They did it! Hawks bring Cup back to Chicago

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They did it! Hawks bring Cup back to Chicago

Thursday, June 10, 2010
Updated: 2:59 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Daylong showers postponed a Philadelphia Phillies game, displaced the Flyers' pregame "block party" and dampened orange-clad fans' spirits.

But they did herald the end of the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL, as the Chicago Blackhawks ended their 49-year ringless reign with a 4-3 overtime win over Philadelphia.

Patrick Kane had the game-winner at 4:06 of overtime, surely the most puzzlingly gorgeous Cup-clincher in Stanley Cup history. As players on both teams began to drag after 64 minutes of grueling, fast-paced action, Crazy 88 turned on the afterburners to turn the corner and thread the needle on a shot for the win that, short of Kane, none of the 20,327 at the Wachovia Center realized had gone in.

"I don't think he would have thrown his gloves off like that if he wasn't 100 sure -- he sold it pretty good if the puck didn't go in," Blackhawks captain -- and 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner -- Jonathan Toews said. "But it was kind of an awkward celebration. We didn't know what to do."

"We kind of stood there on the bench, until we saw Kane toss his gloves," Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer said. "Then one guy threw his leg over the wall, and we were off."

In back of the bench, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville knew the goal to be true.

"I heard the sound, it was a funny sound," Cool Hand Q said. "Nobody knew where the puck was. Kaner thought it was in ... and the guys knew. That's why they celebrated. When I saw the net lift and the puck in the back, I said, 'OK, the party is on.'"

In a breathless, back-and-forth affair, Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Ladd scored for Chicago, while Antti Niemi stopped an increasingly difficult 21 shots to earn his franchise-record 16th postseason win.

The Blackhawks opened the game with excruciating pressure on Philadelphia, garnering the better scoring chances and pelting Flyers goalie Michael Leighton with five shots in the first four minutes. And Chicago missed its best chance early on when Duncan Keith clanged a slapper off the iron and Toews whiffed on a wide-open rebound.

With regard to penalties, the only whistles of the first came on Brents and Prongers: Blackhawk Sopel earned two interference penalties, teammate Seabrook an elbow, and on the flip side two Prongs penalties rounded things out. Little damage came of the first three -- in fact, Philadelphia failed to record a shot on goal during its first two power plays. But with Pronger boxed for the second time, Byfuglien camped in the crease and notched the first goal of the game -- making it two straight contests scoring a power-play goal with the 6-foot-6 Philly menace in the pen. But when Iron Giant was sent off for the second time with less than a minute left in the first, Scott Hartnell got the Blackhawks back after cashing the disc in from the crease to tie the game at 1.

After a breathless first, fans wouldn't have been wrong for expecting that the second stanza would be a slowdown affair. But such was not the case, as just 30 seconds in Simon Gagne was stoned on a breakaway by Niemi. Some three minutes later, Ladd broke loose and was busted by Leighton.

Twelve minutes in, superscorer Danny Briere got loose deep on a two-on-one to beat Niemi, a play precipitated by Keith getting tripped up by Hartnell, creating a vacuum on the Blackhawks blue line. A couple of minutes later, Keith exacted revenge during a four-on-four, feeding Sharp for a soft goal to knot the game back up again.

With just two and a half minutes left in the second, Niklas Hjalmarsson would up with a master-blaster that Ladd timed perfectly and tipped past Leighton, and with a back-breaking goal late, Chicago went up, 3-2.

The third period proceeded just as frenetically as the first 40 minutes of the game, and with time running short and Philadelphia's desperation increasing, Niemi made a number of Cup-saving stops. But with 3:59 remaining, Hartnell continued his Blackhawks-killing ways with his second goal of the game, and again the game was knotted.

After Hartnell's score, momentum had flipped completely for Philly, winning faceoffs and forcing the Blackhawks into successive icings. With two minutes left, Niemi stopped a final flurry, punctuated by a save on Mike Richards that was accomplished by diving forward with his face.

"I don't think he would havethrown his gloves off like that if he wasn't 100 sure -- he sold itpretty good if the puck didn't go in. But it was kind of an awkwardcelebration. We didn't know what todo."-- Jonathan Toews, on Patrick Kane'sStanley Cup-clinching goal inovertimeIt was almost as if the rookie netminder was trying to reinsert himself into the Conn Smythe picture, as his noggin block produced audible gasps in the crowd. For the unflappable Finn, it was just another save at the office.

"My team played good in front of me," Niemi said. "Of course, at the end it was getting pretty tricky. You're tired and playing just with feel then and hoping the puck won't go in. I'm happy my head stopped Richards."

All the momentum had flipped Philly's way, in front of a home crowd not only wearing giveaway orangewear but fully slipping on the Cinderella galosh. A lesser team -- a team willing to shrink outta Pennsylvania tied 3-3 and encounter 48 hours of jibba-jabba before a back-against-wall Game 7 -- would have folded.

Not your Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. In the dressing room after regulation ended, the room was characteristically quiet. But there was still a message to share.

"We just said that someone has to get that feeling," Toews said. "Someone has to be the hero."

In overtime, Richards and Claude Giroux put heavy pressure on Niemi just 20 seconds in. Philadelphia continued pressing, forcing Brent Seabrook to make a diving, game-saving poke check on a breakaway shortly after to preserve the contest.

"At that point, you've just got to do what it takes," said the heavy-hitting d-man. "You're not worried about dead legs or injury -- you have to stop the puck."

Seabrook's blue line partner, Keith, who was a Conn Smythe finalist for reasons not the least of which were seven lost chiclets during the game that clinched a Cup berth for Chicago, said his dental surgery was well worth it, and added, "We all sacrificed. Our team effort is always huge. Tonight was the biggest, and when you're going for the Cup, that's just how it's supposed to work out."

Kane, a youngster still shy of kindergarten the last time the Blackhawks were in the Stanley Cup Finals, turned out to the hero his teammates sought before overtime.

"I can't believe this just happened," Kane said. "It's something you dream of as a kid, to score the winning goal in the Stanley Cup Finals. It was just -- it was unbelievable."

Pretty much sums it up for the thousands of revelers who took to the streets, honking horns, high-fiving and pulling on their redwear to celebrate a first in most of our lifetimes.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Kyle Baun healthy, ready for another chance with Blackhawks

Kyle Baun healthy, ready for another chance with Blackhawks

Kyle Baun couldn’t have asked for a better start to his second NHL season as he made the Blackhawks roster out of training camp.

It didn’t last long, however, as Baun was back with the Rockford IceHogs after two games with Chicago. As for that season in Rockford?

“That was a whole other story,” said Baun.

Indeed, Baun lost a good portion of his Rockford season when his right wrist was sliced twice by another player’s skate in mid-November. That, however, is all behind him. Now Baun hopes to replicate his 2015 camp performances and latch on with the big club longer.

Baun will play in his first preseason game this fall when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night. The 24-year-old skated is expected to start on a line with Tyler Motte and Tanner Kero, with whom he skated on Friday morning.

“I just want to simulate what I did last year, and it went well at the beginning,” Baun said. “I want to keep working hard, do what I did last year in the exhibition season and hopefully I can stick again.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Baun’s stint was short lived last fall; he was reassigned to Rockford on Oct. 16, and was looking to have a strong season there. Less than a month later, however, he suffered his right wrist injury that sidelined him for more than three months. Baun said he still wasn’t quite right even when he returned.

“I was trying to get back with the wrist and stuff, and I’m not sure it was 100 percent by the time I came back,” said Baun, who now wears Kevlar guards on his wrists. “So it was good to get a summer of training back in and get my legs under me.”

As for that wrist, Baun said it’s definitely “much better now.”

“The strength and dexterity is back,” he said. “It’s a small muscle, so to get the dexterity back was kind of tough.”

Baun is looking for another opportunity. Considering the opportunities for forwards this season, a good showing could lead to some more time in Chicago.

“I’m just trying to focus on my own game like last year. I think that worked for me, trying not to look too, too much into what everyone else is doing,” he said. “Consistency is the biggest thing here. They’re just looking for a guy who can come in, game in and game out, and improve.”

BRIEFLY

- Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford, who just wrapped up their World Cup of Hockey play on Thursday night, will probably get “three or four days off” before joining camp, assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “They’ve been going for a long time,” Kitchen said. “We’ll give them some time off.”

- Coach Joel Quenneville flew to Pittsburgh with the team.

Blackhawks agree to terms with 2015 second-round pick Graham Knott

Blackhawks agree to terms with 2015 second-round pick Graham Knott

The Blackhawks have agreed to terms with forward Graham Knott on a three-year, entry-level contract, the team announced Friday.

Knott, 19, scored 12 goals and 30 assists in 68 regular-season games last season with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League.

He also added five points in 17 postseason contests.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Knott is a power forward who makes a living around the net with his big-body presence.

He was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (No. 54 overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft.