PHILADELPHIA – Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews celebrated his 22nd birthday just more than a week ago. If he hoists the Stanley Cup either Wednesday or Friday night, he’ll become the second-youngest captain in NHL history to do so.
And he’ll have the youngest-ever captain in part to thank for it. Sidney Crosby turned 22 last summer, just two months after leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup. People knew it would be a matter of time before players such as Crosby and Toews would win Cups, but the fact Crosby did it in his fourth season and Toews is on the precipice of doing it in his third is impressive.
“Watching the Pittsburgh Penguins come from behind and win that one last year, that’s when it really first set in that our team and myself personally never felt closer,” Toews said. “I really thought it could become a reality. It has been a long year, but I think we knew all along that we could make it this far and hopefully we can find a way to do it (in Game 6).”
The Blackhawks, as an organization, are certainly hoping to see something special Wednesday night. In fact, it has chartered a jet to fly family members of each of the players for the game.
The Blackhawks go into Game 6 knowing that, for the most part, they’ve been quite good in elimination games during this year’s playoffs. They closed out both the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 on the road. They’re probably keenly aware also of the fact that no team in this year’s playoffs has won Game 7 at home. The Phoenix Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals were all eliminated on home ice in previous rounds.
They’re also well aware of the Flyers proclivity for handling adversity and how they have been this playoffs version of a cockroach.
“I don’t think it matters if it’s Game 5, 6 or 7,” said Blackhawks center Patrick Sharp. “If you have a chance to close out a team, you want to make sure you take advantage of it. We’ve been pretty good in those elimination games, but we want to remain focused and try not to think about what might happen or could happen.”
But the Blackhawks know that somewhere in the Wachovia Center, the Stanley Cup will be in a trunk waiting to be removed if they can win one more game. It’s an intoxicating thought, particularly for those who have not won a Cup before. But the Blackhawks are intent on not getting ahead of themselves.
“(The vision of hoisting the Stanley Cup) has been flashing in my head since the beginning of the playoffs,” Toews said. “Every time you win one game it feels like you’re going all the way to the Cup and when you lose a game it feels like your season is going to be over. It has been such a crazy ride. For the last day it hasn’t been any different. You just try to get those thoughts out of your head that get you all excited and jacked up. You try to save your energy and focus.”
The Blackhawks know they had more success in Game 5 than they’ve had in any other in this series. They scored seven goals, made their nemesis Chris Pronger go minus-5, were much more physical and assertive and established themselves as the superior team.
“The one thing about that game that everybody keeps forgetting is we did that in Game 5,” said Blackhawks center John Madden. “We have to go out and do that in Game 6. We had a lot of success, but it’s over with and we have to start all over.”
Ken Campbell is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will be filing daily blogs until a champion is crowned.
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