Author: Jason Brough


It’s ‘easy to daydream,’ but ‘Hawks need to stay focused


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.

In closest Cup final ever, mistakes loom especially large


TAMPA — The Chicago Blackhawks scored two goals Saturday. One came on a major blunder by Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. The other came moments after a more minor error by Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr.

You know what they say about hockey. And like clockwork, Andrew Shaw went ahead and said it after the Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory.

“Hockey is a game of mistakes,” he said. “Whoever makes the least usually has the better chance of winning.”

They’re calling this the closest Stanley Cup Final in NHL history. All five games have been decided by one goal. There has yet to be a two-goal lead at any time. Heck, the most one team has outshot the other is by six.

Frankly, it’s amazing there hasn’t been overtime.

“This is five one‑goal games,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “The margin of error for both teams is minimal.”

Even Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a participant in so many big games both professionally and on the international stage, has yet to develop an immunity to the anxiety.

“It’s always nerve-wracking,” he said. “I think that just shows you really want to win.”

And in a series where even the most benign-looking play can prove fatal — as it did for Tampa Bay early in the third when Sustr misplayed the puck along the boards in the Chicago end, ultimately leading to Antoine Vermette’s winner — it can be especially hard to keep from playing scared.

What’s the Blackhawks’ solution to that?

“I think everyone’s reassuring each other to go out and make plays,” said Toews. “Just go out there and make things happen. You’ve got five other guys out there with you. If you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world.

“We’re gonna bail each other out when we get in tight spots. So whether you have a lot of experience or you’re a young guy with not so much experience, we’re all trying to make each other a little more comfortable out there.”

As for that first Chicago goal, Bishop chalked it up to a miscommunication with defenseman Victor Hedman.

“I saw them going for a change and I thought I would be able to catch them,” he said. “You know, Heddy was coming for it, but you can’t really hear anything in the building when it’s that loud. And you saw the result.”

Indeed we did. Bishop collided with Hedman, Patrick Sharp picked up the puck, open net, 1-0 Blackhawks.

“It’s unfortunate, obviously,” said Bishop. “It’s the first time it’s happened, and it’s a bad time to happen.”

Said Hedman: “I was looking up ice, didn’t see him and didn’t hear him. Stuff like that happens.”

And so this series heads back to Chicago, where the Cup may or may not be hoisted Monday after Game 6.

There will be mistakes.

There will be nerves.

“That’s what we live for,” said Shaw. “This is playoff hockey and we expect nothing different.”

Columnist: ‘NHL to Portland is a no-brainer’

New Orleans Hornets v Portland Trail Blazers

The Arizona Coyotes’ latest spat with the City of Glendale was the catalyst for one newspaper columnist from Portland, Oregon, to make the case for an NHL team in the Rose City.

From John Canzano of the Oregonian:

We’re too big a market to have only an NBA and MLS team. We’re too hockey-ready to not seize the opportunity.

NHL to Portland is a no-brainer. It would work here. In fact, we’d be a better hockey town than basketball town. Long ago the prevailing fear from inside the Blazers organization was that an NHL team might cannibalize the NBA franchise’s fan base. Also, that Allen just wasn’t a hockey fan. So if we’re asking ourselves today, “What’s changed?” take a look at the guy sitting in the president’s office at One Center Court.

The Allen to which Canzano is referring is, of course, billionaire Paul Allen, who also owns the NBA’s Trail Blazers.

In October, Allen told the Oregonian that bringing the NHL to Portland is something that he looks at “from time to time.”

Allen may, in fact, have looked pretty seriously at bringing the Coyotes to Portland in 2013.

The NHL hasn’t been shy to say that the Pacific Northwest — an area that includes both Portland and Seattle — would get “serious consideration” if “expansion comes into the picture or relocation is needed.”

So far much of the speculation has focused on Seattle. But what Portland already has that Seattle still doesn’t is an NHL-ready arena. The Moda Center, which first opened in 1995, is owned by Allen, who may or may not have any interest in actually owning a hockey team, but perhaps wouldn’t mind another tenant for his building.

Canzano concludes, rather optimistically:

The gag order is currently in full effect in the Blazers organization. Nobody is talking hockey because when you’re interested in making that buy you don’t hold those conversations publicly.

That silence sounds sweet.

Related: Add another city to the Coyotes relocation rumormill — Portland, Oregon