Comparing the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks to the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins
The Chicago Blackhawks are back in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since their 1992 defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, that loss is long past and the revitalized Blackhawks are looking forward to playing for their first Cup win since 1961.
Although I am a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, I believe this Blackhawks team bears several resemblances to the Penguins squad that went to the Finals in 2008 and won the Cup last season.
In this article, I will outline the similarities between the Penguins teams that went to the last two Cup Finals and the Blackhawks team that looks to bring the ultimate glory back to the Madhouse on Madison.
Both the Penguins and the Blackhawks have young captains who, in spite of their short NHL careers, are carving out their spots among the NHL's elite.
Sidney Crosby became the captain of the Penguins prior to the 2007-2008 season when he was only 20 years old. In 2009, he was the youngest team captain to be awarded the Stanley Cup. He has also won a Hart trophy, an Art Ross trophy, a Lester B. Pearson award and an Olympic gold medal. This season he tied with Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay for the Rocket Richard trophy after scoring 51 goals in the regular season.
Jonathan Toews was also appointed the captain of a re-surging franchise when he was 20 years old. He is also very accomplished in his short career so far. Toews was nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's outstanding rookie in the 2007-2008 season. He was one of Crosby’s teammates on the Canadian Olympic team at the 2010 games.
If the Blackhawks were to win the Stanley Cup this year, Toews would also be among the youngest captains to lift the Cup.
Both Crosby and Toews are remarkable young players, showing that more years played does not always amount to championships and success in all stages of the game.
Furthermore, they have played a big part in turning around their franchises; both of which used to be among the laughingstocks of the NHL.
The Penguins won the Cup in 2009 after losing to Detroit in six games in 2008.
The Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup Finals after losing to the Red Wings in the 2009 Western Conference Final.
Being so close to the Cup a year before can only help the Blackhawks like it did the Penguins. The Hawks will have one more year of experience; just as the Penguins did in 2009. After being rattled by the Red Wings in the opening games of the Finals in 2008 and 2009, the Penguins settled down and gave Detroit some very intense games; even when the Wings lifted the cup at Mellon Arena in 2008.
I expect the Blackhawks to do the same in the 2010 Finals. They will not want to miss out on another opportunity to lift Lord Stanley. Even if the Flyers or the Canadiens come out hard, the Hawks will have what it takes to respond.
OK, go ahead and laugh. There’s nothing about the Marian Hossa jinx that I already haven’t heard or considered.
However, when Hossa is on his game, there is no stopping his team. In 2008, he had 26 points in 20 playoff games for the Penguins. In 2009, he had 15 points for the Red Wings as they went back to a rematch with the Pens.
This year, Hossa’s playoff statistics are notably lower; with only 11 points in 16 games.
But if he gets going in the Finals, the Hawks have good odds of securing a Cup victory.
Who Are You?
Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. Patrick Kane. Jonathan Toews.
Everyone knows who those guys are.
But it’s the players who don’t always get the most attention that can come through big in the playoffs; especially with a season or a Cup win on the line.
Who would’ve ever thought Max Talbot would score two goals in game seven of the 2009 Cup Finals?
I bet no one could have predicted that Rob Scuderi would play goalie and make a crucial block for the Penguins in the final seconds of game six in that series.
The Hawks have their share of players who normally slip under the radar, yet have been a component of the team's success. For example, Dustin Byfuglien has 10 points so far these playoffs. He has been using his size (6'4" and 257 pounds) to his advantage to prevent opponents from getting to the net.
Antti Niemi, who is playing in his first NHL playoffs, has a remarkable 12-4 record with a .921 save percentage and 2.33 GAA. His 12 wins lead playoff goalies; while his GAA and two shutouts are ranked second in those categories.
Even when a team has superstars that could win a championship by themselves, it is really the unsung heroes that are crucial to a team’s playoff run.
None of these similarities between the Penguins and the Blackhawks guarantee a Cup for Chicago.
However, if history repeats itself; and the Blackhakws show resilience in the face of adversity, have their underrated players step up and let the young guns shine, Chicago hockey fans will get to experience the magic of Lord Stanley for the first time in nearly 50 years.
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