CHICAGO — They’ve done it again.
But this time, they did it at home.
For the third time in the last six years — and for the first time in Chicago since 1938 — the Blackhawks ascended to the top of the NHL, beating Tampa Bay 2-0 on Monday night in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, winning the series four games to two.
Tonight’s game was, like every game this series, a thrilling affair with little separating the two teams. While the final didn’t go the full seven games and failed to feature a single overtime, the Bolts and ‘Hawks combined for one of the most tightly-contested championship series the NHL’s seen in a long time.
Perhaps that’s why it took a special play from a special player to decide it.
Duncan Keith, the Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP, scored the winning goal late in the second period on a terrific solo effort, picking up his own rebound before firing past Ben Bishop. That Keith scored the winner was fitting and cemented himself in Blackhawk lore; with the goal, he became the first ‘Hawk to score a cup-winning tally at home since Carl Voss beat the Maple Leafs at the old Chicago Stadium 77 years ago.
Keith wasn’t the only hero on the night, however.
Corey Crawford, outstanding in the latter half of this series, stopped all 23 shots faced for his first-ever Stanley Cup Final shutout. Over the final three games, the two-time Cup-winning ‘tender allowed just two goals, finishing with a sparkling .975 save percentage.
But there’s another side to Crawford’s heroics.
For as good as he was, the Bolts will have their regrets about failing to beat him. The NHL’s highest-scoring team during the regular season struggled to generate offense as the series progressed, and were shut out in tonight’s elimination contest — the first time they’ve been blanked in 19 games.
And it’s not like the Lightning were without their chances. Captain Steve Stamkos, who’ll undoubtedly face criticism after failing to score in the series, hit the crossbar in the first period and had a breakaway spectacularly saved by Crawford in the second.
As for the ‘Hawks, tonight’s win officially cemented them as the closest thing we’ve seen to a dynasty in the salary cap era. Sure, the group is going look different moving forward, and some familiar faces will say goodbye, but this collection of players has left an unforgettable mark on the city.
And that’s something that’ll never change.
Patrick Kane finally snapped his scoring slump in the third period, notching his first goal of the series on a nice Brad Richards pass… Keith became the fourth player to log over 700 minutes in a single postseason (since the NHL began tracking in ’98), joining Nicklas Lidstrom, Drew Doughty and Chris Pronger… Keith also matched Chicago’s franchise record for most points by a d-man in a single season, drawing even with Chris Chelios (21 pts, 1992)… The ‘Hawks continued their impressive run of protecting leads tonight — a perfect 33-0-0 when leading after two periods this year, including a 8-0 mark in the playoffs… Ben Bishop finished with 30 saves on 32 shots.