CHICAGO - The Chicago Blackhawks can rub shoulders with some of the greatest dynasties in hockey history after they won their third Stanley Cup in six years by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-0, on Monday to end a tightly fought six-game series.
An Original Six franchise, the Blackhawks won the Cup at home for the first time since 1938, during Franklin D. Rooseveltâs second term as president. The Blackhawks had claimed their last two Cups, in 2010 and 2013, in Game 6s as well, in Philadelphia and Boston.
Defenseman Duncan Keith, who gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead, had 21 points and played more than 700 minutes during the playoffs. He was the unanimous winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the most valuable player of the postseason.
Before Commissioner Gary Bettman awarded the captain Jonathan Toews the 35-pound Cup, he told the Blackhawks and the announced crowd of 22,424, “You have a dynasty.”
With chants of “We want the Cup” ringing in his ears, Toews said: “It doesn’t seem real. It feels like a dream.”
Though the teams were worlds apart – the Blackhawks are one of the N.H.L.’s most established teams, while the Lightning are an expansion club in one of the league’s smallest markets – the series was one of the closest in Stanley Cup finals history.
Until late in the third period of Game 6, neither team led by more than one goal. Each of the first five games was decided by one goal, and each team had 136 shots on goal during that stretch.
But Monday, with the Stanley Cup at United Center, the Blackhawks played as if they could taste the champagne that would be poured into it after the game. They dominated from the outset, outshooting the Lightning by 23-11 through two periods. They peppered goalie Ben Bishop all night. The margin of victory could have been far larger. Bishop used every inch of his 6-foot-7 frame to make 30 saves.
After a flurry of near misses – a couple of shots clanged off posts - quirky bounces and frantic goaltending, it made sense that Keith scored the first and ultimately game-winning goal, at 17 minutes 13 seconds of the second period. Keith sped into the Lightning zone, took a pass from Patrick Kane, fired a shot on goal and flipped in his own rebound past Bishop.
It was a capstone to a vintage performance by Keith. On a team stocked with stars like Toews, Kane and Marian Hossa, he more than stood out, averaging more than 30 minutes of ice time per game.
Duncan’s herculean effort, along with the goaltending of Corey Crawford, who made 25 saves for his fifth career playoff shutout, provided a backbone for the Blackhawks’ less heralded players, including Antoine Vermette, who had two game-winning goals, and Teuvo Teravainen.
It was Kane, who had not scored a goal in this series, who sealed the victory. With the Lightning struggling to mount a comeback in the third, Kane took a cross-ice pass from Brad Richards on a breakaway and pushed it into an open net to Bishop’s right at 14:46.
The goal sealed a victory that had seemed assured hours earlier in Chicago, where some standing-room tickets were being sold for $1,000. Fans lined up hours before the doors opened at United Center even as drenching rains approached and tornado warnings sounded.
Not since the titles of Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the 1990s has Chicago enjoyed so much sustained success. In addition to winning their three Stanley Cups, the Blackhawks made it to the Western Conference finals last season.
Some historians will argue that the Blackhawks’ three titles do not equal those won by dominating teams like the Canadians of the 1970s and the Islanders and the Oilers of the 1980s. But the titles won by those teams, while impressive, came before the league introduced a salary cap designed to create parity.
The last team to win back-to-back Cups was the Detroit Red Wings, in 1997 and 1998. Since then, 10 franchises have won the title.
In some ways, this yearâs finals were evidence that the salary cap had worked as designed. The Blackhawks, one of the wealthiest teams in the N.H.L., had the fifth-oldest roster, stocked with plenty of playoff experience. The Lightning, by contrast, had the third-youngest squad.
Ultimately, the battle-tested Blackhawks proved too much for the Lightning, who were trying to become the first team to beat four Original Six franchises in one postseason. Chicago slowed the highflying Lightning by limiting its defensive mistakes and seizing on turnovers.
The Blackhawks also gained steam as the series went on, wearing down the Lightning, who had to overcome injuries to Bishop and Nikita Kucherov, the second-leading scorer in the postseason, who left Game 5 with an injured shoulder. Tampa Bay played 26 playoff games, tying an N.H.L. record.
The Blackhawks are 42-14 in Games 4 through 7 of playoff series since Coach Joel Quenneville took over in 2008.
The series was notable for its lack of flash. The Lightning’s best-known star, Steven Stamkos, the second-leading scorer during the regular season, did not have a goal in the finals. Neither did Hossa.
Instead, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Teravainen excelled on offense. On defense, Quenneville relied heavily on four defenders, most notably Keith, as well as Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya.
It was Keith, though, who made the biggest difference, something that fans in Chicago are unlikely to forget.
Source: Free News Headlines Sports Blackhawks 2, Lightning 0: Chicago Blackhawks Win Stanley Cup