There were three moment that stand out in the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning that secured Chicago’s third Stanley Cup in sixth years.
*In the second period of a scoreless game, Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos had a breakaway against Corey Crawford. Stamkos seemed to do most everything right, juking with his stick and getting in position, but Crawford made the stop.
*Shortly after Tampa’s Anton Stralman received a beautiful pass close to the goal with open net in front of him. Stralman couldn’t get the puck down and it skirted away to the corner. This wasn’t a “whiff” on a par with Bill Buckner or anything, as the puck was slightly above the ice as it hurdled toward Stralman. But it’s a play that needs to be made to win a game like this.
Those were Tampa’s best two chances to score. Later in the second period came the third big play. Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith went down the ice, not in a clear breakaway situation, as three Tampa defenders were with him, but with a good head of steam.
Keith fired the puck and Ben Bishop made the save. The puck was loose in front. Just to the right of the net, Tampa’s Andrej Suster appeared frozen, enjoying the best seat in the house, and missed a chance to clear the puck. Keith fired a follow-up from close range and this one scored.
The game stayed 1-0, and Tampa Bay began to unleash its aggressiveness with about eight minutes left. They were attacking the net, but Chicago’s defense was so good, that none of the looks the Lightning got seemed all that got. I remarked to a friend I was watching the game with that you could almost smell an odd-man rush the other way for Chicago. Sure enough, it came and with 5:14 left, Patrick Kane scored the goal that won the game.
Shot totals tell us that Chicago took 32 and Tampa Bay had 25. That’s misleading, because the Lightning had plenty of good opportunities with the puck. The relevant stat is blocked shots, where the Blackhawks had 25 and the Lightning had 12. For all of Tampa’s control of the puck, Chicago did a great job defensively at limiting the chances and when they didn’t, Crawford made some spectacular saves.
The Blackhawk goalie was his team’s best player in the Finals, but the Conn Smythe Award is for the postseason in total and in that regard Keith deserved both the award and the unanimous vote he got to win it. He was on the ice constantly, putting in the hockey equivalent of what Madison Bumgarner did for the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, just repeatedly going out there and seeming to be unfatigued. Keith gets a well-deserved rest.
And Chicago gets a well-deserved Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay is a rising force, a talented team with no obvious weaknesses. I won’t say for sure they’ll get back, because we all know how fickle sports can be. But they’re certainly on the right track to be in this positon again. In the end, this Blackhawk team just knows how to win and they did it one more time in the United Center on Monday night.