CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 to win their third Stanley Cup in six years and their first championship on home ice since 1938. The win completed a comeback from 2-1 down in the series as the Hawks fought back to win the final three games.
In the last quarter century, only Detroit, with four wins in 12 years (1997-2008) and New Jersey, three wins in nine years (1995-2003) can match Chicago’s feat.
"It doesn't feel real right now. It's unbelievable," captain Jonathan Toews said. "Feels like a dream. Every time we do it, it gets better and better. It's an amazing feeling."
The victory was keyed by another great performance by defenceman Duncan Keith, a goal and assist from Patrick Kane, and shutout goaltending from Corey Crawford.
"I'm the lucky guy that gets to work with this great character group here that's been around here three different times," enthused longtime coach Joel Quenneville.
But the stories connected with this victory are as many as the players on ice after the win who hoisted the trophy. For 40-year-old Finn Kimmo Timonen, drafted by Los Angeles in 1993, it marks the end of a remarkable career.
Indeed, it was to him that Toews first handed the Cup after raising it in triumphal celebration as he won his first Cup. Just a few days ago, he announced that he would retire after this series.
“Not too many guys get to play their last game hoisting the Cup. I remember Ray Bourque did it, maybe Dallas Drake [and Bourque] are the only guys,” Quenneville said.
Defenceman Duncan Keith was a unanimous choice as Conn Smythe Trophy winner. He added to his credentials – almost 31 minutes of ice time a game – by scoring the Cup-winning goal, taking a shot and then collecting his own rebound to snap the puck over the glove of Ben Bishop. His third Cup sits well alongside his two Olympic gold medals from 2010 and 2014.
For the 27-year-old Toews, his third win merely adds to a truly remarkable resume that includes two Olympic gold, a World Championship gold, and two World Junior golds. The youngest ever to join the Triple Gold Club, he is certain to add to his trophy case in the coming years of what continues to be a Hall of Fame career.
Marian Hossa is one of seven Hawks to have been a part of all three Cup wins (2010 and 2013). He was playing in his fifth Cup finals in eight years with three teams, a dynasty of its own incredible uniqueness.
For Team USA alumnus Patrick Kane, who scored the Cup-winning goal in 2010, it was a great game. He set up Keith for the opening goal and netted the insurance goal late in the third period. His goal marked the first time in the series when either team had a two-goal lead.
"It's special," Kane articulated. "You have to realize how fortunate you are, right? It's not something everyone is going through, not just in the game of hockey but pretty much any sport to have this opportunity to play for three in six years. We've played in a lot of meaningful hockey games. I don't want to say it's something we're accustomed to, but we're fortunate to be in these situations, and we've worked hard for it, too. It's something we all deserve.”
And what about Brad Richards? He was a member of the Lightning’s 2004 Cup win, and now, 11 years later, no longer wanted by Tampa Bay, he played a great series in defeating his old team, including two assists in tonight’s clinching game.
Niklas Hjalmarsson was a mid-round draft choice by Chicago exactly ten years ago. He has played his entire career with Chicago and is now a three-time Cup champion as well.
And at the other end of the spectrum, two rookies who enter the NHL with a bang – Teuvo Teravainen, a 20-year-old from Helsinki, and Trevor van Riemsdyk, a 23-year-old from New Jersey. For them, success comes blissfully early.
Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos was not a factor in the series, going goalless, but tonight was his best game and but for a bit of good luck, the series might well be heading back to Florida for a seventh game.
Stamkos drilled a shot off the crossbar on a partial break early in the game. But for a few inches, a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead might well have held up. Instead, the puck bounced back to the slot, and Stamkos could only head to the bench in frustration.
The Lightning was the first team to play four Original Six teams in one year, beating Detroit, Montreal, and the Rangers before losing to Chicago.
“We've got a group of young men in there, but they're kids at heart, and they're crushed. It was really hard to look at them and see how crushed they truly are,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said.
The team is young, skilled, and fast, and will surely learn from this defeat to make another challenge for the Cup in the coming years.
But for now Chicago, a city hammered by a major thunderstorm all day, the celebrations begin. As players prepare for a parade and then return to their homes around the world, they’ll be able to have their day with the Cup, in small cities in North America as well as countries throughout Europe.