ future didn’t look so hot less than a month ago, as they trailed their division rival, the Detroit Red Wings, 3-1 in their Western Conference Semi-Final series. Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard was looking sharp, the Blackhawks defense had no answer for veterans Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and the Blackhawks’ star players were getting shut down by the Detroit blue-liners.
Then the comeback started.
The Blackhawks found a spark at home in Game Five and picked the Red Wings apart, using a big push from the crowd at the Madhouse to cruise to a convincing 4-1 win. They kept the ball rolling on the road, squeaking past the Wings 4-3 and sending the series back to Chicago for an all-deciding Game Seven. The final Central Division game ever was a low scoring affair, and went right down to the wire, where Niklas Hjalmarsson shelved a wrister with four minutes left in the third to give the Blackhawks the lead. However, referee Stephen Walkom called back the goal, after a scrum by the Red Wings bench as Hjalmarsson picked up the puck. He called back the goal on grounds of ‘intent to blow the whistle’, and the city of Chicago had a near tragedy to scale of Bartman and the Cubs in 2003. Brent Seabrook had other ideas, however. Just into the first overtime, he picked up the puck on the rush after a Red Wings giveaway, walked over the blue-line, and fired a low slapshot that deflected off of Niklas Kronwall‘s skate and past Jimmy Howard. The Blackhawks re-wrote the wrong, and had punched their ticket to the Western Conference Final.
#2: Toews And Kane Reunited
The Blackhawks dethroned the Kings in five games, and it was off to the Stanley Cup Final. They didn’t have it easy; coming up against the Boston Bruins, who steamrolled their way through the last two rounds of the Eastern Conference, taking care of the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins in impressive fashion. After an overtime thriller, the Blackhawks took game one, but the series lead wouldn’t last as the Bruins took the second contest in Chicago, and the series shifted to the east coast, and to the TD Garden, for Game Three. Tuukka Rask played exceptional, and Zdeno Chara was a force defensively, as the Bruins shutout the Blackhawks 2-0, and took a 2-1 series lead. The Blackhawks were struggling for offense, and needed a win in Game Four if they had any hope of getting back into the series. Joel Quenneville made a splash at practice the next day, putting Blackhawks superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the first line together, something that Blackhawks fans were calling for.
They were not disappointed. Kane and Toews, who combined for a lone point in the three games prior, came on fire in Game Four, recording back-to-back goals, and putting together a plus-minus of +4, as the Blackhawks put six pucks behind Rask, and evened up the series once again. This continued back in Chicago, where the Hawks took the 3-2 series lead, as Toews assisted on two Patrick Kane markers, one of which was the game-winner, in a 3-1 Game Five win.
Toews and Kane returned once more to the TD Garden, and looked to finish off the Bruins and win their second Stanley cup together. Despite the Blackhawks captain being hindered with an injury that saw him miss the entire third period in Game Five, he scored the game-tying goal, and assisted on one more. Patrick Kane won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, something that would most likely not have happened if he wasn’t paired with his Canadian counterpart in Toews. There were doubts as to if they could solve Zdeno Chara, but they hammered Big Z and the rest of the Bruins defense, as the Bruins captain found himself on the ice for 10 of the last 12 Blackhawks goals. They combined for 5 goals in their last 3 games, and the top line was easily the most dynamic line throughout, ever since they were brought together.
#1: Seventeen Seconds of Glory
Late in Game Six, the Blackhawks gave up a Milan Lucic goal, and it looked like the Boston Bruins were going to send the Stanley Cup Final back to Chicago for a winner-take-all Game Seven. As the Blackhawks entered desperation mode, Corey Crawford left the net, and the Blackawks put out the heavy artillery and locked the puck in the Bruins zone. Jonathan Toews picked up the puck in the corner, drove the net, and dished the puck to Bryan Bickell, who gave the Blackhawks life and tied the game with only 1:13 left on the clock. Just as the game looked like it was going to another overtime, Dave Bolland, Marcus Kruger, and Michael Frolik took to the ice. The puck was won by the Blackhawks off the faceoff, and they got entry into the Bruins’ zone once again. The Blackhawks won a battle along the boards, and the puck went back to Johnny Oduya. Kruger tipped Oduya’s wrister and it hit the post, and Bolland was there at the side of the goal to bury the rebound, and give the Blackhawks the lead with only 58 seconds to go. 17 seconds prior to the Bolland goal, the Blackhawks looked to be out of contention. Good luck and good positioning paid off, and the Blackhawks took a lead they would never give up, as they became the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions.
It wasn’t squeaky-clean; no championship ever is. The Blackhawks had to battle to get their opportunity, and once given the chance to become Stanley Cup Champions, they took it. No player on this team went without contribution, and the dedication from day one is what brought the Stanley Cup back to Chicago.
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