Up and Coming? The Chicago Blackhawks Are Already Here

Matt DolloffCorrespondent IMay 12, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 11:  Martin Havlat #24 (R), Brian Campbell #51, Patrick Sharp #10 and Cam Barker #25 of the Chicago Blackhawks pile on Jonathan Toews #19 as they celebrate Toews' power play goal in the third period against the Vancouver Canucks during Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 11, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks won 7-5. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It took a hat trick from Patrick Kane, three more points from Jonathan Toews, four third-period goals, and seven total allowed by the great Roberto Luongo for us to realize it—but it is the truth.

The Chicago Blackhawks are not a great young team—just a great team. Period.

“As hockey fans, we are witnessing a special era right now,” Hawks GM Dale Tallon told Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.

“You look at Crosby and Ovechkin and [Nicklas] Backstrom and all these guys over in that series, and obviously we get to watch the great young players on our team. We are fortunate to be witnessing this right now. There’s some great young players in our game.”

The stars are already shining very, very brightly in Chicago, and now their young superstars have taken them to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1995, winning a series without home ice advantage for the first time since 1992, when they made the Stanley Cup Finals. They beat Detroit that year to advance, and it’s looking more and more like they will have to do the same this year.

Yes, things have certainly come full circle for this franchise, and it has happened very quickly. Just a few short years ago, before Kane and Toews arrived in town, the situation for the Blackhawks was looking as bleak and morbid as any franchise in the league.

But once former owner Bill Wirtz—who by then had earned a much-deserved reputation for perpetuating Chicago’s decade-plus of mediocrity—passed away, the new ownership overhauled the roster and improved upon the strong foundation they had already acquired through the draft.

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They signed star defenseman Brian Campbell, adding him to an already solid young corps consisting of Duncan Keith, Cam Barker, and Brent Seabrook. That defensive core has certainly worked out thus far—those four have totaled 30 points in 48 games, and Keith and Seabrook are averaging 25:16 and 26:21 of ice time, respectively, in the postseason.

The signing of goaltender Cristobal Huet has also worked out great for the team, but not quite in the way they expected. Instead of Huet taking the reins as the No. 1 goalie, he instead motivated Nikolai Khabibulin to play the best hockey of his career.

Khabibulin came very close to doing just that.

While mostly splitting time with Huet, “The Bulin Wall” won 25 games and posted his lowest goals-against average (2.33) since 2004. That success translated into him taking the role of No. 1 starter in the postseason.

Khabibulin’s numbers leave much to be desired thus far, but all that really matters is the eight wins.

And of course, how could we forget the two young studs the Blackhawks employ up front? Former No. 1 overall pick Patrick Kane joined fellow top picks Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin as the third player to score a hat trick this postseason with Monday night’s three goals—two of them in the third period.

The first third-period goal tied the game at five, and Toews’ second goal of the game gave the Blackhawks the lead with 6:11 remaining.

The young superstars in Chicago were believed to be able to deliver this kind of success for the city some day in the future, but in actuality, nobody had to wait. The future is now.

Check out the highlights of the game, including the wild third period, here:


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