If Blackhawks fans ever had any doubt about where the Stanley Cup would wind up this year, they should have stuck with the oddsmakers in Vegas who labled Chicago the winner back in September. But like a Hitchcock movie, every game in the final series with Tampa Bay was tense, with twists and turns on every shot off the posts.
To win the coveted Lord Stanley, you need your top players to be their best. However, to capture 16 games over a two month stretch, your supporting cast has to step forward. Going back to the opening round against Nashville, it took the goalscoring of Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith (twice) and Brent Seabrook, plus the rookie goaltending of Scott Darling until Corey Crawford took over in Game 6, to eliminate the Predators.
The second round saw the Blackhawks take on the hottest Western Conference team, the Minnesota Wild, who eliminated the division champion St. Louis Blues. The series pattern was set in the opener when rookie Teuvo Teravainen scored his first playoff goal at the 19th minute of the second period for the game winner in a 4-3 decision on the way to a four-game sweep. Corey Crawford made at least 30 saves in every game.
The Western Conference Final had the underdog Blackhawks take on the number-one seeded Anaheim Ducks. This is where the supporting cast stepped up to save the day in overtime, twice. After losing the opener 4-1, fourth-line center Marcus Kruger tallied in the 16th minute of the third overtime -- a franchise record -- to tie the series. Crawford made a team playoff-record 60 saves. And in Game 4, after being scratched the previous game, Antoine Vermette scored the game-winner in the second OT to tie the series. After losing the fifth game, Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa registered winning goals in Games 6 and 7, respectively, to take the series.
For the Final, the spotlight swung back to the supporting cast, with Vermette getting the winner with less than 5 minutes remaining in the opener. After dropping the next two, Brandon Saad stepped up with deciding marker 6 minutes into the third period of Game 4 to tie the series. Vermette picked up his third playoff game-winner 2 minutes into the final period of Game 5 for the 3-2 series edge. Keith, Kane and Corey Crawford took over in Game 6 to end the suspense of another Stanley Cup for Chicago fans.
Even Hitchcock couldn't have written a better ending!
Jonathan Toews had a special interview after practice earlier this week, as actor Vince Vaughn stopped by the United Center to ask Captain Serious some not-so-serious questions.
From celebrating his 2010 Olympic gold medal in a crammed room to what goes through his head during the national anthem, Toews gave Vaughn the inside scoop on life as the captain. Vaughn and Toews also debated if the electrifying atmosphere of the United Center is comparable to a rock concert, and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello made a special appearance to give his expertise.
Toews had the opportunity to ask Vaughn a few questions, including his most memorable moment as a fan and what’s it like to be funny. Sounds like No. 19 might be looking for some tips!
Click here to see Bonus Content from the interview.
|(Photo courtesy Versteeg family)
The Blackhawks welcomed a new baby to the family just in time for the Stanley Cup Final! Kris and Brittany Versteeg’s baby boy, Jaxson James, was born this morning in Chicago. Jaxson weighs 7 pounds 9 ounces and is the Versteeg’s first baby. Little Jaxson will be watching a lot of hockey in the upcoming weeks as he cheers on his dad and the rest of the team to another Stanley Cup!
Congratulations, Kris and Brittany!
While players from 26 other NHL teams look on with envy at the final four while swinging golf sticks instead of hockey sticks, the tense playoff battles continue. Every hockey coach knows their best players have to be at their best in order to win. In the playoffs, goalies have to raise their level even higher because the stakes mean a lot more. But the true key to success in the postseason could rest with the players who toil on the third and fourth lines and aren't always counted on for scoring.
With the Blackhawks, that role currently falls on the shoulders of Antoine Vermette, Patrick Sharp and rookie Teuvo Teravainen, along with Marcus Kruger, Andrew Desjardins and the feisty Andrew Shaw. Their task is to make sure they keep their opponents off the scoresheet, plus typically seeing a lot of penalty kill time. Let's hope these two lines keep showing they can make the difference in these playoffs.
The Blackhawks' record for longest playoff game is now 116 minutes, capped off by Kruger's overtime winner in Game 2 in Anaheim. That game, along with Vermette' double-overtime decider in Game 4, recalls past successful extra playoff sessions.
In this year's First Round against Nashville, Duncan Keith had a double-overtime winner in the come-from-behind opener, and Brent Seabrook tallied in the first minute of the third overtime in Game 4. Andrew Shaw had a triple-overtime winner at the UC in the opener of the Stanley Cup Final against Boston on the way to the Cup in 2013.
The first Chicago Stanley Cup was won in the second extra period on April 10, 1934, when Harold "Mush" March scored for a 1-0 victory behind the goaltending of Charlie Gardiner, who tragically died two months later from a brain tumor. Before this year's Chicago overtime playoff marks, the old record was set back in 1931 in Montreal, when Cy Wentworth lit the red light nearly 54 minutes into the third overtime period.
Finally, few can forget Patrick Kane's winner four minutes into overtime in Philadelphia on June 9, 2010, for Chicago's first Stanley Cup in 49 years!
The Blackhawks have fans of all shapes, sizes and, shall we say, breeds! Here are a few of our favorite photos sent in of some furry fans cheering on the Blackhawks during the playoffs.
|Artemi Panarin skates with team Russia at the 2015 World Championships. (Getty Images)|
Artemi Panarin has had quite a successful year. From helping SKA St. Petersburg claim the Gagarin Cup to making his first World Championship appearance for Russia, he’s playing better hockey than ever before.
Panarin ranked fourth in the Kontinental Hockey League this season with a team-high 62 points, scoring 26 goals in 54 regular-season games with SKA.
The Chicago Blackhawks signed the 23-year-old winger on May 1 and are excited to add Panarin to their lineup. Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman called his offensive skills "electrifying" and thinks Panarin will make an easy transition to Chicago.
“I think when you have a skill set like he does with his ability to shoot the puck, make plays in traffic and have a great release in his shot, those things translate to whatever league you are in,” Bowman said.
“He loves to score goals, and he’s at that age where he’s played several years in the KHL and he’s looking for the next challenge.”
Panarin is currently playing a key role on Russia’s most productive line at the IIHF World Championship, scoring two goals and adding four assists in the tournament so far. Click here to read more about Panarin’s path to the KHL, his impressive season and hopes for his career in the NHL.
|Norah Nemeth dressed in her Blackhawks gear to cheer on her favorite team. (Photo courtesy of the Nemeth family)|
During the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, fans have been sending in photos of their children cheering on the Blackhawks. Here are a few of our favorites!
Each Monday, the Blackhawks Blog will highlight prospects who stood out for their minor-league, junior, college, or European teams in the previous week’s action. All prospect stats will be updated weekly throughout the 2014-15 season.
|(Brandon Anderson/Muskegon Lumberjacks)|
1st Star: RW Matheson Iacopelli, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
The Line: 3GP, 4G, 1A
Iacopelli, Chicago’s third-round draft pick in 2014, got off to a great start in the USHL playoffs, tallying four goals and one assist in Muskegon’s first three games against Youngstown, including the Game 1 overtime winner last Wednesday. Last season’s leading goal-scorer paces the league in playoff scoring so far and shares third in points. Iacopelli finished his second USHL season notched 37 points (23G, 14A) in 56 regular-season games with the Lumberjacks, who lead 2-1 in their first-round series, with Game 4 to be played on Monday evening.