The Chicago Blackhawks had a miraculous run during 2013.
When the NHL lockout came to an end in January, the Blackhawks came sprinting out of the gate and went 24 games before they tasted regular-season defeat in regulation. They were the best team in the league during the truncated 48-game regular season and definitively proved it during their Stanley Cup playoff run.
The start of the 2013-14 season has been fruitful. While nearly all recent Stanley Cup champions have felt the impact of the dreaded Stanley Cup hangover, the Blackhawks have not as they currently have the second-best record in the league. There's every reason to believe they are going to make a strong run at a second consecutive Stanley Cup.
All of the Blackhawks' stars have had brilliant moments this year. In this piece, we look a the best moment for each of those stars.
The Blackhawks trailed in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final 2-1 against the Boston Bruins. As Game 4 was approaching, Jonathan Toews was not happy with the way his team was playing.
The Bruins' Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg seemed to define the term "shutdown defensemen." The Blackhawks were not challenging the Bruins' top defensive pair, and they were losing their grip on the series.
Prior to the fourth game, Toews decided that the Blackhawks were showing too much respect for Chara and that they needed to attack him even if he was one of the best defensemen in the league.
The Blackhawks came out hard in that game, and Toews put his words into action early in the second period. Toews went straight to the front of the net as Michal Rozsival let loose a shot from the right point. Toews deflected the shot past Tuukka Rask, and while that game would not be decided until overtime, Toews had provided the road map for victory in the series.
The Blackhawks continued to attack Chara and Seidenberg the rest of the way and would lift the Cup at the conclusion of the sixth game.
Patrick Kane had a remarkable postseason run that culminated when he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
He had many great moments throughout the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run, and his stellar play has continued in the 2013-14 regular season. Kane has 22 goals and 27 assists in his first 39 games and is the league's second-leading scorer behind Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.
Kane was brilliant against the Bruins, scoring three goals and two assists in the six-game series. He scored two goals in the pivotal fifth game in Chicago, a 3-1 win for the Blackhawks that gave them a 3-2 series lead.
However, Kane scored the decisive goal in the fifth game of the Western Conference Final that eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Kane had scored two goals in Game 5 of the series, and the second came late in the third period and gave Chicago a 3-2 lead. However, Mike Richards of the Kings scored the game-tying goal with 10 seconds remaining.
The Blackhawks dominated the first overtime period but could not score. As the second overtime reached the midway point, Kane joined Jonathan Toews on a two-on-one rush. Toews made a perfect pass to Kane, who drilled the clinching shot past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
Not only had Kane scored the winner in that series, but the final goal gave him a hat trick.
Patrick Sharp is aptly named. He is one of the most accurate shooters in the NHL and one of the Blackhawks best players.
He scored 10 goals for the Blackhawks during their Stanley Cup run, and the biggest came in Game 4 of the series against Boston.
The two teams were engaged in a high-scoring game, and the Blackhawks were trying to take momentum by winning in Boston. With the score tied 4-4 midway through the third period, the Blackhawks' struggling power play went to work on a two-man advantage.
Sharp knew the Blackhawks could not waste the opportunity. He went to the front of the net, jumped on a Marian Hossa rebound and shoveled the puck in the net for a 5-4 Chicago lead.
The Blackhawks would go on to win the game 6-5 in overtime.
Duncan Keith is the Blackhawks' best defenseman, and he was excellent throughout the run to the Stanley Cup.
However, he has been even better in the 2013-14 season. Keith has scored three goals and 30 assists this season in 39 games and has a plus-16 rating. He is also the second-leading scorer among defensemen, trailing only Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.
Keith is the leading candidate to win the Norris Trophy this year as the game's best defenseman. He has been outstanding on an every-game basis, and he sets the tone for the rest of his team to follow.
Keith was at his best in a Nov. 23 in a 2-1 victory over the Canucks in Vancouver. Trailing 1-0 entering the third period, Keith assisted on Andrew Shaw's tying goal early in the third period.
He also had two brilliant takeaways on the defensive end. He knocked Alexandre Burrows off the puck (5:16 mark) when he was looking at a wide open net, and he also knocked the puck off Burrows' stick when he was attempting a wraparound when the Canucks' forward appeared to have Crawford beaten.
Crawford was appreciative of Keith's effort. “He plays that way every game,” Crawford told Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times. “That’s nothing new from him. He’s one of the best D-men in the league. We’re pretty used to that by now.”
Marian Hossa is one of the Blackhawks' top playmakers. He can kill penalties, take his shift on the power play and dominate on even-strength shifts. He is a big, strong and skilled player who can make huge plays at key moments.
Early in the 2013 regular season, the Blackhawks were eight games into their near-perfect streak at the start of the campaign. As they prepared to play the Calgary Flames Feb. 2, they were an exhausted group. They were playing their third road game in four nights and were coming off a draining shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
The Blackhawks and Canucks simply hate each other, and the team left everything it had on the ice at Rogers Arena. They had little left when they took the ice at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Flames sensed the Blackhawks' fatigue and took it to the visitors. Calgary gained a 2-1 lead with 35 seconds to play on a goal by Jay Bouwmeester, and it appeared certain the Blackhawks would lose in regulation for the first time.
However, the 'Hawks refused to roll over and gained possession after the center-ice faceoff. They controlled the action deep in Calgary territory as they whipped several shots at Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. Finally, with three seconds remaining, Hossa jumped on a rebound and put it in the net for the tying goal.
The Blackhawks would go on to win the contest in a shootout, a game that helped define the Blackhawks' season.
Brent Seabrook had two standout moments for the Blackhawks during their Stanley Cup run.
The first, and perhaps most important, came in the seventh game of the conference semifinal series against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Blackhawks were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and were expected to dispose of the Red Wings, who had earned the seventh seed and defeated the second-ranked Anaheim Ducks in the first round.
The Red Wings did not care about rankings or seedings. They pushed the Blackhawks hard, gained a 3-1 lead in the series and appeared to be ready to stun Chicago. However, the Blackhawks bounced back with victories in Games 5 and 6 to square the series.
The seventh game was a tight, tense affair that went to overtime. Seabrook was not about to let the Red Wings steal the series. He picked up a loose puck at center ice, skated into the Detroit zone and fired a shot from between the circles that deflected off a Detroit defenseman and by goalie Jimmy Howard for the series-deciding goal.
Seabrook would also score an overtime goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against Boston that allowed the Blackhawks to tie the series and seize momentum.
That's what the Boston Bruins did to Corey Crawford in the fourth game of the Stanley Cup Final.
While the Blackhawks won the game in overtime, the Bruins had whistled five stoppable shots past Crawford, and nearly all of them were ticketed to the top corner of the net over his glove hand.
The Bruins had their target, and the Blackhawks knew it. Surely, Crawford would be a sniveling wreck by the time Game 5 started.
That's how most goalies would react after such an awful game in the Stanley Cup Final. But not Crawford. He merely shook it off and allowed just three goals in the next two games, as the Blackhawks won both to become the 2012-13 Stanley Cup champions.
Crawford was not a Vezina Trophy winner or an NHL All-Star, but he played stellar hockey in the most important games of the season.
They couldn't have won the Stanley Cup without him.
Steve Silverman covered the Stanley Cup Final for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @profootballboy.