Subscribe to Sports Illustrated Magazine. Special Championship Offer — Get a Commemorative Chicago Blackhawks Book and Framed Cover
CHICAGO — Alarm bells sounded some two hours before the puck dropped on Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, warning of possible tornadoes near downtown Chicago. The specter of doom seemed to loom over the city, which had not seen the Cup lifted on home ice since 1938. Still, a standing room only crowd made it to the Madhouse on Madison just in case. Outside, the rain dropped in sheets, the thunder clapped like the Hammer of Thor, but within the walls of the United Center on Monday night, the Lightning never struck.
Tampa Bay, the NHL’s highest scoring team this season, one that always believed its offense would come, left the ice empty-handed and empty-hearted. The Bolts fell to the Blackhawks, 2–0, and Chicago lifted its third Stanley Cup in six years. Dynasty may be too strong a word—how bout Dynasty Jr.?—but destiny is not.
After all, the winning goal came off the stickblade of the man (or suspected machine) who fittingly won the Conn Smythe Trophy with 21 points this postseason, the first blueliner to score more than 20 since Chris Pronger in 2006, and the first since Scott Niedermayer in 2007 to be anointed MVP of the playoffs: the Blackhawks’ all-world defenseman Duncan Keith. Rushing into the offensive zone late in the second period of a scoreless game, he wristed a hard shot on Tampa Bay’s net and then kept driving in on Ben Bishop in search of opportunity. The Lightning goalie, whose ability to recover on shots has never been a strength even when fully healthy, gave up a soft rebound in front where Keith snapped a clean shot over Bishop’s glove. An expectant crowd of 22,424 let out a collective boom that could challenge nature’s exclamation.
When Patrick Kane cashed in on a one-timer from the right circle with 5:14 left in regulation, his first of the series and the insurance goal that Chicago had sought, he set off the wild roaring cheers that minutes later morphed into the inimitable sound of victory. On the bench, a 40-year-old defenseman let the tears well into his worn eyes. Unlike those he shed five years ago, when (of course) Kane had scored the winner against his Flyers, Kimmo Timonen's were finally filled with joy. The 16-year veteran knew in that moment that his lifelong dream of lifting the Stanley Cup was about to come true.
“It’s been a long battle, a long journey,” Timonen said, basking on the ice while the arena blared the bopping beat of the Hall and Oates classic, You Make My Dreams Come True.
Timonen, who suffered a pulmonary embolism last August, sat out most of the year, unable to play while taking blood thinners. But after the clots in his lungs had dissolved, he talked to doctors about returning to the ice. “My desire was so deep inside that I wanted to give it one more shot,” he said.
He received clearance from doctors and joined the Blackhawks from Philadelphia at the trade deadline in March. Though his minutes were limited, he contributed where he could; in the end, it didn’t matter much. After Chicago captain Jonathan Toews accepted the silver chalice, he looked straight to Timonen. “Come on, Kimmo,” he yelled.
“I’m happy. I’m relieved,” Timonen said on the ice, the happiest 40-year-old retiree. “I’m ready to go. I leave this game a Stanley Cup champion. And I can’t ask for any more than that.”
For Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, the sounds of the game that will resonate most will be the clang of the crossbar, the dampened thud of Corey Crawford’s left pad. In a game of inches, the 25-year-old Stamkos found his game just slightly off of victory’s axis on Monday night. Eight minutes in, he carried a nifty feed from linemate Valtteri Filppula up the right wall. With speed, time and space, Stamkos unleashed his powerful slap shot, which beat Crawford’s glove but rang the iron cage. Then, in the first minute of the second period, with the game still scoreless, he had another breakaway chance on Crawford. Chasing a loose puck into the offensive zone, Stamkos pulled up as he got a handle on it. He faked, pulled back and went forehand, but he failed to lift the puck another two inches to clear Crawford’s sprawled out pad.
“I felt sick for [Stamkos],” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I know he's going to put a bunch of weight on his shoulders of why we didn't score. But Stammer did an unreal job for us. Nobody scored…. The well ran dry.”
But out on the streets of Chicago, flooded with rainwater and jubilation, the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup dreams ranneth over.