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article imageOp-Ed: Blackhawks win with championship core, playoff experience

By Mark J. Allan     Jun 16, 2015 in Sports
When the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 Monday to clinch their third Stanley Cup title in six years, it was no fluke.
There are excellent reasons why the Chicago Blackhawks won 2-0 Monday to earn their third Stanley Cup win in the past six years.
Equally valid considerations prevented the Tampa Bay Lightning from capturing their second championship, and first since 2004.
Chicago won because:
• The Hawks had more post-season experience and never got rattled no matter how much pressure they faced.
• Chicago was better than Tampa at winning close games. Until the Hawks seized a 2-0 lead late in the final game, neither team in the final had held a lead of more than one goal during the entire series.
• By averaging a staggering 31 minutes and six seconds per game for the entire playoffs, leading all skaters with a plus-16 rating and tying for third with 21 points, defenseman Duncan Keith became the fourth player on the roster to be named playoff MVP. Fittingly, he potted the winning goal in the decisive game off a rebound of his own shot.
• Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya played ridiculous minutes with lethal effectiveness as Chicago’s Big Four blueliners.
• The Blackhawks’ championship core, which also included forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa as well as goalie Corey Crawford were not to be denied.
• Chicago captain Toews solidified his reputation as one of the best, if not the best, leader of any NHL team.
• Head coach Joel Quenneville, who has been the bench boss for all of the Blackhawks’ past three Cup winners, demanded the best from his players — and got it.
• Crawford wasn’t always at his best, but always was when it mattered most.
The Lightning failed to win the Cup because:
• Not that the Hawks weren’t hurting, but serious injuries to three key Tampa players prevented them from being at their best. Goalie Ben Bishop heroically labored through a torn groin muscle acquired in Game Two of the final. A broken right wrist suffered by center Tyler Johnson in the series opener left him a shadow of the sensational player who still led the playoffs with 13 goals and who tied for first overall with Kane at 23 points. Dynamic linemate Nikita Kucherov was hurt when he crashed into an unmoving goalpost early in Game Five, missing the rest of the game.
• An ill-advised decision by Bishop late in Game Five caused a collision with Victor Hedman, Tampa’s best defenseman, that resulted in an easy game-winning goal by Antoine Vermette.
• A curious scoring drought, Tampa sniper Steven Stamkos’ second of the post-season, prevented the Lightning from winning one or two of those one-goal losses. In the final game, he rang a puck off the crossbar and failed to score on two bang-bang shots on a clear-cut breakaway.
• Most of the Lightning players kept skating into uncharted territory the deeper they went in the playoffs. A glaring lack of post-season experience on many player resumes was addressed in this post-season, though. Fast-rising Tampa will be an even-tougher opponent next year.
Prediction: Correctly forecast a six-game Chicago win.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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