An era of the Chicago way Skill­ful, swift and ever im­prov­ing, Black­hawks re­claim Cup in a tightly con­tested se­ries

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - HE­LENE EL­LIOTT

CHICAGO — From hand to hand, the Chicago Black­hawks passed the Stan­ley Cup to one another Mon­day night with prac­ticed ease, their grins split­ting the play­off beards they’d cul­ti­vated through two months and four play­off se­ries that chal­lenged them in dif­fer­ent ways. For most of them it was like greet­ing an old friend again, their third time claim­ing the Cup in six sea­sons, a tri­umph that con­firms they’re as close to a dy­nasty as the salary-capped NHL is likely to pro­duce.

“I keep say­ing I don’t re­ally know what a dy­nasty is,” right wing Pa­trick Kane said, though he can find the def­i­ni­tion by look­ing at a team pic­ture.

Ever im­prov­ing, the Black­hawks mus­tered one of their most com­plete ef­forts of the play­offs Mon­day at the United Cen­ter to record a 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Light­ning and win the Cup in six games. The run-up to their first home-ice win in their on­go­ing run — and first for the fran­chise since 1938 — re­flected who they are: skill­ful and swift, gritty but cre­ative. It surely was their most re­ward­ing, said many among the seven core play­ers who be­came three-time cham­pi­ons Mon­day.

“It’s un­real,” for­ward Mar­ian Hossa said amid the happy chaos on the ice. “I was hop­ing to get one, com­ing to Chicago, and now I’ve got three. What a feel­ing and what a great group of guys.

“To win at home, that’s what we wanted. We had a

big chal­lenge in front of us be­fore this game and we def­i­nitely wanted to do it at home, in front of our fans. It was huge.”

This Fi­nal se­ries was so close that not un­til Pa­trick Kane fin­ished off a three-ontwo rush at 14 min­utes 46 sec­onds of the third pe­riod did ei­ther team lead by more than one goal. Be­fore that, de­fense­man Dun­can Keith’s re­bound of his own shot at 17:13 of the sec­ond pe­riod was the only se­cu­rity be­tween the Black­hawks and overtime or, per­haps, a re­turn to Tampa for a sev­enth game. Keith was de­servedly voted the Conn Smythe Tro­phy as the most valu­able player in the play­offs, cap­ping a stun­ning dis­play of en­durance, ex­cel­lence and smart hockey.

Never did he com­plain about his work­load of an av­er­age of 31 min­utes 6 sec­onds’ ice time per game. If there were another game, he would have logged 30-plus min­utes again.

He didn’t have to be­cause Chicago goal­tender Corey Craw­ford, rel­e­gated to backup sta­tus three times in the first round against Nashville, stopped all 25 shots he faced. And the calm Black­hawks cap­i­tal­ized on their ex­pe­ri­ence to hold off the swift, young Light­ning.

“It’s a lot of feel­ings of hap­pi­ness,” Keith said, “but there’s some re­lief we got the job done. We can take a breath now.”

They couldn’t ex­hale un­til the fi­nal min­utes Mon­day. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos hit the cross­bar early in the first pe­riod and was stopped by Craw­ford on a break­away early in the sec­ond pe­riod; Light­ning goalie Ben Bishop, who ac­knowl­edged he suf­fered a torn groin mus­cle in Game 2 and would have taken two weeks to heal if it had hap­pened dur­ing the sea­son, con­tin­ued his coura­geous play by mak­ing 30 saves.

Stamkos was held with­out a goal in the Cup Fi­nal, a credit to the Black­hawks’ re­lent­less de­fen­sive ef­fort. He and his team­mates can learn from Chicago’s steadi­ness and con­stant im­prove­ment.

“I think I’ve seen that in­ter­view done a thou­sand times by the coach whose team didn’t win and never did I ever think I’d be the coach do­ing that in­ter­view,” Light­ning Coach Jon Cooper said. “A cou­ple things come to my mind. First of all, we’ve got a group of young men in there, but they’re kids at heart, and they’re crushed. It was re­ally hard to look at them and see how crushed they truly are.”

They will be back in the Fi­nal some day. This is the Black­hawks’ time, an era that should con­tinue through the changes they will have to make this sum­mer due to salary-cap con­sid­er­a­tions.

Still, it was the end of a distin­guished ca­reer for 40-year-old de­fense­man Kimmo Ti­mo­nen, whom the Black­hawks ac­quired just be­fore the trade dead­line. He was di­ag­nosed with blood clots in his leg and lungs last sum­mer and hadn’t played be­fore he joined the Black­hawks; when he did play he of­ten looked slow. But he worked his way back into the lineup to earn his first-ever cham­pi­onship, cry­ing on the bench when Kane’s goal clinched it and over­joyed when cap­tain Jonathan Toews handed him the Cup af­ter re­ceiv­ing it from NHL Com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman.

“I’m ready to go,” Ti­mo­nen said, “and I leave this game a Stan­ley Cup cham­pion. And I can’t ask for any more than that.”

There might be more cham­pi­onships in the Black­hawks’ fu­ture. “It feels so great. You want to keep be­ing a part of these things,” Keith said. “You don’t get these awards with­out be­ing on great teams with great play­ers and I’m just proud to be a part of this group of guys who cares so much and do what­ever it takes.”

Charles Rex Arbogast As­so­ci­ated Press

NIK­LAS HJAL­MARS­SON (4) and Jonathan Toews are part of a joy­ful scene af­ter the Black­hawks shut out the Light­ning in Game 6 and win their third Stan­ley Cup in six sea­sons.

Bruce Ben­nett As­so­ci­ated Press

LIGHT­NING GOALIE Ben Bishop def lects a shot by the Black­hawks’ An­drew Shaw. But Chicago’s Dun­can Keith and Pa­trick Kane did find the net.

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