Months of hard work ended in success yet again for the Chicago Blackhawks; for the third time in six seasons, they outlasted the other 29 teams in the NHL to hoist the Stanley Cup, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games to make it happen. There are several reasons why the Hawks’ postseason run ended the way it did.
Throughout the playoffs, Chicago got plenty of scoring from their trio of superstar players Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, who were the top three on the team in postseason points. Their second tier forwards, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brad Richards and Brandon Saad also helped fill the net. Finally, on the offensive end of the ice, roleplayers like Andrew Shaw, Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen all scored big goals at clutch times. Scoring from depth players is one of the most important values of playoff hockey.
Goaltending is another one. While he struggled in the first and third rounds at times, Corey Crawford was very solid when he needed to be, and it showed when he put up solid numbers and tied the franchise record in postseason wins before raising his second Stanley Cup.
And of course, defense. While most successful teams rely on six defensemen, the Hawks managed to keep winning with four very good defensemen playing the bulk of the time. Keith was a workhorse, averaging nearly thirty minutes a game while contributing offensively and winning the Conn Smythe, awarded to MVP of the playoffs. Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya rounded out the rest of Chicago’s top-four.
Now that the Hawks have won for the third time in six years, the debate is on whether or not the Blackhawks are a dynasty. Decades ago, likely not, since the New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens set that standard by winning Cups multiple years in a row.
That was before the salary cap began in 2005, which limits the amount of money NHL teams can pay for their roster. The salary cap also prevents teams from buying all superstar players and becoming a monopoly among the league. Teams would have to make smart decisions on who to draft, which free agents to sign and who to trade for, all while keeping their budget in mind.
The Blackhawks seem to have perfected that science, creating just about as good a system as possible under the cap. Their franchise players, Toews, Kane and Keith are only 27, 26 and 31 respectively. The former two especially are about to hit their primes, and Keith is still in his, which means a team built around them still has a decent window to be a dominant team.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, the salary cap will likely force them to part ways with a couple of players through trade or free agency so they can make room to re-sign a guy like Saad. Sharp, who is 33 years old and was a big part of all three of Chicago’s recent Cup-winning teams is the likely trade victim.
An example of how great Chicago is built is that most teams would really miss a player like Sharp. With young guys like Saad and Teravainen, the blow of his loss can be cushioned nicely.
Most of the core of the Blackhawks will still be with the team years down the road, so don’t be shocked if the Hawks cement their standing as a modern-day dynasty with another Stanley Cup in the next few years.