Blackhawks

They did it! Hawks bring Cup back to Chicago

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They did it! Hawks bring Cup back to Chicago

Thursday, June 10, 2010
Updated: 2:59 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Daylong showers postponed a Philadelphia Phillies game, displaced the Flyers' pregame "block party" and dampened orange-clad fans' spirits.

But they did herald the end of the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL, as the Chicago Blackhawks ended their 49-year ringless reign with a 4-3 overtime win over Philadelphia.

Patrick Kane had the game-winner at 4:06 of overtime, surely the most puzzlingly gorgeous Cup-clincher in Stanley Cup history. As players on both teams began to drag after 64 minutes of grueling, fast-paced action, Crazy 88 turned on the afterburners to turn the corner and thread the needle on a shot for the win that, short of Kane, none of the 20,327 at the Wachovia Center realized had gone in.

"I don't think he would have thrown his gloves off like that if he wasn't 100 sure -- he sold it pretty good if the puck didn't go in," Blackhawks captain -- and 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner -- Jonathan Toews said. "But it was kind of an awkward celebration. We didn't know what to do."

"We kind of stood there on the bench, until we saw Kane toss his gloves," Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer said. "Then one guy threw his leg over the wall, and we were off."

In back of the bench, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville knew the goal to be true.

"I heard the sound, it was a funny sound," Cool Hand Q said. "Nobody knew where the puck was. Kaner thought it was in ... and the guys knew. That's why they celebrated. When I saw the net lift and the puck in the back, I said, 'OK, the party is on.'"

In a breathless, back-and-forth affair, Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Ladd scored for Chicago, while Antti Niemi stopped an increasingly difficult 21 shots to earn his franchise-record 16th postseason win.

The Blackhawks opened the game with excruciating pressure on Philadelphia, garnering the better scoring chances and pelting Flyers goalie Michael Leighton with five shots in the first four minutes. And Chicago missed its best chance early on when Duncan Keith clanged a slapper off the iron and Toews whiffed on a wide-open rebound.

With regard to penalties, the only whistles of the first came on Brents and Prongers: Blackhawk Sopel earned two interference penalties, teammate Seabrook an elbow, and on the flip side two Prongs penalties rounded things out. Little damage came of the first three -- in fact, Philadelphia failed to record a shot on goal during its first two power plays. But with Pronger boxed for the second time, Byfuglien camped in the crease and notched the first goal of the game -- making it two straight contests scoring a power-play goal with the 6-foot-6 Philly menace in the pen. But when Iron Giant was sent off for the second time with less than a minute left in the first, Scott Hartnell got the Blackhawks back after cashing the disc in from the crease to tie the game at 1.

After a breathless first, fans wouldn't have been wrong for expecting that the second stanza would be a slowdown affair. But such was not the case, as just 30 seconds in Simon Gagne was stoned on a breakaway by Niemi. Some three minutes later, Ladd broke loose and was busted by Leighton.

Twelve minutes in, superscorer Danny Briere got loose deep on a two-on-one to beat Niemi, a play precipitated by Keith getting tripped up by Hartnell, creating a vacuum on the Blackhawks blue line. A couple of minutes later, Keith exacted revenge during a four-on-four, feeding Sharp for a soft goal to knot the game back up again.

With just two and a half minutes left in the second, Niklas Hjalmarsson would up with a master-blaster that Ladd timed perfectly and tipped past Leighton, and with a back-breaking goal late, Chicago went up, 3-2.

The third period proceeded just as frenetically as the first 40 minutes of the game, and with time running short and Philadelphia's desperation increasing, Niemi made a number of Cup-saving stops. But with 3:59 remaining, Hartnell continued his Blackhawks-killing ways with his second goal of the game, and again the game was knotted.

After Hartnell's score, momentum had flipped completely for Philly, winning faceoffs and forcing the Blackhawks into successive icings. With two minutes left, Niemi stopped a final flurry, punctuated by a save on Mike Richards that was accomplished by diving forward with his face.

"I don't think he would havethrown his gloves off like that if he wasn't 100 sure -- he sold itpretty good if the puck didn't go in. But it was kind of an awkwardcelebration. We didn't know what todo."-- Jonathan Toews, on Patrick Kane'sStanley Cup-clinching goal inovertimeIt was almost as if the rookie netminder was trying to reinsert himself into the Conn Smythe picture, as his noggin block produced audible gasps in the crowd. For the unflappable Finn, it was just another save at the office.

"My team played good in front of me," Niemi said. "Of course, at the end it was getting pretty tricky. You're tired and playing just with feel then and hoping the puck won't go in. I'm happy my head stopped Richards."

All the momentum had flipped Philly's way, in front of a home crowd not only wearing giveaway orangewear but fully slipping on the Cinderella galosh. A lesser team -- a team willing to shrink outta Pennsylvania tied 3-3 and encounter 48 hours of jibba-jabba before a back-against-wall Game 7 -- would have folded.

Not your Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. In the dressing room after regulation ended, the room was characteristically quiet. But there was still a message to share.

"We just said that someone has to get that feeling," Toews said. "Someone has to be the hero."

In overtime, Richards and Claude Giroux put heavy pressure on Niemi just 20 seconds in. Philadelphia continued pressing, forcing Brent Seabrook to make a diving, game-saving poke check on a breakaway shortly after to preserve the contest.

"At that point, you've just got to do what it takes," said the heavy-hitting d-man. "You're not worried about dead legs or injury -- you have to stop the puck."

Seabrook's blue line partner, Keith, who was a Conn Smythe finalist for reasons not the least of which were seven lost chiclets during the game that clinched a Cup berth for Chicago, said his dental surgery was well worth it, and added, "We all sacrificed. Our team effort is always huge. Tonight was the biggest, and when you're going for the Cup, that's just how it's supposed to work out."

Kane, a youngster still shy of kindergarten the last time the Blackhawks were in the Stanley Cup Finals, turned out to the hero his teammates sought before overtime.

"I can't believe this just happened," Kane said. "It's something you dream of as a kid, to score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup Finals. It was just -- it was unbelievable."

Pretty much sums it up for the thousands of revelers who took to the streets, honking horns, high-fiving and pulling on their redwear to celebrate a first in most of our lifetimes.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Dennis Gilbert defends decision to stand up for Blackhawks teammate Alex DeBrincat

Dennis Gilbert defends decision to stand up for Blackhawks teammate Alex DeBrincat

The Blackhawks racked up a season-high 27 penalty minutes in Sunday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes, 17 of which came from Dennis Gilbert alone. And it all came on one sequence.

After watching Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers deliver a hit from behind on Alex DeBrincat that went unpenalized, Gilbert skated half the length of the ice to confront Demers and initiated a fight with the 11-year NHL veteran. The scrap didn't last long, but Gilbert was assessed a two-minute penalty for instigating, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct.

DeBrincat said after the game he appreciated Gilbert sticking up for him and so did the Blackhawks bench, most of whom gave Gilbert fist bumps and head taps as he was escorted out. But it came at a time when the Blackhawks were leading 3-2 near the midway mark of the second period and, unfortunately for Gilbert and the team, the Coyotes capitalized on the power play to even things up at 3-3 and it turned out to be the last goal scored in regulation.

"I thought it was a dirty hit," Gilbert said. "His numbers were showing and he decided to follow through and make the hit still. So it's tough, having to get an extra penalty for it. It's no fun and watching them score on the power play, they tie the game up and we end up not getting the win, which is unfortunate. But if you let that stuff happen to players on your team, especially your best players, it's going to keep happening.

"I'm not a fighter by any means; it kind of happens that coincidentally it's two games in a row. But I'm going to stand up for myself and for my teammates. ... I'm not going to sit back and let somebody get taken advantage of, whether it's on the ice or walking down the streets in Chicago."

A lot has been made about whether it was the wrong place and wrong time for Gilbert to stand up for his teammate. But the Blackhawks — both players and coaches — acknowledged it's a penalty they don't mind trying to kill off because the intention sent a powerful message throughout the locker room.

The Blackhawks were eight seconds away from killing off the penalty and this wouldn't be a discussion if they did. Still, Gilbert said he would do it again if he had to because he believes it's the right thing to do.

"I think it's kind of an instincutal thing," Gilbert said. "As a defenseman on a defenseman, it can be hard to orchestrate that. I don't like staged fights. It was an in-the-moment thing. I saw what I thought was a dirty hit and it wasn't penalized, so you've got to address it. Like I said, it's tough being shorthanded, but I think that it's important, especially on your better players, to make sure that guys know if you're going to hit them or take a shot at them, you're going to have to pay a price."

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Penalty kill improving, but Blackhawks struggling to stay out of the box

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USA Today

Penalty kill improving, but Blackhawks struggling to stay out of the box

The Blackhawks' struggles on the penalty kill last season have been well-documented. They ranked dead last with a 72.7 percent kill rate, which was the worst percentage of any NHL team in the past 30 years.

And what made the number more alarming is the fact the Blackhawks committed the third-fewest minor penalties last season, so it's not like they were shooting themselves in the foot in that regard. They simply couldn't rely on their penalty kill in any situation.

"It felt like it didn't matter what we tried to do to turn things around," Jonathan Toews said. "It just kept snowballing in the wrong direction for us." 

That's changed this season, but the Blackhawks haven't been doing themselves any favors as of late.

Since Nov. 29, the Blackhawks have committed the most minor penalties (23) of any team for an average of 3.83 per game over the last six contests. They've also given up the most power-play goals (six) in that span. 

Before that, the Blackhawks had committed just 78 minor penalties across 24 games, which ranked ninth-fewest. They've killed off 79.6 percent of their penalties this season, good for 17th, but the Blackhawks have put their special teams in a difficult position in the last half dozen games and it’s costing them points.

"We have to keep it out of our net and obviously stay out of the box too," Alex DeBrincat said following a 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. "Two of their goals came on power plays, so if we stayed out of the box I think we win that in regulation."

The Blackhawks committed a season-high six minor penalties on Sunday and played 10:07 of the game shorthanded, which was by far their most of the season, according to Natural Stat Trick. Two games prior in Boston, they spent 8:00 of the game on the penalty kill, which tied their third-highest total of the season.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton is pleased with the progression of the penalty kill and how the Blackhawks are pressuring at the appropriate time, denying entries and making big saves. They got away from that a bit on Sunday, but you won’t win many hockey games if you commit six penalties.

Staying out of the box is something that’s the bigger issue.

"I think our PK has been very good," Colliton said. "If we just talk about the last game, we got to focus on getting the puck all the way down and getting our structure back. When we're trying to attack, it's fine. It's great to score, but when we're trying to attack and it doesn't go well, we lack numbers back. They scored off the rush. They entered clean on the second goal and created zone time. We need our numbers to defend the entries."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.