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:
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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."
Six goals, two statement games and one pulled goalie later, the Blackhawks are two wins closer to reaching the Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks won their first two games of the Western Conference Final against Los Angeles by a combined score of 6-3, including a four-goal outburst in Game 2 that sent Jonathan Quick, reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, to the visitors bench in the second period. Meanwhile, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa continued to lead Chicago offensively, combining for two goals and three assists in two nights, while Michal Handzus established a career-long postseason point streak. The Blackhawks Blog's newest infograph highlights the spread of point contributions over the course of the playoffs and Quick's atypical night, as well as the team's big-game performers.
Click on the image for full-size version (PDF)
The dramatic roller-coaster ride of the Western Conference Semifinals has come to an end, and the Blackhawks were the team left standing. Not content to be dumped from the postseason by their oldest and fiercest rivals, Chicago recovered from a 3-1 series deficit to Detroit by winning Games 5, 6 and 7, despite the best efforts of Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings. The Blackhawks Blog created an overview of the series that takes a look at who controlled play, who scored and when, and which players made NHL history.
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|Blackhawks prospect Mac Carruth makes a save during the Memorial Cup Final against Halifax. (Derek Elvin)|
When three league champions and a hungry host team clash, anything can happen. Elite talent can expose even the most leak-proof defenses, and so went the Memorial Cup, where three of the nine contests reached double digits in combined goals. The WHL-champion Portland Winterhawks, with Blackhawks prospect Mac Carruth between the pipes, were the victims of two such results, losing to Halifax 7-4 in round-robin play and then falling 6-4 in the final rematch.
To get to the final game, the Winterhawks needed to shut down the high-powered London Knights, who had scored 14 goals over their first four games. The semifinal game produced plenty of scoring opportunities for both teams, but Carruth turned in his best performance of the tournament, allowing just one goal on 35 shots. The 2-1 result was the lowest-scoring game of the Memorial Cup, leaving no room for 2011 seventh-round draft pick Alex Broadhurst to add to his point totals. The New Lenox native finished the tournament with four points (1G, 3A) in five games, sharing third on the team.
If the Winterhawks wanted to reprise their shutdown performance in the title game, the QMJHL champions had other ideas. The Mooseheads put the puck past Carruth five times, then resisted Portland’s comeback attempt that made it 5-4 late in the third, adding a sixth goal with 23 seconds left and the Winterhawks net empty. Carruth finished the tournament with a 3-2 record, a 3.61 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage.