|(Photo by Bill Smith)|
1st Star: C Drew LeBlanc, Rockford (AHL)
The Line: 2GP, 2G, 1A
LeBlanc, the 2013 Hobey Baker Award winner, tallied his first professional points over the weekend, staging a two-goal outing on Friday in Lake Erie, including the game-winner. The next night, he added his first assist as an IceHog. LeBlanc signed as a free agent out of St. Cloud State in the former WCHA.
1st Star: RW Ryan Hartman, Plymouth (OHL)
The Line: 3GP, 4G, 2A
Chicago’s 2013 first-round pick surged for six points in three games for the Plymouth Whalers last week, including a three-point night against Saginaw (2G, 1A) on Oct. 5. Hartman currently ranks first on the team and shares 17th in the Ontario Hockey League with nine points (6G, 3A) in his first seven games.
The Chicago Blackhawks presented players and executives with the 2013 Stanley Cup championship rings on Sunday evening at a lavish reception downtown JW Marriott hotel. This year's version presents a slightly more squarish shape, with tapered rubies drawing attention to the diamond-filled Indianhead logo at the center of the design. Here's how the two most recent championship rings compare:
The Stanley Cup arrived back in Chicago this morning, freshly inscribed with the names of the 2012-13 champion Blackhawks. Beginning with captain Jonathan Toews, 25 players were stamped into the silver chalice by Montreal-based engraver Louise St. Jacques. The playing roster was preceded by the names of 27 coaches, front office executives and hockey operations personnel. Included in the final list of 52 names were:
- Brandon Bollig: 25 games, five playoff appearances (the minimum requirement for the shortened season was 23 regular-season games or one Stanley Cup Final appearance)
- Sheldon Brookbank: 27 regular-season games, one playoff appearance
- Daniel Carcillo: 23 games, four playoff appearances
- Ben Smith: one regular-season game, one playoff appearance (Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final)
- Jamal Mayers: 19 regular-season games, no playoff appearances. Players and management petitioned for the 38-year-old to be included on the Cup due to his status as a veteran team leader.
Ten different goalscorers. Big tallies in all situations by team leaders (Kane, Toews, Bergeron, Lucic) and depth players alike (Kruger, Boychuk). Wide-open play and end-to-end action. And, once more, extra hockey, as the game reached overtime for the third time in the Stanley Cup Final. Game 4 had it all, including an underrated storyline: another group effort by Blackhawks blueliners, including Michal Rozsival, who was double-shifted all night; Duncan Keith, whose ice time surpassed 30 minutes for the fourth time in five games; and Brent Seabrook, whose second overtime game-winner of the postseason set a team mark.
Since 2010, the Blackhawks' chosen recreational activity on the road has been Mario Kart, the multi-player racing game featuring characters from the Mario franchise. It's a way for players to decompress and bond in between high-intensity games, allowing them to show their competitive spirit in another arena. That got the Blog wondering: Which video game character would each Blackhawks player be? Here are the results of the informal, highly unscientific poll:
If you need extra time to recover after Wednesday's marathon Game 1, don't worry, so did we. One day removed from the Blackhawks' 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins in triple overtime, and there's still plenty to talk about, including Chicago's depth once again coming through as Brandon Saad and Dave Bolland tallied their first goals of the playoffs (and not a moment too soon!), as well as the home team's domination in the shot attempt department, with just about everybody getting pucks through on Tuukka Rask. Bonus: Jaromir Jagr's longevity on display.
The Blackhawks and Bruins have both enjoyed recent success in the postseason, but have never met in a Stanley Cup Final until now. Chicago and Boston didn't cross paths during the regular season, but the two teams have forged similar paths to get to this point: The Bruins weathered a seven-game bout in the first round against Toronto, coming within 3 minutes of blowing a 3-1 series lead to their heated rivals, while the Blackhawks had to claw back from a 3-1 deficit of their own against Detroit in the second round. The squads also share potent offenses, stifling defenses, and two starting goalies playing at the top of their game. Below, the Blackhawks Blog takes a look at how Chicago and Boston match up in other areas.
There were several clutch performances that led to Thursday night's 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Worthy of mention: Bryan Bickell netting his eighth goal of the playoffs, Patrick Kane getting on the scoresheet for the first time in the series (with Bickell contributing an assist), and the Slovak connection coming through on the game-winner, with Michal Handzus finding Marian Hossa for a one-timer. But a crucial part of the Blackhawks' success in Game 4 was the team's depth—and strength—on defense, as Head Coach Joel Quenneville needed big games from his blueliners to make up for the one-game absence of Duncan Keith due to suspension. In came Sheldon Brookbank, who logged 6:20 in his first action since the end of the regular season, but it was Niklas Hjalmarsson, Michal Rozsival and Johnny Oduya who faced down the Kings' toughest customers all night. Below, the Blackhawks Blog compared the trio's ice time from the last two games:
Click on the image for full-size version (PDF).
The play, as it happened...
Scrum behind the play near the Blackhawks crease. The Kings' gruff winger, Kyle Clifford, gets tangled up with Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, and the scuffle escalates quickly. In Crawford's own words: "Their guy grabbed him and got a couple of free shots. I figured it was enough, decided to go in there and grab his head."