Stanley Cup Playoffs


The NHL season ended Monday night in a rather defensive affair, as the Chicago Blackhawks are once again Stanley Cup champions and achieved dynasty status by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 to win the series 4-2, claiming their third Stanley cup in six years.

Although the Chicago Blackhawks have won their third cup in six years, this time around was especially tough as they were pushed extremely hard by their competition. Never mind the fact that the Lightning were up 2-1 in the series, but the Blackhawks also had to go through a marathon like 7-game test of endurance versus the very tough Anaheim Ducks in the Conference Finals. The part of that no one is touching on enough, is that the Chicago Blackhawks are proving time and time again how to be successful in a very tough salary cap system like the NHL's.

Johnathan Toews carries the Cup around the ice in front of a sold out United Center crowd. This was the first title won in Chicago on home ice since 1938. (David E. Klutho/Sports Illustrated)

Johnathan Toews carries the Cup around the ice in front of a sold out United Center crowd. This was the first title won in Chicago on home ice since 1938. (David E. Klutho/Sports Illustrated)

However, how soon fans forget that ten years ago, the Blackhawks were basically the poster boys of what not to do in the NHL. In fact, until the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, they had the worst Stanley Cup drought which lasted from 1961-2010. Technically speaking, that time period is the longest any team has gone without winning the cup (the Toronto Maple Leafs are a year away from tying the record, which they will). Everyone who watches hockey is probably wondering how did the Chicago Blackhawks go from garbage and unable, to winning a Cup (although it should be said that in some years Chicago was very good especially in the late 80s to early 90s), to being named as one of the better dynasties in NHL history. Well like most people, I cite the last 10 years of the Chicago Blackhawks history.

It is a story of finding good talent, good player development, successfully managing of the salary cap, patience in a system and great fan support. Flashback to the 2005 lockout; prior to the lockout the Chicago Blackhawks from 1997-1998 to 2003-2004 had been to the playoffs, but it was during the lockout where people can point to a tide changing in the franchise.

(left to right) Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, and Corey Crawford all celebrate after winning game 6. Keith and Kane combined for 6 points during the Cup Finals, while Crawford posted his 5th shutout of the postseason. (David E. Klutho/Sports Illustrated)

(left to right) Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, and Corey Crawford all celebrate after winning game 6. Keith and Kane combined for 6 points during the Cup Finals, while Crawford posted his 5th shutout of the postseason. (David E. Klutho/Sports Illustrated)

Both Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have been drafted in previous drafts (Keith 2002 draft, Seabrook 2003 draft) but are playing in the Chicago minor system to develop their game. The Blackhawks call the two up in the season following the lockout to play significant minutes. They suffer through three years of ineptitude, but steady improvement before hope arrives in the form of Johnathan Toews (drafted third overall in the 2006 draft) and Patrick Kane (drafted first overall in the 2007 draft). The Blackhawks in the 2008-2009 season would go on to make the playoffs and lose in the Conference Finals to the Detroit Red Wings. 

With all this set in motion the Blackhawks needed one more piece of the puzzle to be a Stanley Cup team and that was a consistent everyday goaltender. The Chicago Blackhawks called up Antti Niemi sparingly until the 2009-2010 season when he was a full time member of the Blackhawks and was fire between the goalposts. Keith, Seabrook, Toews, Kane and Niemi along with role players like the eventual all-star Dustin Byfuglien led the Chicago Blackhawks to win the 2010 Stanley cup. However, because of the salary cap, the Blackhawks had to unfortunately let players slip through their grasp and Niemi along with Byfuglien were a couple of them. However, the Blackhawks in typical fashion filled those holes and in came Corey Crawford. Crawford was in the Chicago Blackhawks system since he was drafted in 2003 but never really played significantly with the team until 2010 when Niemi left and the Blackhawks didn't skip a beat. They would eventually win two more Stanley cups in 2013 and Monday night.

The point of this history lesson is to show that the Blackhawks had a 10-15 year plan to rebuild with defense first in Kane and Seabrook, then found talent that can score in Toews and Kane. Next they allowed those players to develop into virtual all-stars like they are now, and in the case of Toews, he has grown into a fantastic leader and could be one of the greatest leaders of all time in any sport. Finally the Blackhawks have done a great job surrounding the core with talent. Guys like Niemi, Sharp, Shaw, Hossa, Saad, Byfuglien, Ladd etc. have come into Chicago's system and executed their roles to perfection.

This is evident when some of these players left and become great role players and or all stars. However, there is one thing that Chicago Blackhawk franchise go through all of this and that was patience. Too often teams will give up on a player too early or not use them right. The Blackhawks have shown the ability to be patient with the development of thier players. It took Keith and Seabrook about 5 years to be good and now Duncan Keith is the playoffs MVP. A team like the Toronto Maple Leafs or Edmonton Oilers would have given up on a Keith or Seabrook long before 5 years.

Last but not least, the fans deserve a pat on the back for sticking with this team for so long. It may be the “Madhouse” now but it was hard to go crazy about this team in the early 2000s. Despite television ratings not being good because Chicago has a vast number of sport teams, the fans have shown up to every game in support for this franchise and now are reaping the rewards. Congrats to the Blackhawks and the city of Chicago. 

Micheal's Ice Preview

What can be better for a hockey fan than the NHL regular season that goes down to the last game of the season? If you guessed the NHL playoffs than you are absolutely right.  

The NHL playoffs are around the corner, and personally, these are arguably the best playoffs in terms of on court/ice/field play. Never mind the incredible playoff beards that are grown or the intensity or the mind numbing momentum swing that people talk about for years after they happen (Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks looking at you). The Best part by far is that no matter what seed a team is, they have a legitimate chance of winning the cup, if you don’t believe me, ask the Los Angeles Kings. Therefore allow me to sell a couple matchups to you that at face value might seem a bit boring or dry but in reality has the potential to be a classic. 

Winnipeg Jets vs. Anaheim Ducks 

Remember when Winnipeg towards the tail end of the season were a dysfunctional group with Evander Kane in a line-up? Also marred by injuries simultaneously. Whether Evander Kane is a problem in the locker room or not, both of those things are now taken care of. Evander Kane got traded and most of the Winnipeg Jets key pieces are back in the line-up.

The problem is they are facing the Anaheim Ducks (who will always be the Mighty Ducks in my heart) and on paper this should not even be close. Although Winnipeg has two things going for them, one being their goalie Onderj Pavelec is coming into this series hot and typically in hockey the hottest goalie wins. Although fans of the Jets might not want to trust Pavelec, and to be honest that mistrust is justified, but there is another thing that Jets Fans know  they can trust, and that’s themselves.

The Winnipeg Jets' fans are one of the best crowds in the league, and had they had more room in the stadium, I would have said hands down the best crowd in the league. This crowd will be loud, so if Dustin Byfuglien and company can get something going on the ice, no matter how small the crowd, will make sure that momentum carries over.

With that being said I’m predicting Anaheim will go through and the reasons are simple; Home ice advantage and better talent. These guys can play hockey, nevermind Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but people forget this is a team with Ryan Kesler, Frederik Andersen, as well as others. This team is armed to the teeth with good players, and assuming this crowd gets to them a little, they still got four games that they can win on their home ice. 

Prediction: Anaheim wins 4-2 or 4-3 

Ottawa Senators vs Montreal Canadiens  

The Canadiens may be the second seed this year but to me they are about two tads overrated. God bless P.K Subban and company, but the defence has been putrid this year, and had it not been for Carey Price, who knows where they would be.

Star player, Max Pacioretty, is out for the Canadiens, but the fact that the Senators have a white hot goaltender in Andrew Hammond as well as some confidence, the Senators actually have a legitimate shot to steal one here.

The thing is, Carey Price has been a stone wall all year, and despite a little bit of a struggle last week, I do not see him slowing down. He has a record of 44-16-6 with a save percentage of .933 and a goals allowed average of 1.96 goals per game… in other words if the Canadiens score 2 goals the opposing team is in deep water. If the Canadiens score 3 goals, end the game there because it is over.

Do the Senators have a good chance of upsetting the Canadiens? Yes. Is Andrew Hammond playing amazing? Absolutely. Also, the Senators have found a renewed sense of offence, and at times, defensive prowess but it is not easy to beat P.K. Subban and Carey Price in the playoffs with or without Max Pacioretty. With that being said, I am predicting a close upset by the Senators predicated on the assumption that Hammond can still keep this up and the young guns of the Senators do not catch stage fright. 

Prediction: Senators win 4-3

Other predictions 

  • NYR beat Pittsburgh 4-2 – Pittsburgh cannot seem to figure it out and the Rangers are too fast 
  • Tampa beats Detroit 4-2 – Mike Babcock is a great coach but not enough talent to beat Tampa bay 
  • NYI beats Washington 4-3 – They might be banged up but still fast I think the Islanders can surprise people 
  • St. Louis beats Minnesota 4-1 – I just do not think Minnesota have much of a chance without Dubnyk bringing his A+ game 
  • Calgary beats Vancouver 4-2 –The Calgary youngins do not know the meaning of fear. If Calgary does not catch stage fright, Vancouver is in for a rude awakening 
  • Chicago beats Nashville 4-2 – Nashville has done well this year but Chicago always play on another level in the playoffs

One thing to remember about these playoffs is these playoffs are going to be fun and intense and something that a Hockey fan would not wan

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