Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Niklas Hjalmarsson (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Seven players have the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup as Chicago Blackhawks for the first time in history with a win in either Game 6 Monday night or Game 7 Wednesday night in Tampa. But they face a Lightning team intent on stopping both momentum and history.
CHICAGO – If the Chicago Blackhawks manage to win the Stanley Cup on home ice Monday night, let the debate begin about whether or not this group should be considered a dynasty. It’s certainly a debatable subject, with sentiment going to the yes side considering how difficult it is to win a championship even once in the salary cap era. To win it three times in six years, well, you’ve really got something going there.
The Blackhawks have an opportunity to win their first Stanley Cup on home ice in 77 years and, unbeknownst to many, the first time to have it presented to them on home ice in 81 years. That’s because the 1938 Blackhawks were such a rag-tag outfit that NHL president Frank Calder had the Cup delivered from Detroit to Toronto, so sure was he the Maple Leafs would beat the Blackhawks in the final. And he had good reason. The Blackhawks limped into the playoffs that year with a 14-25-9 record, losing their last three regular seasons by a combined score of 13-3. So when the Blackhawks celebrated on home ice with a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs on April 12, 1938, they did so without the guest of honor in attendance.
So all of this is rather rare for the Blackhawks. And if the Hawks do manage to win, either on home ice Monday night or in Game 7 Wednesday night in Tampa, seven players will have an opportunity that nobody has ever done wearing a Blackhawks sweater – win three Stanley Cups with an Indian head on the front of his sweater.
Six players have done it twice for Chicago – Elwin ‘Doc’ Romnes, Harold ‘Mush’ March, Paul Thompson, Johnny Gottselig, Louis Trudel and Roger Jenkins all won the Stanley Cup for the Blackhawks in 1934 and ’38. (Gottselig was the team’s public relations director when they won again in 1961, but his name is not on the Cup with that team.)
Should the Blackhawks win Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson will become the first Blackhawk players to win three Cups for the franchise. (Bryan Bickell has been with the team for all three Cups, but didn’t qualify to get his name on the first one in 2010.) Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville, with two Cups as Hawks to their credit, already have won more Cups than any GM or coach in the history of the franchise and have an opportunity to pad those totals.
As an interesting aside, should the Blackhawks win the Cup this year, Stan and his Hall of Fame father Scotty will have their names on the Stanley Cup a total of 17 times, equaling the number of times Jean Beliveau has his name on the Cup alone.
“None of that stuff is really going to help us achieve what we want to achieve,” Toews said. “That’s where our heads are at right now.”
But Toews also acknowledged earlier in the series that it’s difficult not to dream a little about what might lie ahead. But that usually lasts, oh, about a millisecond, maybe two. “There are moments where you let yourself daydream,” Toews said recently. “All of a sudden you catch yourself getting ahead of yourself. You need to snap back to right here, right now.”
In order to fulfill that dream, the Blackhawks are likely going to have to play their best game of the series in Game 6, something that actually should not be that difficult to do. Game 5 was the only game so far where the Blackhawks have played with any sort of consistency and even though they were in control for much of the game, they know they have another level of play they can reach. Since winning the Cup in 2010, the Blackhawks have become a more difficult opponent the deeper a series goes. They know they will be facing a desperate team in the Lightning, one that tends to be able to stare these kinds of situations down in the face and overcome them with regularity.
“We get into these later games where we have the chance to play these games that are more meaningful, I think that’s when we play our best,” Toews said. “I think it works out that way, not necessarily having the killer instinct, flipping a switch, playing our best hockey. We played a really good team game because it’s going to be equally their best game of the series, as well.”