A young team sits on the cusp of achieving something great. If it’s done, it will erase years of angst, erase decades of frustration and futility.
Six years ago, that was the 2010 Blackhawks with their Stanley Cup triumph. Now it’s the Cubs, who could snap a century-plus long World Series drought. Those who were on that 2010 Blackhawks team can relate to what the Cubs are going through right now: an entire city watching, waiting and hoping for that elusive title. For them, staying loose was the best way to deal with the pressures that come with it.
That Blackhawks squad was a young-up-and-coming group. Ditto for this year’s Cubs. From all outward appearances these Cubs look like a loose bunch. The Blackhawks were the same in 2010, when they were helping the franchise rebuild after a lot of lean years.
“I think there are a lot of similarities,” Brian Campbell said. “I’m not in the [Cubs’] room, but we had a lot of fun in the room with guys who supported each other and had a lot of fun and enjoyed it. It seems like they have a good time over there and they go to work hard every day but enjoy themselves and have some good events. That’s the only way to kind of keep it relaxed.
“There’s pressure in the situation and it had been a while for us. And it’s been a long time for them,” Campbell added. “So I think it’s a good job by a lot of the guys in the clubhouse just keeping it relaxed.”
Jonathan Toews said the Blackhawks that year knew what they could do, but they tried to focus on each game instead of the big picture.
“I wouldn’t say we went in blindly but it was relatively unknown for us. We were just playing and I think we were clicking at the right time. Obviously we had a lot of firepower,” Toews said. “We didn’t really realize how tough it is to get there and we just kind of knew that was our potential and we just kept playing, kept winning. And before we knew it, we were on top.”
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Maintaining that composure and relaxed atmosphere was key. But with young teams, coaches can also help in that regard. Coach Joel Quenneville gauged where his 2010 Blackhawks were and didn’t do anything to shake the players’ demeanor.
“We didn’t change our approach as we went along,” Quenneville said. “Guys were always together. They were very loose going into games and together between games and I think it was just a continuation from momentum that was gained as we progressed in the playoffs. As we went deeper and deeper it seemed like it was more enjoyable and the guys continued to have more fun.”
A postseason taste the previous season didn’t hurt. In the spring of 2009 the Blackhawks made their first postseason appearance since 2001-02, advancing to the Western Conference final. They lost to the defending Cup champion Detroit Red Wings in five games but the young Blackhawks took a lot out of getting that far. The next season, they were brimming with confidence.
“We were almost naïve enough to not know how well we were doing at the time and what we were setting up. The next season we had such confidence in ourselves that we knew nobody was going to beat us in the playoffs if we didn’t want them to,” said Troy Brouwer, who’s now with the Calgary Flames. “You go into every game with the mentality that you know you’re going to win and good things can happen.”
Certainly the Cubs have been waiting longer to end their World Series drought (108 years) compared to the Blackhawks (49 years). But a wait’s a wait, expectations are expectations, and pressure is pressure. The Blackhawks dealt with it all beautifully en route to that Cup six seasons ago, and they think the Cubs will do the same.
“They’re going to get more cracks at it, too. So obviously in the future that experience will be great, but it seems like they’re just going into it and playing well at the right time,” Toews said. “It’s a lot of fun to watch and great to see the buzz and excitement. Those guys are just focusing on the job. That’s the No. 1 thing.”