Not to be denied, Blackhawks crowned 2013 Stanley Cup Champs - Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

Not to be denied, Blackhawks crowned 2013 Stanley Cup Champs

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Blackhawks completed a magical season with a 3-2 victory in Game 6 over the Boston Bruins. With the win the Hawks captured their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.

The year started out with an incredible run of 24 consecutive wins without a regulation loss for the Blackhawks. Monday night, when Dave Bolland scored the second of two Chicago goals which came in a 17-second span, the Blackhawks became a team of destiny. This will be a Stanley Cup Final that will be remembered as one of the most intense and evenly matched in recent history.

The Boston Bruins probably deserved better, they had an outstanding series. They are a team of well-coached warriors that battled with determination. Looking at the series on a per period basis the Bruins probably had the edge in play. The reason they were denied the privilege of hoisting Lord Stanley is because they played a group that refused to lose and wouldn't be denied.

From the beginning of the season until the final horn sounded this Blackhawks team exhibited the character of a champion. There were doubters and until they evened the series with Boston at two games each, it looked like their championship bid may fall short. It wasn't as if Boston lost the series, it was more a case of the will of the Hawks and skill level from top to bottom being the difference.

The Bruins had more players returning from their Cup conquest in 2011 than the Hawks had from their recent championship. That makes the victory for Chicago all the sweeter as they did it with players who knew what to expect and others who were thrust into a role that is difficult to prepare for.

The young Blackhawks like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw had an impact in the playoffs. Bryan Bickell had a big role in this post season and potted the game tying goal in the third frame Monday night. Not to be forgotten is Corey Crawford who was sitting in the stands as a spectator during the 2010 Cup run and was the most consistent Hawk player this time around.

Patrick Kane came on the Finals to have a very good playoff run and to complete his finest season as a Blackhawk. Kane was rewarded for his post season achievements by being voted the Conn Smythe winner as the most valuable player throughout the playoffs. Kane mentioned there were other players that could have won the honor, one in particular was Crawford.

The Blackhawks were not firing on all cylinders to start their march to capture Lord Stanley. Crawford was the player many fans wanted to run out of town last summer. As the irony of sports would have it, no Blackhawks was more consistent than Crawford from the opening game of this year's playoffs until Monday night's season ending triumph. Crawford could have easily been considered the MVP of the playoffs.

It was Crawford that kept his club in Game 6 after being badly outplayed in the opening frame. The Bruins doubled up the shots on goal by a 12-6 margin. It actually looked worse for the Hawks than the lopsided shot total. The Bruins were desperate and hemmed the Hawks in their own zone most of the period. To come away trailing by only one goal after the opening 20 minutes was mostly due to the strong play of Crawford.

My own thinking is the team which comes up with a significantly higher total in blocked shots often find a way to win the game. Monday night the Hawks were credited with 24 blocks to Boston's seven. The scoring chances through two periods were almost three to one in favor of the Bruins but this group of Blackhawks wouldn't be denied.

This Blackhawk squad is different, as being outplayed never seems to lessen their determination to win. It took a long time but the Hawks eventually got the game to a fast pace, one which they excel at. When that happens, a player with elite skill and incredible will like Jonathan Toews can shine.

It was Toews who scored the Hawks first goal on a slick well-placed shot. Toews is a champion more than once at different levels. No matter how much he has struggled to score in the post season, Monday night he put one past Tuukka Rask with a great deal of confidence. With Toews scoring through the five hole on Rask the Hawks got back to even while being outplayed.

Toews scoring in the middle frame gave the Hawks life and it looked like they were chipping away at the Bruins but Boston wasn't done.

Milan Lucic gave Boston a 2-1 lead with less than eight minutes left in the third period. That goal would have lessened the will of many clubs, as the Hawks could have turned their collective thoughts to a Game 7 in Chicago.

From a viewing experience this series was one of the finest ever and the way it concluded could not have been written better in Hollywood.

With time running out Kane who was working hard all night, along with Toews got control of the puck along the boards. The Hawks had just pulled Crawford as Toews came out of the corner and found Bickell open in front of Rask. The big winger made no mistake and the Hawks tied the game at the 18:44 mark of period three. The Bruin fans were stunned, and their displeasure was only beginning.

The winning goal not only is a credit to Bolland but also to the depth of this group. Not to be forgotten is the ability of Joel Quenneville to push the correct buttons at the right time.

The Hawks had their fourth line on the ice for the game winner. The play was started with Bolland capturing the puck at center ice and moving it quickly into the Bruins. After that almost every player on the ice had a role in the game winner.

Marcus Kruger has been outstanding throughout the post season, he got the puck back to Johnny Oduya at the point. Oduya showed the awareness this team often exhibits as he sent a well placed pass/shot toward the net. Oduya was looking for a redirection from Michael Frolik who has been an unsung hero all season. Frolik was able to redirect the puck and it got by Rask but hit off the post. Bolland like a heady hockey player should, followed the play and came out from behind the net and was ready to score. Bolland put the puck in for an unbelievable ending to an epic season.

There were times throughout the playoffs when Quenneville appeared outcoached. No one knows the club like a head coach and the media as well as fans don't know the true physical condition of players.

Reports have surfaced that Michal Handzus played with a broken wrist and torn MCL. It has now been suspected Marian Hossa has some sort of a back injury which forced him to miss Game 4. It will be determined in coming days that players from both teams will need to be surgically repaired in the off season. So having a deep squad puts a club in better position to survive.

GM Stan Bowman gets criticized for being too cautious but he played his cards correctly this year. Bowman's biggest coup was signing Michal Rozsival in the offseason.

With the experience of Rozsival the Hawks had the best balanced group on the blue line of any club. That made things easier for Quenneville to do what was needed, as he cut the minutes of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith in the regular season.

Amazingly the Hawks beat the Bruins by using only five defensemen for the most part after Game 2. With fewer minutes for Nick Leddy more strain was placed on Keith who has fitness level that is off the charts. Keith played a great series versus Boston and was the best player on the ice in Game 6. That probably doesn't happen if his minutes were not rationed as well in the regular season.

Bowman also gave his group that started the year in fine fashion the opportunity to succeed without moving a player out at the trade deadline. Handzus was the only addition and his efforts filled the gap at second line center.

When Quenneville reunited Kane and Toews the Hawks offense went to another level. It looked like Coach Q. might have waited too long but a very good bench boss usually knows best.

The Bruins should hang their heads high as they played a great series but unfortunately they met a group which refused to lose and made a habit of winning close games.

In the end the best of the Blackhawks was better than that of the Bruins and everyone else in the NHL.

Al's Shots

As we conclude the season I would like to recognize a local hockey player who has a good chance to play in the NHL someday. Goaltender Garret Sparks, who was born, raised in Elmhurst and was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011.

Sparks was signed to a three year entry level contract back in March. He will celebrate his 20th birthday on June 28, and had a fine season with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League.

Sparks had a 36-17-0-4 record in 2012-2013 while recording a 2.65 goals against average and a .917 save percentage in 60 games with Guelph. The 6'3" Sparks led the OHL in minutes played, wins and had a league high seven shutouts. Sparks also earned a spot on the 2013 U.S. World Junior team which won a gold medal.

By all accounts Sparks has the determination and work ethic to become an NHL goaltender. Sparks also has the support of his proud family, who also deserves credit for his success.

This summer will be the most interesting in the NHL since Wayne Gretzky was traded back in 1988. With the new CBA in place which allows compliance buyouts, plus the declining salary cap, there will be a lot of big names with new addresses in the fall.

I will pass on what I'm hearing and comment on trades via Twitter @AlCimaglia so follow me this summer.

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