Never before has the One Goal campaign taken on such a literal meaning. After losing the lead late into the third period and going into overtime, the Chicago Blackhawks motto came to life. One Goal away from being champions, One Goal away from a Game 7 in Chicago. One Goal away from sending the city of Chicago into pandemonium.
And who would have thought that One Goal would be so anti-climatic? Patrick Kane knew he scored the game winner the instant it hit the net, the same could not be said for everyone else. The Chicago bench didn’t realize it until Kane was at center ice, while the WGN radio team thought Leighton had stopped it. After the smoke cleared and the referees went to video review, the Chicago Blackhawks were once again Stanley Cup Champions, breaking a 49 year drought.
Now before I go on this long drivel celebrating the Blackhawks, I would like to give the Philadelphia Flyers all the credit in the world. The Flyers were one of the only teams in this years Playoffs that put the Blackhawks against the ropes. Their heart and determination should be the standard among every team around the league. Never before have we seen a team refuse to quit no matter the circumstances. From being down 3-0 to Boston or going down 2-0 against Chicago the Flyers went down fighting to the end, and for that I tip my hat to them.
Looking back on the season, I never envisioned myself sitting here writing an article about the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. From the very beginning the questions were swirling about goal-tending issues, and here we set arguing if maybe Antti Niemi should have won the Conn Smythe. The first round did not settle these nerves at all, as the Nashville Predators had the Blackhawks on the brink of going down 3-2, but once again Patrick Kane was there to bring us hope.
Then came Vancouver and the stakes were raised. Once again the Hawks pushed to the limit, and just like in the first round they were able to stay composed and rally behind Antti Niemi and Dustin Byfuglien. What came next only a handful of people could predict, the Chicago Blackhawks came out roaring and swept the #1 seeded San Jose Sharks in four games.
After the sweep Blackhawk nation was ready to hoist the cup before even playing Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Numerous fans claimed that this would a cake walk of a series, that Philly could not hang with the young guns of the Blackhawks. After Chicago jumped out to a 2-0 lead, it almost seemed like this was destiny, it seemed like the Cup would come back to the Windy City.These thoughts would however be short lived, as the Flyers countered with 2 wins of their own at home.
For the first time in the Playoffs there was a sense of desperation running through the fan base. The Blackhawks had come out flat so far, and the top line was not producing like we were used to. Philadelphia looked the bigger and stronger team and also looked like they had more composure. Chicago’s saving grace would come in the from of Coach Joel Quenneville, who after the 2nd period of Game 4 decided that it was time to break up the top line.
Looking back on this decision it could have gone down as one of the dumbest moves in recent memory, but once again it seemed like destiny was there. The Blackhawk’s came out in Game 5 with an energy and flurry that we had not seen in quite some time. After being dominated by Chris Pronger in the first four games, Dustin Byfuglien burst out of his funk to net 2 goals and 2 assists to lead the Hawks to a 7-4 win.
All that stood in the Blackhawks path was a Game 6 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, a city that has had them perplexed without a win in 10 games. After a back and forth game that saw the Hawks take the lead on a Dustin Byfuglien goal, only to see that lead vanish on a Scott Hartnell goal. After Danny Briere netted a goal in the 2nd period that Blackhawks responded with one of their own when Patrick Sharp scored on a 4 on 4 situation. The game would remain tied until Andrew Ladd scored a goal with 2:51 left in the second period.
With a 3-2 lead heading into the third the Blackhawks were 20 minutes away from breaking the drought. 20 minutes away from bringing Lord Stanley back to Chicago. As the period went on you could feel the city of Chicago starting to stir, you could feel them getting ready to run up and down Michigan Ave. All the pieces seemed to be falling in place this was our time, but true to their form Philadelphia had one last surge in them. With 4 minutes left in the game Villie Leino threw a desperation pass towards the net that would hit off of Marian Hossa’s skate and then deflect off of Scott Hartnell’s stick to tie the game up.
With that goal it almost seemed like the sky was falling. Four minutes away from hearing the words everyone wants to hear, Your 2010 Stanley Cup Champion’s the Chicago Blackhawks, washed away by a fluke goal. Flashbacks of Games 3 and 4 started to come to mind, as the Blackahwks seemed to have gone into their shell.
As the overtime period began it became clear that this was going to be a lot like Game 3. Philadelphia came out flying, looking to end it quick and head to Chicago. Unlike in Game 3 though Chicago weathered the storm and went on a surge of their own. It was at this time that destiny seemed to stick her pretty head through the clouds and flash a smile.
An image that will never be forgotten for any Blackhawk’s fan, Patrck Kane head faking like Michael Jordan used to. From something straight out of a video game Kane darted to his left and sent a shot towards Michael Leight, and then time stood still. As the puck disappeared a sense of confusion swept over the arena, and the Blackhawks began to celebrate. They had just won the Stanley Cup Championship on quite possibly the oddest game winner ever.
As Blackhawk nation sat and watched their team celebrate, a shiver went through their body as Marian Hossa lifted the cup. How could you root against a guy that put everything on the line game after game, night after night? After failing to win the cup with Pittsburgh in 07, and then coming up short once again with Detroit in 08 he had finally won the Stanley Cup.
The most memorable moment may not have even occurred on the ice though. Up in the NBC booth sat Jeremy Roenick a long time Blackhawk and fan favorite. As he went into his story about coming up short in ’92 and a young boy crying you could almost feel the lump in his throat. When asked why he was so emotional Roenick responded with words that every Blackhawk fan around the world will repeat “It’s the Chicago Blackhawks man.”