Stanley Cup Final 2013: Resilience Remains Blackhawks' Calling Card

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Stanley Cup Final 2013: Resilience Remains Blackhawks' Calling Card
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CHICAGO—Take a closer look at the predicament the Chicago Blackhawks were in with just under 14 minutes to go in the third period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins had just nailed a power-play goal off the post that pushed the Blackhawks' deficit to two goals.

The margin for error had disappeared for the Blackhawks. They were playing a team that had given up two goals in a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the highest-scoring team in the Stanley Cup playoffs. If they were going to mount a comeback, they would have to raise their game quite bit over what they had showed in the first 46 minutes.

That's just what happened as Dave Bolland and Johnny Oduya scored third-period goals against the defensively-sound Bruins. Two-and-a-half overtime periods followed before the Blackhawks emerged with the 4-3 Game 1 victory, when Andrew Shaw got credit for the game-winner after a shot deflected off his shin pad.

To win such a game against the Bruins took poise, confidence and a bit of luck. Together, those factors demonstrate the Blackhawks' overall resiliency.

"That's one of the things about this team," said team captain Jonathan Toews. "We expect a lot out of ourselves. We don't expect to fall behind, but when we do, we expect to come back. It's happened in the season, and it's happened in the playoffs."

The Blackhawks may have had a few comebacks during the regular season—most notably at Calgary on Feb. 2—but it's their work in the postseason that has earned them the "resilient" label.

Dylan Lynch/Getty Images

They played average hockey in the first round, but the Minnesota Wild offered little resistance, and Chicago won that series in five games.

However, the Blackhawks were nearly taken out in the second round by the Detroit Red Wings. They were down 3-1 and could have been eliminated by a loss in any of their final three games. It never came.

After a relatively easy 4-1 victory in Game 5, the Blackhawks faced significant adversity in Game 6. They trailed 2-1 after two periods.

Their season appeared to be 20 minutes from concluding, but Michal Handzus, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik scored in the first 10 minutes of the third period to turn the one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead. The Blackhawks hung on to win the game, 4-3, and send the series to a seventh game.

The Red Wings pushed hard and gave the Blackhawks everything they could handle in the seventh game. Henrik Zetterberg tied the game at 1-1 early in the third period, and play was relatively even throughout the third period.

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As overtime appeared on the horizon, the Blackhawks appeared to seize control with 1:47 remaining when Niklas Hjalmarsson hammered home a slap shot from between the circles. However, referee Stephen Walkom waved off the goal as he penalized Brandon Saad of the Blackhawks and Kyle Quincey for coincidental roughing penalties.

That could have been a devastating moment for the Blackhawks. But the team never wavered in overtime, and defenseman Brent Seabrook wristed home the winner at the 3:35 mark.

"Resilient," Seabrook said after scoring the winner. "We didn't play our best in the Minnesota series or the first four games (against Detroit). But then we showed what kind of team we are in the last three games. We played well, we battled back and we continued to work hard.

"And you have to give credit to Crow (Corey Crawford). I've been telling you this for the last four, five months. He's been great for us all season."

Seabrook's words proved prescient during the Western Conference Final. The Blackhawks took on the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, and Crawford had to match Jonathan Quick's performance in goal. Prior to the series, the Kings were supposed to have a big edge in that area, but Crawford came up huge.

The Blackhawks won the series in five games, and it was in the final game of the series that Crawford came back from his own adversity.

The Blackhawks led 3-2 in the final minute, and the Kings had pulled Quick. Chicago frustrated Los Angeles through much of that span, but a shot by Anze Kopitar deflected off Mike Richards' lower body and into the net with 10 seconds remaining.

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Instead of crumbling, Crawford held tight. He stopped 13 shots in two overtimes and gave the Blackhawks a chance to close out the series. They did that when Patrick Kane blasted home the winner on a perfect pass from Toews.

"That's the kind of team we have," Shaw said. "We expect a lot from ourselves, and we are going to fight for 60 minutes or 100 minutes or however long it takes. We might fall behind or a call might hurt us, but we are going to keep fighting until it's over. Every time."

The Blackhawks are a talented, speedy and artistic team. But they also have grit and determination, which has put them in a position to win their second Stanley Cup in four years.

That resiliency may be the most important factor of them all.

 

Steve Silverman is a credentialed reporter covering the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago for Bleacher Report. Quotes in this story obtained firsthand unless otherwise indicated.

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