|(Photo by Mackenzie McCluer/Chicago Blackhawks)|
Back on June 1, there were players from 27 NHL teams that wished they had their feet in the Blackhawks' skates when they battled the Los Angeles Kings in that fateful Game 7 at the United Center. While Chicago fans are disappointed in not returning to the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight season, it was a good run that came up only one shot or one goal short.
What makes hockey a great sport for fans is the fact that the game can change in a second—or, as Blackhawks fans remember from last year, the 17-second turnaround in Boston that clinched their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
There was little doubt all season that being the defending champs, especially against Central Division rivals, the Blackhawks had a target on their backs. The Western Conference has proven to be more than extremely tough, with four teams having a better regular-season record than Chicago.
Not trying to make any excuses, but when you add the short turnaround from last year, plus having 10 players in the Olympics, there were no easy games. Just ask Nashville, who took the season series after winning four of five against Chicago, but didn't make the playoffs and fired longtime coach Barry Trotz.
After winning a physical series with St.Louis, a hungry Minnesota team battled the Blackhawks after upsetting division winner Colorado. Wild Coach Mike Yeo said after losing in six games that Chicago had a greater resolve.
That resolve carried the Blackhawks as they came back from a 3-1 deficit against a resilent L.A. team, which managed to get that last lucky goal off a deflected shot in overtime. So, Blackhawks fans, don't despair, because next season the team's "One Goal" remains—to bring another Cup back to Chicago!
|ST PAUL, MN - MAY 13: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks makes a glove save of a shot by Justin Fontaine #14 of the Minnesota Wild as Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks on during the second period in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 13, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)|
Hockey players—and most fans—know that when it comes to the playoffs, you can throw the regular-season records out the window, and thus far, the current situation certainly reflects that fact. In the East, Montreal is the fourth seed and New York is fifth. Both teams did not fare well in games against the West during the regular campaign; the Canadiens were 14-12-2, and the Rangers were 14-13-1.
On the other hand, our defending champion Blackhawks had the least amount of regulation losses to Eastern Conference foes, going 19-7-6. Anaheim was the Western Conference point leader with 116, only one behind the now vanquished Boston Bruins. The Ducks went 19-8-5 vs. the East, while Los Angeles had the most wins against teams on the other side of the Mississippi, going 21-8-3.
During the regular schedule, our Blackhawks had the most trouble within its division, as opponents stepped up their game against the champions. Chicago was 1-3-1 against Colorado; 2-1-2 in matches against St. Louis and 2-3-0 against Minnesota—both of whom were knocked out of postseason contention by the Blackhawks. Against the non-playoff squads in the division, Chicago was just 1-4-0 against Nashville, but held a 4-1-0 edge over Dallas and a 3-1-0 record against Winnipeg.
Even though the Blackhawks won all three regular-season meetings with the Kings, the L.A. squad—similar to when they won the Cup in 2012—has shown their toughness in the playoffs. The Kings became only the fourth team in NHL history to rally after being down 3-0, beating San Jose to win a series. They won Game 7 on the road and again knocked off Anaheim on the road in another grueling seven-game series. With the series tied 1-1, the Blackhawks are not taking the Kings lightly, not when they have former Chicago captain and coach, Darryl Sutter, behind the bench.
The current hard salary cap has made it difficult for any team to repeat since 1998, but Chicago hopes to break that drought this year. After winning last year, the Blackhawks became the first team since 2008 to win the Cup after posting the best regular-season record. In 2010, the Hawks were third overall, and they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers—who actually shared 18th in total points. Los Angeles was ranked 13th overall in 2012 as a No. 8 seed, becoming the lowest-ranked playoff team to capture Lord Stanley's Cup.
As Head Coach Joel Quennville and others have stated, regarding the playoffs, "You win when your best players play their best!" So far that has been the case for the Blackhawks.
|Kris Versteeg has been curating the warmup music during the playoffs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images).|
If you think that the United Center's musical selection during the players' pregame warmup has taken on a little different flavor lately, your ears are not deceiving you. Throughout the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the music that plays when the Blackhawks and their opponent take the ice has been selected by honorary DJ Kris Versteeg, pulled from his personal playlist.
The Blackhawks Blog caught up with "DJ Steeger" at practice to discuss how he chooses the best pump-up tunes, his teammates' reaction and more.
After dispatching the Minnesota Wild in six games, the Blackhawks will move on to the Western Conference Final (for the fourth time in six playoff runs dating back to 2009), where their opponent will be either the Anaheim Ducks or the Los Angeles Kings. But first, the Blackhawks Blog takes one last look at the second-round series that just concluded, from the heavy minute-eaters to the men behind the masks—and last, but certainly not least, the history-making overtime heroics of Patrick "Showtime!" Kane.
The Blackhawks continued their home dominance in the 2014 playoffs by recording a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild in Game 5 of their second-round matchup. With Brandon Bollig (suspension) and Andrew Shaw (injury) out, Peter Regin made a successful Blackhawks postseason debut, earning Third Star of the Game honors as well as the Championship belt; on the blue line, Michal Rozsival was rested, allowing Sheldon Brookbank to return to the lineup. And despite allowing the first goal of the game, Chicago worked their way back through a power-play goal by Bryan Bickell—the team's first since Game 1 of the series—and a great forechecking shift by the top line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. Below, the Blackhawks Blog takes a look at four factors that led to success in Game 5.
The Blackhawks' trio of Winnipeg-born Olympians—captain Jonathan Toews, along with alternate captains Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp—made Chicago fans happy last Sunday by helping the team blow St. Louis' playoff hopes away in the crucial third period of Game 6 at the United Center.
Bolstering the solid goaltending of Corey Crawford, especially his play in the second period when the Blackhawks had to kill four consecutive minor penalties, the three Winnipeg natives contributed to the four-goal offensive explosion in the third period that broke open a 1-1 game.
One series down, three to go. The Blackhawks lost their first two games of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but took the next four from the St. Louis Blues to advance to the division finals against either Colorado or Minnesota. Chicago's triumph was driven by some big-game performances—among them a couple awards finalists in Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith—as well as a huge team effort on the defensive end. The Blackhawks Blog takes a look at how the numbers played out in this hotly contested First Round.
Bloomberg Businessweek published their analysis of the "Smartest Spenders in Sports" for 2014 and the Blackhawks sit at No. 1. All 122 franchises in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB were ranked based on how much they spent on players for every win they earned during the past five seasons.