Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Blackhawks seize their third Stanley Cup in six seasons
They did it under the five Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters.
They did it under the banners honoring legends Glenn Hall, Pierre Pilote, Keith Magnuson, Bobby Hull, Denis Savard, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito.
The Blackhawks did it at home.
For the first time in 77 years, the Hawks celebrated winning a Stanley Cup in Chicago after they topped the Lightning 2-0 in Game 6 on Monday night before a crowd of 22,424 delirious fans at the United Center.
Duncan Keith Jersey opened the scoring, Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist and goaltender Corey Crawford made 25 saves to help lift the Hawks to their third Cup in the last six seasons.
"This one is special because we did it in front of our fans," said Keith, who was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the postseason. "Third time winning the Cup in six years, that's unreal."
It's a feeling that never gets old, even for those who will be adding a third ring to their collections.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Once you do it once, you can't wait to do it again. It was special (Monday night) doing it in front of our own fans. The building was electric. The town had a buzz to it."
The Hawks reeled off three consecutive victories to capture the best-of-seven series 4-2 and finished the season a perfect 33-0 when leading in games after two periods.
While 2010 and '13 were amazing moments, to win it at home in front of fans who seemed intent on losing their voices from the opening notes of the national anthem until each Hawks player hoisted the Cup over his head made this one all the more cherished.
"We hadn't won it at home before; it's a great feeling," winger Marian Hossa Jersey said. "We love this city, we love the crowd, they're spoiling us every year with sellouts. We're just so happy to be able to give this back to the city and the people who love the Blackhawks."
Added captain Jonathan Toews: "We wanted it for each other (and) for the city. Winning a championship like this in your own city in some ways transcends the sport. Everyone wants to be a part of it. It's amazing. You can feel the energy."
The Lightning Jersey did not go easily in Game 6 as the Hawks had to work for every inch of ice. After a scoreless — and nervous — opening period, Keith sent the crowd into a frenzy when he scored in the waning moments of the second. The two-time Norris Trophy winner fired a long shot that Lightning goalie Ben Bishop stopped. But he yielded a rebound, and like a point guard following his shot, Keith swooped in and batted the rebound past Bishop's glove.
That set off the first chants of "We Want the Cup! We Want the Cup!" from the Hawks faithful.
They were heard again when Kane made it 2-0. With the Hawks clinging to the lead late in the third, the winger snapped a six-game goalless skid when he took a terrific cross-slot pass from Brad Richards (two assists) and fired in a one-timer from the right circle to set off a raucous celebration that lasted well into the night.
The championship continues the remarkable transformation of the franchise, which was rendered irrelevant in the Chicago sports scene just a decade ago. Then, Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman and brought in President John McDonough to change a culture.
"Our goal was to get one and try to get the franchise on the right track … and (bring) everything together and hire the right people," McDonough said. "Apparently, we have. What a reward for the city of Chicago. But we're not done. We're not done."
For Hawks players who have been with the team the longest, it's a third Cup, and the memories continue to grow.
"It's pretty special to look back at the last 10 years here in Chicago and remember what it was like seeing my parents in the stands in their own section," winger Patrick Sharp said. "Now, preseason games are sold out. We just won our third championship in six years. It's a special place to be."
With three titles in six seasons — an achievement made more remarkable in the salary-cap era — let the dynasty talk begin.
"I don't know what that means," Kane said. "We have three in six years. I know that's pretty good."