Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup a monument to skill, speed, grit
Kane's speed and skill, as the video above shows, made that goal possible in the first place. His selection as the Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP was questioned by some -- even by him when Pierre McGuire spoke with him on the ice over NBC; Kane thought Crawford had been snubbed, and perhaps so. Personally, I thought Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who was the best player on the ice in Game 6 and one of the best all spring, deserved serious consideration -- as did Toews, who may not have put up big numbers, but who does so many things very well that don't register on the game sheets.
Of course, Toews, who suffered what was called "head trauma" (that's a concussion, folks) in Game 5 and sat out the third period, tied the Game 6 at 1-1 in the second period, his own speed the reason why he pulled away from Zdeno Chara, the massive B's blueliner who seemed to get slower and slower all series.
Chara, on the ice for 10 of the last 12 Chicago goals, was targeted just as Toews had been, but the constant banging seemed to wear Boston's captain down more, the Hawks forcing him to handle the puck and hitting him every time he did. Bickell did a lot of that damage.
And then there was the game-winner by Dave Bolland, who is a very effective depth center in Chicago's scheme. Depth players on both Boston and Chicago were big focal points throughout the postseason.
By now it should be clear that depth is just as important in the playoffs as good goaltending and star performances by star players. Of those three, depth is the least talked-about. Teams certainly need it when this tournament becomes (as TV announcers are wont to tell us) a battle of attrition. But injuries aside, it's no coincidence that the NHL's two deepest teams played for the Cup.
Early on, praise flowed for the Bruins' fourth line of Gregory Campbell, Dan Paille and Shawn Thornton, but that line vanished after Campbell broke his leg and it proved to be a big setback for Boston. No matter who the Bruins plugged in or how they changed their third and fourth lines, they weren't able to consistently regain what that trio had given them. Bolland was hailed as one of the NHL's top checking centers in the Hawks' 2010 Cup run, but injuries have plagued him. He only hurt Boston in this series, never more than with 59 seconds left in the third period, 17 ticks of the clock after Bickell's marker.
And the Hawks had depth on defense, too, always able to dress six NHL-caliber blueliners. They really leaned on Michal Rozsival for big minutes and big plays against Boston. The Bruins, too, had terrific depth on defense in the postseason -- some of it surprising, as when they dressed three rookies -- Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton -- against the Rangers and didn't miss a beat. Krug never left the B's lineup and Boston looks pretty strong on the back end going forward.
But this season belonged to the Blackhawks from the January day the puck dropped until the June night that Toews lifted the Cup. They were forced to undergo a mini-rebuild after winning the 2010 Cup due to salary cap issues, and for all the heroics of their players and the maneuvers made by Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff, Stan Bowman's role in this championship shouldn't be overlooked. He's reconstructed a club that's good enough and young enough to be a league power for a while.
Of course, as we witnessed once again on Monday night, you never can tell what will happen in the Stanley Cup playoffs. At least we can say the Blackhawks were powerful enough in this game to shock us all.