In the 2010s, the Chicago Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups. They could have had many more Stanley Cups, including one in 2009 – Why did they fall short?
The Chicago Blackhawks had three amazing Stanley Cup runs that gave Chicago their first dynasty since Jordan’s Bulls. Every dynasty has had to go through years of challenges and failed opportunities and the Blackhawks were not immune to such a system.
To fully understand how that season went down and the position the Blackhawks were in, we need to look at the past, present, and future. That involves their history and how they came to form the lineup that won so many games and so many championships for this iconic team, while also looking at the roster that failed in 2009.
The Blackhawks were one of the worst teams in the league since 1997, making only one playoff appearance in the ten seasons before 2009, which was a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Before their playoff drought, they had a long string of success. The team made 38 playoffs in 39 seasons, won one Stanley Cup, made five Stanley Cups appearances, with one being as late as 1992, and still were a competitive team as the league expanded to more and more teams.
Chicago made the Western Conference Finals in 1995, so a drought for ten years seemed unlikely. However, it was real and very painful at a low point in 2004, as the team only won 20 games. That was tied for second-worst in the league that year.
The team gradually increased wins each year but in 2007-2008 the team shot back up to 40 wins for the first time since 2002, a lot of that success was due to their shiny new toys, or well players that is.
In 2007, their stars were Martin Havlat and Radim Vrbata, who both would be gone within the next few years. Future Blackhawk stars Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook all were young and making names for themselves.
Kane was drafted in 2007, first overall, and was somewhat of a minor league legend in the years before his NHL career. In his first season, he would win the Calder Trophy and lead the team in points with 72.
Toews was drafted third overall in 2006 by the Blackhawks and despite missing 16 games his rookie year he was able to place second on the team in goals, third in assists and overall points, and second in Calder voting to only Kane.
The team missed the playoffs with 88 points, only three behind the Nashville Predators. A huge accomplishment for a team that only won 20 games a couple of years before. However, would their quick improvement be enough to lead them to a title the next season?
The team, in general, just got better with age and was healthy. Gaining a big boost from Martin Havlat, who had only played 35 games the previous season, he led the team with 77 points. Kane and Toews both had very good seasons and Keith showed he was elite with a +33 while on the ice.
The Blackhawks shot up to 104 points and were the third-best team in the Western Conference. That led to a first-round matchup with the Calgary Flames, which they won easily in six. Then a series versus the Vancouver Canucks, which they came back from down 2-1 to win in six as well.
Their opponents in the next round were the 2008 Stanley Cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings. They would lose that series in five, but how could such a hot team lose to one that almost lost to an 8 seed?
Well first off, the Red Wings were a good team. They nearly won the Stanley Cup that year, falling to the Pittsburg Penguins in seven games. Players such as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and a future Blackhawks legend Marian Hossa leading a fantastic offense for Detroit.
They were much more experienced, whereas the Blackhawks were in their first playoffs in six years, and their first conference finals in over ten.
However, the series wasn’t a runaway.
The Blackhawks lost a couple of close games, including a game five 2-1 overtime loss that broke the heart of an eight-year-old me. That was also the first game I remember so that kind of sucks.
What the series came down to was just the Red Wings offense showing up and the Blackhawks just not. The Red Wings scored 19 goals total, including two separate games with over five goals.
The Blackhawks had a very hard time in goal, as each goalie faced a large number of shots and even with high percentages of saves, they still weren’t successful.
However, credit to the Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood as he faced a lot of shots and posted a 93.2% on saves.
This is how this series was supposed to go too. The Blackhawks were an overachieving young team who nearly made a title run and the Red Wings were a consistent veteran squad who were very good.
This loss however was for the best, as the team would have had a very hard time combatting Evengi Malkin and Sydney Crosby in the Finals. Even if that team did go on to win the whole thing that could have derailed in the next few years.
That 2010 team would not have had as much to prove and would not have been so hungry to gain another star. That could have taken Marian Hossa away, and as many know Hossa was integral in the next three cups the team won.
I also believe in everything happening for a reason and them losing to the Red Wings was just natural. Even though at the moment I thought the world was ending I now can look back at that late-night as the start of something much more beautiful than just a 2009 Stanley Cup.
Forever I will be able to look at those rosters and see superstars that helped us win so many games but also at role players formed after so many years of trying to revamp this franchise.
They weren’t far off either. The whole team was still very young when they won the championship only a year later, but the adversity they faced in 2010 would have been a whole lot harder if they hadn’t faced it in 2009.
I can look back and remember celebrating three separate times late in the night as the team I love winning as much as any team in the modern era ever has.