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Ranking the 5 Most Surprising Seasons in Chicago Blackhawks History

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2014

Ranking the 5 Most Surprising Seasons in Chicago Blackhawks History

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    These are the glory days of the Chicago Blackhawks franchise.

    The team won Stanley Cup championships in 2010 and 2013, and the presence of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith means the Blackhawks should remain in Stanley Cup contention for the foreseeable future.

    Even though the Blackhawks have been playing in the NHL since the 1926-27 season, they have only won the cherished chalice five times. So, every time the Blackhawks come away with the title, it can be viewed as a surprise when speaking from a historical perspective. 

    Surprises come in all forms. While the Blackhawks have only won three Stanley Cups since the start of the 1938-39 season, they have had teams that have dominated in the regular season but failed to live up to their talent in the playoffs. Those seasons can also be looked at as surprises.

    In this piece, we look at the five most surprising seasons in Chicago Blackhawks history.

1960-61 Chicago Blackhawks Bring Home First Cup in 23 Years

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    Regular-season record: 29-24-17, 75 points, third place

    Stanley Cup performance: Defeated Montreal Canadiens, six games; defeated Detroit Red Wings, six games.

    Analysis: The Blackhawks (known as the Black Hawks until 1986-87), had an ordinary regular season in 1960-61, finishing well behind the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The Blackhawks appeared to be first-round fodder for the first-place Canadiens, who had won five consecutive Stanley Cups and had defeated the Blackhawks in five straight playoff series. Chicago had not defeated Montreal in the postseason since 1940-41.

    But the Blackhawks were not about to fold up at the sight of the Habs. The two teams split the first four games and the confident Canadiens expected to take a 3-2 lead in the pivotal fifth game at the Montreal Forum. However, goalie Glen Hall was dominant as the Blackhawks recorded a 3-0 victory, and he repeated the feat with another 3-0 win in Game 6.

    Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita & Co. did not let the opportunity to lift the Stanley Cup slip through their hands after defeating the mighty Canadiens, following with a six-game victory over the Red Wings. They raised the cup after recording a 5-1 win in Detroit's ancient Olympia and brought the trophy home to a grateful city. 

1969-70 Blackhawks Swept by Bruins

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    Regular-season record: 45-22-9, 99 points, first place in East Division 

    Stanley Cup performance: Defeated Detroit Red Wings, four games; lost to Boston Bruins, four games.

    Analysis: The Blackhawks appeared to be on track for a long run in the playoffs in their final year in the East Division. Chicago had earned first place overall even though they were tied with the Boston Bruins in points because they held the tiebreaker (most victories).

    After disposing of the Red Wings in four straight games, an epic confrontation against Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito of the Bruins awaited. Since the two teams had finished with virtually the same record and had gone 3-3-2 in head-to-head matchups, this series appeared to have seven-game classic written all over it.

    However, Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito felt like he was in a shooting gallery. The Bruins won the first two games in Chicago as they overwhelmed the Blackhawks with their speed, toughness and shooting. They outscored the 'Hawks 10-4 in those two games and completed the sweep when the series went to Boston.

    The presence of Orr and Phil Esposito gave the Bruins an edge, but the Blackhawks' lack of response was a shocking surprise.

Blackhawks Win Presidents' Trophy in 1990-91, but Lose in First Round

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    Regular-season record: 49-23-8, 106 points, first place in Norris Division, won Presidents' Trophy. 

    Stanley Cup performance: Lost to Minnesota North Stars, six games.

    Analysis: The Blackhawks had the best regular-season record in the NHL as the Stanley Cup playoffs got underway. A team that included goalie Ed Belfour and stars like Steve Larmer, Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios and Doug Wilson was expected to brush away the North Stars with no trouble.

    Minnesota had the worst regular-season record of any team that had qualified for the 1991 Stanley Cup playoffs but had no problems goading the suddenly undisciplined Blackhawks into foolish penalties. Minnesota took advantage of Chicago's misplaced exuberance and pulled off one of the top shockers in postseason history when they disposed of Chicago and head coach Mike Keenan in six games.

2009-10 Blackhawks Win First Cup in 49 Years

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    Regular-season record: 52-22-8, 112 points, first place in Central Division. 

    Stanley Cup performance: Defeated Nashville Predators, six games; defeated Vancouver Canucks, six games; defeated San Jose Sharks, four games; defeated Philadelphia Flyers, six games.

    Analysis: Head coach Joel Quenneville's team grew more confident with each passing series during their 2010 Stanley Cup run. They faced much difficulty from the plucky Predators in the opening round and were on the verge of losing the pivotal fifth game until Patrick Kane scored the game-tying, short-handed goal with 14 seconds remaining in the third period.

    The Blackhawks won that game and then eliminated Nashville in the sixth game of the series.

    The Blackhawks found their stride against Vancouver and perfected it in the Western Conference Final against the powerful Sharks. Dustin Byfuglien scored three game-winning goals in that series as the Blackhawks pulled off the sweep.

    The Flyers were aggressive in the Stanley Cup Final, but Chicago had too much firepower for its Eastern Conference rival. The Flyers sent the sixth game into overtime on a late goal by Scott Hartnell, but the Blackhawks were not about to be denied.

    They struck early in overtime when Kane wristed a shot (video above) from the left side underneath goalie Michael Leighton that set off a celebration in Chicago nearly 50 years in the making.

Record-Setting 2012-13 Blackhawks Win Second Title in Four Seasons

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    Regular-season record: 36-7-5, 77 points, first place in Central Division, won Presidents' Trophy. 

    Stanley Cup performance: Defeated Minnesota Wild, five games; defeated Detroit Red Wings, seven games; defeated Los Angeles Kings, five games; defeated Boston Bruins, six games.

    Analysis: After the owners locked out the players through the first three-and-a-half months of the season, it was impossible to predict how the regular season would play out. Certainly the Blackhawks were motivated after suffering first-round playoff defeats in each of the previous two seasons, but there was no way to think the Blackhawks would dominate the league.

    That's exactly what they did. They did not suffer a regulation defeat in their first 24 regular-season games, setting a record in the process. They easily won the Presidents' Trophy with the best regular-season record.

    The 'Hawks were pushed hard by the Red Wings in the conference semifinal round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but they emerged from that confrontation when defenseman Brent Seabrook scored the series winner in overtime of the seventh game.

    They met Original Six rival Boston in the Stanley Cup Final and the series appeared headed for a seventh game after the Bruins took a 2-1 lead late in Game 6. However, the Blackhawks scored two goals in 17 seconds (video above) to earn the triumph over their stunned opponents. It was one of the most remarkable and surprising finishes in Stanley Cup Final history.

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