Hard to believe it’s been one week. Getting to celebrate the championship in my home city certainly made everything more enjoyable than it would’ve been from South-Central Indiana or even Florida. Maybe that’s why the past week has felt more like three days.
Regardless, it was one week ago tonight that the Chicago Blackhawks clinched their second Stanley Cup in four years in Boston, thanks to an improbable comeback victory in the final minute of Game 6.
Down 2-1 late in the 3rd period, all signs pointed to a decisive Game 7 back in Chicago. After all, in a classic Stanley Cup Finals series between two Original Six teams, that was the only way it was supposed to end, right?
With 76 seconds separating themselves from do-or-die Game 7, Chicagoans that viewed this playoff run all along as Cup-or-bust had every reason to fear that their team would once again come up short. As I pointed out before the Hawks’ first-round series against Minnesota, only once since 2000 had a major professional team from Chicago won a championship as the top seed.
Historical odds had been stacked against them all postseason, but the Blackhawks played like none of it mattered, and it didn’t. After easily dispatching Minnesota in five games, they promptly dropped three straight to Detroit following a Game 1 victory. History said they weren’t supposed to come back to win that series either, but they did.
Down a goal with less than two minutes left, Corey Crawford went off for an extra attacker in a last-gasp attempt to go to overtime. The Blackhawks seemed to be paving the way for another Chicago playoff choke as the fans feared. There was just no way they could come back to tie it, much less win the game, let alone in regulation.
With 1:16 left, Bryan Bickell silenced those pessimists, and along with it the Boston fans. With the game slowly slipping away, he slipped the puck under the legs of Tuukka Rask from point-blank range to tie the game on a feed from Jonathan Toews and seemingly give the Blackhawks new life in overtime–as if the series didn’t already have enough.
Just 17 seconds later, bruising forward Dave Bolland netted a Johnny Oduya shot that was deflected by Michael Frolik to give the Blackhawks the lead. Suddenly, the Bruins were on the ropes and 59 seconds away from elimination.
As if history already weren’t enough here, the 17-second span between game-tying and Cup-clinching goals was the quickest in NHL history, and Bolland’s goal at 19:01 was also the latest Cup-clinching goal in regulation.
“I still can’t believe that finish. Oh my God, we never quit,” Crawford said. “I never lost confidence. No one in our room ever did.”
As much as the fans might have lost confidence in their team, they can now relax knowing that the Blackhawks are the first franchise to win multiple Stanley Cups in the salary cap era. This one might be even sweeter for the fans than the last one as it’s only the second time since 2000 that a major professional team from Chicago has won the championship as the top seed.
The Cup-or-bust expectations consequently followed the team’s record-setting unbeaten start at 21-0-3, and by winning their fifth Stanley Cup after having a target on their backs all season long, this could be the birth of a dynasty for the Blackhawks franchise.