The 2021 Stanley Cup Final began last night, and there are a number of former Chicago Blackhawks who are competing for hockey’s ultimate prize.
While the Blackhawks are likely still years away from a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the team will be represented in this year’s championship by a trio of former Chicago players. Past ‘Hawks will be in the lineup for both the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning.
On the back end for the Bolts is defenseman Jan Rutta. Rutta is a big-bodied defenseman who played for the Chicago Blackhawks starting in 2017 before being traded to Tampa in January 2019. His career-high in points actually came during his first season with the ‘Hawks, but despite this, he just never seemed to gel with Chicago’s system.
This hasn’t been the case lately, though, as Rutta has been a mainstay on the Tampa Bay blue line for the past few seasons and won his first Stanley Cup with them last year. Based on how I think the Final is going to play out, I’d say he looks primed to win his second Cup quite soon.
However, even though I think the Lightning will win the series, the Montreal Canadiens aren’t going away without a fight, and they have two former Hawks on their roster to help them. Forward Phillip Danault and defenseman Erik Gustafsson both used to play for Chicago, and will now attempt to bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada.
Danault was a former first-round pick of the ‘Hawks, going 26th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. However, back then the team had many prospects waiting to come up, and Danault never really found his place in the Windy City. This led to him being traded to the Habs in 2016. However, this season, in particular, saw Danault really have a fantastic year, and he has arguably been Montreal’s best two-way forward in the playoffs so far.
Gustafsson bounced around the NHL for a number of years, but spent four seasons in Chicago, his longest length of time in one city. He is a workhorse shutdown defenseman but has also shown his offense prowess at times. In 2019 he put up 60 points for the ‘Hawks, and currently leads Montreal with a +5 in the playoffs. While he isn’t likely to ever be a Norris Trophy candidate, I always appreciated the way he played the blue line, and I was sad to see him be traded away.
All three of these players have had fairly decent postseasons, and will now try to win the last four games necessary to capture hockey’s Holy Grail. It would be nice to see the Blackhawks try and build back towards a championship team, similar to both the Lightning and Canadiens. While things aren’t exactly looking great right now, it only takes one great offseason to get the team headed in the right direction.
Check out all three of these former Chicago Blackhawks players throughout the entire series. Game one was fun to watch last night and game two should be even better on Wednesday.