Game 7 looked like a certainty with just over a minute left in regulation of Game 6. Boston clung to a 2-1 lead over Chicago, desperately trying to keep elimination at bay. The Blackhawks delivered a crushing and shocking blow, scoring the tying goal with 1:16 to go in regulation.
Wait! There's more! As soon as overtime seemed like a certainty, Chicago put the finishing stamp on their 2013 season of excellence by scoring again 17 seconds later. Boston had no answer for Chicago's late, heroic and mostly ridiculous surge, giving the Blackhawks their second title in four years.
If you missed Chicago's insane comeback (shame on you), here's what happened.
Before we dive into Chicago's accomplishments, let's stop and think about just how exciting this Stanley Cup Final series was. From multiple overtimes to crazy comebacks and big offensive outbursts to ridiculous saves, this series had it all. If you were a neutral fan following this series you probably found yourself glued to your television, eager for more. Some may be a bit disappointed this series didn't stretch to seven games, but Chicago's method of closing the door on the 2013 season was one of the most ridiculous finishes we've seen in quite some time.
Now, time to praise the Blackhawks.
We've already discussed Chicago at length due to their regular season accomplishments. In case you forgot, Chicago maintained a 24-game point streak to start the abbreviated season. As if that wasn't enough, the Blackhawks maintained their success in the regular season and finished the year as the NHL's best team, claiming the Presidents' Trophy.
Now you can add one more piece of hardware to Chicago's 2013 campaign.
The praise stretches up and down Chicago's roster. As with any title win, it's a team effort. The Blackhawks received offensive production from a host of players and received stable goaltending when it mattered most.
Offensively, you'd expect Patrick Kane (19 points), Jonathan Toews (14 points), Patrick Sharp (16 points) and Marian Hossa (16 points) to be big contributors. For a Cup run you need more than just your stars to show up and that's exactly what happened in the case of Bryan Bickell. That's not a criticism on Bickell's game, but the forward had a playoff run to remember. In 48 regular season games Bickell scored 24 points. In 23 playoff games he nearly matched that total, scoring 17 points. No point was more important than Bickell's tying goal in Game 6.
Defensively, Chicago did just enough to get by. They weren't perfect, but they were strong when it mattered most in Game 5 and Game 6. After a Game 4 that saw the team's defense shredded multiple times, the Blackhawks made improvements and cut down on Boston's opportunities as the series concluded. Plus/minus is a vastly overrated and misused statistic, but Chicago's defenders ended the playoffs with some impressive totals. Johnny Oduya was a +12. Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson were both +10.
Goaltending was the big question mark for the Blackhawks heading into the playoffs. While there were some shaky moments, Corey Crawford got the job done. He ended the playoffs with a 16-7-2 record and a tidy 1.84 GAA and a .932 save percentage. Crawford's glove was exploited - big time - in Game 4, but he showed tremendous mental resolve and bounced back in a big way for Game 5 and Game 6.
What's the most impressive aspect of Chicago's Cup victory? It's difficult to narrow it down to just one thing, but the fact the Blackhawks were able to hoist the Cup even with a power play that was almost completely ineffective shows just how strong the club was in other aspects of the game.
With that, we can officially close the door on the 2013 season. Chicago's title is well deserved. Congratulations to the Blackhawks and their fans.
Bring on 2013-14!
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