TAMPA — They’ve hoisted it in Philadelphia and they’ve hoisted it in Boston. But one thing this current version of the Chicago Blackhawks has never done is raise the Stanley Cup at home in front of their rowdy fans at the United Center.
They’ll have an opportunity to do just that on Monday.
“Never been in this spot,” said coach Joel Quenneville after Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Lightning at Amalie Arena. “I’m sure it will be crazy over the next two days in town. The buzz will be off the charts.”
The challenge, of course, will be to stay focused. The Lightning have been great on the road in these playoffs. Nobody’s expecting them to roll over.
“It’s easy to daydream sometimes and all of a sudden completely snap out of it when you’re thinking of winning the Cup and hoisting the Cup and all the things that come with it,” said ‘Hawks captain Jonathan Toews.
“We’ve gotta try to get those thoughts out of our head and just focus on the task.”
History shows that teams in the Blackhawks’ position usually end up winning:
But then again…
Most recently, the Boston Bruins trailed the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the 2011 final before winning the final two games.
And, of course, back in 2004, the Lightning themselves trailed the Flames 3-2 before taking Game 6 in Calgary and returning home to hoist their first and only Cup in franchise history.
“We’ve been in this position before just a month and a half ago in the Detroit series,” added Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “This team has found a way. That’s why we are where we are right now.”
In the closest Cup final in NHL history, where each game has been decided by one goal and there have been three victories by the road team, the Blackhawks may have gained the advantage Saturday, but this remains anyone’s series.