Two Cups for the Cap Crusaders
With a strong core, talk of Hawks' dynasty enters equation
The Blackhawks are the first team in the salary-cap era to win two Stanley Cups. Credit general manager Stan Bowman and an incredible core of players for that.
With their two titles, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Dave Bolland and Niklas Hjalmarsson must be considered among the greatest Hawks in the history of the franchise.
You can now add goalie Corey Crawford to that core group, so spectacular was he in the playoffs.
"It's hard to win and you have to make some changes, sort of retool a little bit," said Bowman, who had to get rid of half the team after winning in 2010 because of salary-cap reasons.
"I'm proud of everybody. It's a long road to get here, and this is sort of the culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of people."
Bowman kept the core of the team together through two first-round exits in the last two seasons, re-signed many of them to contract extensions, and was rewarded for his patience.
"I knew we had a very good team here," he said. "We do an analysis and break it down and there were so many good things that happened that you don't want to throw everything out the window.
"We were close and we found a way to get off to a great start and keep going. We really never stumbled. We had that adversity against Detroit, hung in there, and here we are."
Look at where this franchise was as recently as 2006, and look at it now. That's the year Toews fell to them at No. 3 in the draft.
The next year they won the lottery and took Kane first overall.
Those two players have changed everything to the point where the hockey world is using the word dynasty to describe the Hawks.
"The bigger the game, the bigger the setting, you know what you're going to get from Jonathan Toews," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He just knows how to play hockey.
"Whether he's productive or not, (he) absorbs a lot of big minutes from their matchup guys and he never gets outscored. His production sometimes gets criticized, but the one thing is he plays the way you want a hockey player to play."
Kane won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and said he was lucky to get it because it could have gone to several other Hawks such as Crawford or Sharp or Bryan Bickell.
Kane answered his many critics with a sensational playoff that only got better starting with Game 4 against Los Angeles in the Western Conference finals.
His play in the final two games of that series and in the Stanley Cup Final against Boston was out of this world.
Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson all got better as the playoffs proceeded as well. You almost take the three defensemen for granted they're so smooth with the puck in a puck-possession system.
The Hawks still were coming to grips late into the night Monday with how exactly they pulled off one of the most stunning comebacks in Stanley Cup Final history -- 2 goals in the last 1:16 just 17 seconds apart to wipe out a 2-1 deficit.
Bickell scored first at 18:44 on a pass from Toews with Crawford pulled for a sixth attacker. Then Bolland banged home a Johnny Oduya rebound with 59 seconds left.
"It's just the way we've done it all year, coming back from 1 goal to turn the game around," Hjalmarsson said. "Honestly, I didn't think we were going to do it. I was getting mentally prepared for Game 7, but we came up huge.
"I don't honestly know what happened there. It's just unbelievable. I was on the ice for the last goal. I was just trying to stay composed with still a minute left. I thought it was going to be tough to get 1 goal. We got 2."
Bolland called scoring the winning goal in a Stanley Cup clinching game better than sex -- almost.
"The puck went back to (Oduya), and he shot it," Bolland said. "All I knew was it was sitting in front of me, so I had to tap it in."
Quenneville thought the way the game ended was a perfect fit for the season the Hawks had. It started with a 21-0-3 run through the Western Conference and ended with winning the Stanley Cup.
"We were saying we're almost charmed the way we started the season and the way we ended," Quenneville said. "A lot of great things in between, some great challenges in this playoff series or this playoff round, and then let alone the other three.
"The resiliency of our team was in place all year long. The depth of our four lines made it such a great season and a fun team to coach. And the back end, the contribution and the goaltending combo we had with Corey running with it here in the playoffs.
"It was one of those seasons, fairy-tale ending and an amazing season."
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