CHICAGO - On a stormy night in Chicago, a modern-day dynasty was born. The Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champions for the third time in six seasons and, in doing so, have earned their place in history.
The Blackhawks capped their first Stanley Cup win on home ice since 1938 with a 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 Monday night in a series that was far from an epic. But years from now, history will reflect on these Blackhawks as one of the most impressive aggregations of talent the game has ever produced.
There will be changes to this roster to be sure. Those who watched the Blackhawks win probably saw Patrick Sharp play his last game in a Chicago uniform. Bryan Bickell will likely be gone too, replaced by younger, cheaper talent. But the core of this team will remain intact and will have an excellent opportunity to continue to add Stanley Cup rings to their fingers in future years.
The Blackhawks have some of the best core players in the game - almost certain Hall of Famers in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, each one of them with a Conn Smythe Trophy to his credit after Keith picked his up as the most valuable player of the playoffs. Their supporting cast has Marian Hossa on it, for goodness sake. Their coach is one of the best in the business and GM Stan Bowman has an uncanny ability to work the salary cap and economics of the modern-day NHL like no other GM. Even in these times of hyper parity and competitiveness, the Blackhawks are not going anywhere.
To win one Stanley Cup in this day and age is impressive enough. Anyone who thinks the Stanley Cup is not the most difficult trophy to win in professional sports hasn't seen these guys at the end of a long playoff run. To be able to do it even once is a remarkable accomplishment. To do it three times under these conditions is nothing short of extraordinary.
The Blackhawks managed to dispatch at Lightning team that would not go quietly into the night. Even though it was running on fumes, playing its 26th playoff game of this spring, the Lightning was perhaps the most difficult out any team has had to face. Two summers ago, the Lightning was a lottery team and now it is one that is positioned to be a Stanley Cup contender for the next decade. That's what strong ownership and management can do for a team in a remarkably short period of time.
There were some wonderful storylines for the Blackhawks. Brad Richards signed a one-year deal and won a Stanley Cup at the age of 35. Kimmo Timonen, one of the most decent human beings in the game and the owner of an exemplary career, fades off into the sunset of retirement a winner. Backup goalie Scott Darling overcame social anxiety and substance abuse problems to find his way back to the NHL, winning the Stanley Cup with his hometown team.
The season was not without its devastating moments, either. Assistant manager Clint Reif, took his own life In January. Enormously popular with the players, Reif left behind a wife and three daughters. You can bet the Blackhawks will lobby to have his name on the Stanley Cup with theirs when it gets engraved later this summer.
The Blackhawks will have a massive parade in a couple of days in a city where they have become kings. An afterthought that played before a cavernous and empty arena just a few years ago, the Blackhawks are now the toast of the NHL, and the standard against which all other 29 teams will measure themselves.