The Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup for the second time in four years! Six months ago I was just desperate to get hockey back from a lockout – I could care less who would win the Cup, I just wanted hockey back, clinging to videos such as this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWQs3O_IDas and pretending like it would make a difference in getting it back. Especially in a time when wrestling was really boring me in the fall of 2012, the lack of hockey was a killer.
When they announced that the lockout was finally over (Yes, I know exactly where I was when it happened. It’s one of those kinds of deals), I decided to take the season as a bit of a gift and just enjoy the season for what it was, and just enjoy any hockey I got to watch. It was a shortened season after all – the common thought passed around was – Meh, whoever won the Cup wins it in a shortened season. Then the season started.
Going into the season, whether it had started in October like a normal season, or in January like it did this year, I don’t believe anyone would’ve predicted how the season began. (Well, if it had started in October, that probably would not have happened). There were many questions about the Blackhawks after a second straight first round exit. Mainly goaltending, warranted or not. People like to forget how amazing Corey Crawford was against the Canucks in the 2010-2011 playoffs, and instead just loved to blame him for the loss to the Coyotes in 2012. It’s easy for people to blame everything on the goalie and not on the other problems, which were in fact all more of a factor than the goalie. And considering how the Hawks had changed very little in the offseason to the team in terms of free agency, I expected more of the same going into the season. And again, then the season started.
The Blackhawks had the pleasure of starting the season in Los Angeles, the home of the 2012 Cup Champions L.A. Kings, and watched as they raised the banner. Then they beat the Kings 5-2. Naturally, like in many times past, the Kings had their celebration spoiled, as have many teams in similar situations in the past. And the Hawks won the first game of the season for the first time in at least six seasons.
They’d go on to win the next game against the Coyotes 6-4, defeating the team that eliminated them from the playoffs. And then, the Blues, who were the team expected to win the division going into the season, mainly because of their great defense. Yes, the great defense that allowed a 3-0 rush to the Hawks that led to the Hawks opening goal. #ThreeOnZeroMeansThreeAndZero The Hawks had gotten off to a nice start of 3-0, which I was quite happy about – then came along a team that the Hawks have had trouble with in the past, the Dallas Stars. And the game went about how a normal game with the Stars went – the Hawks went down 2-0, but managed to battle back and tie the game, followed by an amazing goal from Hossa to win the game. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vziq3_gxrlc
They’d go on to win another two games before suffering their first “defeat” to the Minnesota Wild, in a 3-2 shootout loss. And, much like how shootout wins/losses mean nothing in terms of what team is better, the Hawks remained undefeated in regulation. The Hawks would lose the next game in a shootout in Vancouver when Quenneville decided that Nick Leddy was a proper pick to put in the third spot of the shootout when Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, and practically the rest of the team existed. And what looked like it would be the Hawks first true defeat against the Calgary Flames, where they were completely outplayed and saved by goalie Ray Emery’s amazing performance (offhand I think it was 41 saves), and a last second goal by Marian Hossa to tie the game after the Flames had made it 2-1 around forty seconds before.
The next game against the Sharks was also very tough, and it looked again like that would be the end of the streak when the Sharks went up 2-0 early, and then 3-1 after Brandon Saad had gotten one back. But the Hawks fought back and tied the game shortly thereafter before the period had ended. Then this amazing goal happened, which I don’t hear talked about nearly enough: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGZTraE1n1Q #ToewsIsTheBestInTheWorld
After another deserved 6-2 whipping of the Coyotes, where the only problem with the game was that Raffi Torres managed to score in the last two minutes, the Hawks got their first shutout since the 2010-11 season against the Predators, one of six on the season.
No Red Wings, you will NOT end the streak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnzxdSDBYhU
After another shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks, a team that became the bane of the Hawks season (0-1-2 in three games vs. the Ducks), the Hawks went 21-0-3 in the first half of the season. Half of the season without a loss, breaking the Ducks’ record of 16 straight games without a loss by eight, the last of which happened with a last minute Dan Carcillo goal to win the game. The Hawks also got their first ever franchise 10 game winning streak, and goalie Ray Emery became the first goalie to go 10-0-0 in NHL history. (Oh, and he’s the backup.) The start broke records, and while they didn’t break the final record possible of 35 straight games with at least a point, set by the Flyers in 1979-80, the Hawks were somehow BOTH A) Mentioned on ESPN, a network about sports that never mentions anything about actual sports because you’d need to do what the Hawks did to even get a brief mention, and B) get on the cover of Sports Illustrated in March.
This all led to what I like to call the EPIC BLACKHAWKS BANDWAGON OF DOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM^TM. The bandwagon was getting so big that there were newbies from 2010 calling people bandwagoners. #ProudFanSinceIKnewWhatHockeyWas
Then, the Hawks lost. Shocking, I know. And the bandwagon ran into a wall, ESPN forgot about hockey again, and fans were “let down.” The people who were let down were the people who actually thought it was possible to go the entire season without a loss. For more on that: https://www.facebook.com/notes/marc-schoeneman/21-1-3/10151360497027914
Yes, they then went on to lose to Edmonton the following game, which of course was the one game I got to go to all season, but that was no surprise considering Edmonton gave the Hawks the same kind of trouble that the Avalanche gave them the year before. Both had in fact played the Hawks during the streak and were close to winning those games as well. More on why they played the Hawks so well later.
The streak was an incredible accomplishment, but when it comes down to things, only the Stanley Cup matters. The streak did teach the Hawks how to play in big game environments, though, as the longer it got, the more each game got to be like a game 7 with every team wanting to end it.
The highlights of the rest of the season were an 8-1 whipping of the Stars, a 7-1 whipping of the Red Wings, sweeping season series with the Red Wings, and ultimately winning the President’s Trophy for having the best record in the league at the end of the season, after a closely trailing Anaheim Ducks slowed a bit during March/April, and the Pittsburgh Penguins slowing in April.
It worked!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hcxga24dJBI
The lowlights being a 5-4 loss to the Kings, a 3-1 loss to the Canucks, a shootout loss to the Coyotes, and having to play the Predators four times in seventeen days, despite beating them all four times. #FuckThePreds
Going into the playoffs, I still had my doubts that the Hawks would actually win the Stanley Cup. It was certainly possible, given the right opponents, but there were still questions. On the one hand, I wasn’t sure how the Hawks were going to get through the Ducks, assuming we were to face them. I assumed it was a given, considering the only reason the Ducks weren’t the hottest story in hockey to start the season was because of the Hawks. We lost to them all three times, despite it being via shootout twice. Then there were the Penguins, who were snatching up every captain they could by getting Stars captain Brendan Morrow, and most notably, Flames captain, Jarome Iginla. If we had lost to the Penguins, I could take solace that Iginla would get a Cup, because he deserves a ring.
That, and I was well aware of not only the Hawks’ strengths, but also their weaknesses. I knew them from the kinds of games the Hawks lost. The first two to Colorado and Edmonton, the 5-4 loss to the Kings, the shootout loss to the Coyotes, the 3-1 loss to the Canucks, and a shootout loss to the Blues.These were all physical games, the ones where they have to dump and chase the puck. This is the kind of game that the Hawks have been losing this season, and the past two. And that’s the kind of game you need to be good at to win in the playoffs. We couldn’t do it last year and that’s the exact reason we lost to the Coyotes. It wasn’t Crawford. Let’s make that clear.
You can blame goalies all you want. It’s the easy thing to do. All goalies have bad games. Not everyone’s going to stop every puck. They will all have games where they can’t stop a beach ball. Or in Luongo’s case, a bus. Or Bryzgalov’s. #HisFiveHoleIsHumongousBig It’s the fact that they are NOT a physical team. They lost the players that excelled at this in 2010, but the Andrew Ladd’s and Dustin Byfuglien’s of the world aren’t just going to spawn on your bench when you need them. You have to go out there and get the puck. Faceoffs were also a problem this year.
And this is the exact reason the power play has also been terrible. The problem was not the power play itself – the passing around and the shooting was just fine. The problems were faceoffs and not being able to enter the zone – they’d lose the first faceoff and never be able to get into the zone, except for numerous last second Nick-Leddy-Brings-Puck-In-By-Himself-For-One-Shot-And-Misses^TM that happened each time. People seem to forget the Hawks’ Power Play has always sucked. The fact that it was terrible should come as no surprise. It’s been terrible every year since at least 2009, outside of the 2010-11 season, but look how wonderful that team was. Don’t forget the 2010 Cup Winning Team only had one Power Play move, and that was the back door pass, and once a team knew that, it was done.
So, there were still many questions about whether the Hawks would win the Cup, or if they’d be just another President’s Trophy winner that failed. (Half the time they lose in the first round.)
My personal theme for the playoffs this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8MwGCA15gg
The Blackhawks’ first series was against the Minnesota Wild. A series in which the Wild kept getting their own goalies injured. Their starting goalie Niklas Backstrom was injured during warmups of game 1 and never played during the series, forcing the backup Josh Harding to play the series. And he played well enough. Game 1 was a close game, tied at 1 going to OT until this happened: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3-D5BQccB0 #PatFoleyShouldCommentateAllGames The series was tougher than it should’ve been, as the Hawks struggled through the games even though they won the series in 5 games, with a 5-2 win in game 2, a 3-0 shutout in game four (which was on my birthday, and they’re undefeated on it in recent years), and a 5-1 win in game 5. Harding was also injured in game 4, so plan C, Darcy Kuemper, had to play for the rest of the game.
The highlights of the rest of the first round:
1) The San Jose Sharks sweeping the Vancouver Canucks, because the Canucks yet again proved to be undisciplined assholes and took tons of penalties. It also led to all of the idiot Canuck fans to continue their conspiracy theory that the league keeps trying to make them lose. (If the Canucks don’t win the Cup, it’s because the league screwed them. If they were to win the Cup, they’d be all “OMG WERE SO MUCH BETTER THAN EVERYONE!!!”) I guess they don’t realize that the refs suddenly saw all of the things their team was doing in the playoffs unlike any other times. And then their coach was fired, and now they’ve got John Tortorella, so that will lead to some comedy.
2) The New York Islanders put up a good fight against the Penguins, but failed.
3) The Toronto Maple Leafs fought back against the Boston Bruins, forcing a game 7 after being down 3-1, then got a 4-1 lead on the Bruins with ten to go. Then they lost in OT. I was so dejected, because the Maple Leafs are my third favorite team, and I was excited that they made the playoffs for the first time in years, and they almost did it. I was especially happy for a Maple Leafs fan/Vlogger I’ve been watching on Youtube for three years, Steve Dangle. #TheresASharkOnHisBed I was legitimately depressed by this loss.
4) The Red Wings beat the Ducks, so while the Hawks didn’t have to worry about the Ducks anymore, the Hawks had to play the Wings, which I didn’t want. I wanted to play the Sharks, my second favorite team, so even if the Hawks had lost, I’d have still had a team to root for. Yes, even though resident NHL douchebag Raffi Torres was on the Sharks at the time, I would still root for them over Pittsburgh winning the Cup. It came down to the assumption that, had the Sharks made the finals, and presumably the Penguins, it would be a team I love with one guy I despise against a team I hate with one guy I like. The former wins. There are just too many people I like on the Sharks. (Adam Burish, Martin Havlat, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Antti Niemi)
The second round proved why I did NOT want to play the Red Wings. Not because of the team itself, but because of their fans. It seemed to be okay, as the Hawks got a 4-1 win in game 1. But then they lost 4-1 in game 2, with probably their worst effort in the playoffs. Going back to Detroit for game 3, the Hawks ended up going down by two halfway through the second, then got one goal on a Kane breakaway, then got a potential tying goal waived off due to a completely bullshit goalie interference call. Instead of being tied, they ended up being down by two again after Datsyuk scored what was called a “sick” goal when in reality it was just a wrist shot and not spectacular in the slightest. And game four was basically a 1-0 shutout thanks to Howard, and some bullshit penalties given to Toews.
We were down 3-1, and I was raging. But it was exactly what I had expected out of the playoffs. I was all ready to write a eulogy of the Hawks on facebook that night, calling it “Do I Have Everybody’s Attention Now?” with the following clip in it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpMtuF_mTyg and bashing everybody for being all disappointed with the Hawks all over facebook and twitter for not seeing this coming. Then facebook failed somehow when I was halfway through, making me leave the page, and the note was gone. It was like it knew.
The theme for the rest of this series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RidsxnnVTR4
The Hawks came back with a 4-1 game 5 win, after finally scoring on the power play twice because they *Gasp* won the faceoff and kept it in the zone, and one from Toews who hadn’t scored in the playoffs yet. After another PPG to open up game 6 by Hossa, the Wings came back to tie it, and then got what a lot of people for some reason called a soft goal to take a 2-1 lead, until the Hawks tied the game two minutes into the third, then took the lead minutes later after Bickell scored, and Frolik scored on a penalty shot. There have been two successful Blackhawks penalty shots in the playoffs. Frolik scored both of them. So alas, there was a game 7. Game 7 was nerve-wracking, as I could barely not be nauseous until the Hawks scored the first goal, until the Wings tied it immediately in the third. The Hawks then played like they wanted to lose for fifteen minutes before Hjalmarrson scored with a couple minutes left, only for it to be waived off because a referee decided to call a couple of penalties far away from the play and no one heard the whistle. And the referee still has a job. I’m sure the Shield found him in the parking lot, though. #BelieveInTheShield #HoundsOfJustice It’s okay, because this happened: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1cVmhPlmBM
The Hawks came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series 4-3. I could return to NHL Memes, even though I took a hiatus from there again like two days later. The Hawks removed the Red Wings from the playoffs, and the conference.
This is the series where the power play became everyone’s issue. The Red Wings were getting away with A LOT of things, because they knew that they could. The power play HAS to be a threat so they will think twice about getting penalties. Thankfully our penalty kill was infinitely better than last season’s so the opposing team’s PP was often irrelevant, so special teams were a wash. #FuckJustinAbdelkader
The rest of the second round highlights:
1) The Los Angeles Kings beat the Sharks in a series where the home team always won, proving yet again that a game 7 should happen in a different location if that’s the case.
2) The Penguins beat the Senators, because duh.
3) The Bruins took out the New York Rangers, proving you still can’t buy a team. John Tortorella was fired and replaced by Alain Vigneault, so the Rangers and Canucks have successfully traded coaches.
So now, the playoffs had reached the final four teams. And it wasn’t just any final four – the final four teams were all of the last four teams to win the Stanley Cup – the Penguins in 2009, the Blackhawks in 2010, the Bruins in 2011, and the Kings in 2012. #TournamentOfChampions This had only happened one other time in history, but it was in 1941 when there was only six teams, so it was a hell of a lot easier to do. Also, I feel like in a shortened season, this is the perfect final four.
The Hawks had a very tough outlook from hereon in. They had the Kings, and the expected Penguins. And the Kings were a huge threat. If the Hawks were going to play the Kings like they played the Red Wings through game four, they’d be done.
Instead, they played the best games they had all playoffs in games 1 and 2, leading to a 2-0 series lead, and even getting Jonathan Quick pulled in game 2. This was mainly due to Toews, Kane, and Bickell being put on a line together. (Bickell plays great in the playoffs). I would’ve never expected the way the series started. Then they lost game three in a not so great effort, only highlighted by Duncan Keith accidentally hitting Jeff Carter in the face with a stick (He was trying to get his hand), and getting a bullshit suspension. If a high stick is a suspension, then ALL high sticks are suspensions. They aren’t. Contradiction. This was not a suspension. Q.E.D. Pretty soon Too Many Men and Delay of Games will be suspendable. #SlipperySlope The Hawks fought hard in game four to be the first team to defeat the Kings at home in the playoffs, which was well deserved considering their arena encourages chanting goalie names – the sign of a true bandwagoner who knows nothing about hockey and thinks they’re legally allowed to make themselves a part of the game. Also the kinds of fans who boo every time their player falls down and a penalty isn’t called. It gets to the point where, if everyone was in the offensive zone, and they saw their goalie randomly fall in the defensive zone where he was all alone, they’d still boo and expect a goaltender interference penalty. These kinds of fans need to GTFO. Oh, and we did that all without our best defenseman.
On a tangent, you have no idea how many times I’ve heard of Hawks fans bitching since the Hawks are being outhit. The Hawks could be winning by seven, but fans will STILL bitch if we’re not outhitting our opponent. EVERYONE OUTHITS US. THE HAWKS ARE NOT A PHYSICAL TEAM. IF THE HAWKS WERE TO OUTHIT THE OPPOSING TEAM, THEY’D LOSE THE GAME. DECIDE WHICH YOU’D RATHER HAVE. Also, would you like to know why they’re being outhit? IT’S BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE PUCK! If you have the puck, you get outhit. It’s how it is.
The Hawks got onto Sports Illustrated again:
And to top the series, the Hawks went up 2-0 in game five, only to have the game tied, but they got the lead back at 3-2 off a second goal by Kane (Kings fans are still wondering where the penalty on Bickell was even though he got the stick in the arm and dove) Then the Kings tied it with 17 seconds left. FUH. Two overtimes later: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9n2lWE5bAE
Patrick Kane with the hat trick goal to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. My favorite part of that video is at two seconds, when Toews gets the puck, you can hear someone in the crowd scream “AWW FUCK” really loudly. Fun fact: Kane’s first playoff hat trick was against the Canucks in 2009, and it’s the only playoff game I’ve ever gone to.
Meanwhile, Boston swept the Penguins. Well, fuck. Didn’t see that coming. No one did. But they did it by pissing the Penguins off to the point of it costing them game one, then poor goaltending in game 2 gave the Bruins a 2-0 series lead. Oh, and it was a series lead going BACK to Boston. Series over. This proves that you can’t trade for a team either.
It was around the Conference Finals that the NBC commentators became very fucking annoying. When we were playing the Kings, everything was about how fucking amazing the Kings were. And the finals were all about how fucking amazing the Bruins are. Excuse me, best team in the league over here! I swear this league has some kind of eastern conference bias when the eastern conference only has three good teams! And that was really only one good team and two mediocre teams! The Western Conference is the tough one, are you guys blind? Ten good teams! And even the Avs beat the Hawks! DUH!
So, the finals were set for the Hawks vs. the Bruins. And I’ll be honest, had we lost to the Bruins, it would’ve been the only way I would’ve been disappointed. If they could beat the Kings, they should be able to beat anyone. Maybe not the Penguins, but really, still the Penguins. If you go up a definite lesser team and lose in the finals, it would’ve been disappointing.
And really, there was no reason why they shouldn’t win. The Bruins were in fact a lot like the Kings, only the Kings had a better goalie. And there were so many parallels to this Finals to both the Hawks’ Cup Win and the Bruins’ Cup Win. The Hawks were playing a proverbial “Team of Destiny.” The Bruins were playing the President’s Trophy winners. There were other parallels but they weren’t actually relevant. Either way, the Hawks should be able to beat the Bruins considering they beat the Kings. Unfortunately they then put Brandon Bollig in the lineup, which basically announced that they were going to play the Bruins’ game. And you can’t out-Bruins the Bruins.
Game 1 was basically two games. The Hawks went down 2-0, then got one back before letting up a third goal, only for the game to be tied within ten minutes after the Hawks woke up. And then after two full OT’s and another half filled with so many Bruins chances that somehow didn’t pay off, this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTCXwsvQOng One game to the Hawks.
Before game 2, it was announced that Toews won the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward. It’s about damn time. #MVP
Game two, the Hawks played amazingly for one period and only ended up with one goal. The Bruins tied the game and won in OT after the Hawks had nothing left. Bollig was out, Stalberg was in. But Hossa didn’t play game 3. And the Hawks were shutout 2-0. (Not because Hossa was out.)
Down 2-1, game 4 was the deciding factor if the Hawks had a chance. With everyone playing and Toews, Kane, and Bickell reunited, game four was ridiculous. A Shorthanded goal for the Hawks was matched for a PPG for the Bruins. Then, the Hawks broke through for two goals, one from Toews and one from Kane. The Bruins got one back before Marcus Kruger scored an amazing goal to get the two goal lead back. Well, that was until a ridiculously lucky goal for the Bruins made it four three, after the puck hit the boards, then the top of the net, and got back on the ice in the crease for the Bruins to tap it in. No one remembers that the puck hit Marchand’s high stick and the play should’ve been called dead when the goal scorer touched the puck. The Bruins tied it up in the third, until Sharp scored on the Power Play *Gasp*, only for the Bruins to tie it up AGAIN fifty seconds later. %&*^**((&^*(()!!!! FUH!! OT. Seabrook gets the OT winner, because he’s good at OT winners, and it’s 2-2 going back to Chicago.
I love how everyone became critical of Crawford letting in five when Rask let in six.
Game 5 was good, and Kane got two huge goals such that the Hawks were up 2-0 until Chara scored in the third. It didn’t matter after Bolland got an empty net goal, and the Hawks were one game away.
The Hawks and Bruins have both been in this situation before. Hawks up 3-2 in the Finals, the Bruins down 3-2 at home. The Hawks won their game 6. The Bruins came back to win it in 7. But the Hawks are NOT the Canucks.
The Bruins went up a goal in period one, when it could’ve easily been 4. Then Toews tied the game on a huge goal which was basically shorthanded. The Bruins scored with seven left in the third. And with two minutes left, it looked like a game 7. And then, this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-h46vxck4g
Fifty seconds later, the Blackhawks are the Stanley Cup Champions for the second time in four seasons! WOOO! Now everyone knows why I have a Dave Bolland jersey – especially after many were critical of him throughout the season. For it to end like that – fucking epic.
Oh, and Sports Illustrated again:
So, some final thoughts:
1) The Blackhawks have won 16 games in the playoffs. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, still 0!
2) Jonathan Toews has 2 Stanley Cups. Sidney Crosby has 1. You can stop calling Crosby the best player in the league now. Thanks.
3) Part of me wanted Corey Crawford to win MVP to give a big FU to his haters, and another part of me really wanted Patrick Sharp to get it because he never gets nearly as much credit as he deserves. Oh well, both Toews and Kane have a Conn Smythe. It’s only fitting.
4) For all the morons who think Duncan Keith is the dirtiest player in the league (Read: Vancouver fans), two time Stanley Cup Champion bitches!
5) The Blackhawks are the first team to win the Stanley Cup after winning the President’s Trophy since 2008. That curse does not effect us.
6) Quenneville has now brought the Hawks two Stanley Cups, one Western Conference Final exit, and two first round exists. 40% chance of a Cup. Not bad.
7) I have no idea how the Hawks top themselves next season after this.
8) Both the 2010 Cup Win and the 2013 Cup Win look like this:
Round One: Ryan Suter’s Team
Round Two: Rival Team
Round Three: California Team
Round Four: Team of Destiny
Finally, C.M. Punk, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and the Stanley Cup all in ONE picture. I don’t think there’s ever been so much greatness in one picture.
I’m so happy the Hawks won the Cup after the season that they had. The streak’s amazing, but it means nothing without the Cup. They eclipsed the previous record during the regular season of the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, who went on to win the Cup. It was indeed an omen. To think that I wanted nothing more just to enjoy the season for what it was since hockey was finally back from the lockout and to have this be how it turned out – it’s just awesome. You can say what you want to about the shortened season and put an asterisk next to this Cup win if you want – well, if you’re not so bright, that is. Sure, in an 82 game season, things would be a bit different. Would the Hawks get that win streak? It’s unknown, as not every game matters quite as much. Do they win the President’s Trophy? Who knows? Who even cares? The playoffs would look different. But they beat the best teams in it in the final three rounds, outside of Pittsburgh maybe. The 3-1 deficit to the Wings was the best thing that ever happened to them. In the end, the best will always rise to the top. And the Blackhawks are the Best in the World.
This only leaves one question remaining. And every hockey fan knows what question that is. Is it October Yet?
#LaterMarks #ButImNotWrong #BelieveInTheShield #StraightEdgeMeansImBetterThanYou #IsItOctoberYet?