5 Things: Promise made, promise delivered by Blackhawks

The Blackhawks declared they had one goal: win the Stanley Cup. Done deal.

If the Lightning didn't understand their role as props in the Blackhawks' coronation in Game 6, then Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford explained it to them. Here's the 5 Things blog scribbled in the blinding afterglow of a modern-day dynasty:

1. One goal. Done deal.

The question all season was this: Could a Blackhawks team that was built to win now actually win this year’s Stanley Cup and warrant consideration as a dynasty with three titles in six salary-cap years?

Asked and answered.

Blackhawks 2, Lightning nothing. After being on loan for a year, the Stanley Cup returned to what seems to be its rightful place.

Promise made. Promise delivered.

Aggressive Hawks management from owner Rocky Wirtz to general manager Stan Bowman created a winning environment.

Savvy coach Joel Quenneville solved the Rubik’s Cube of personnel decisions.

Then the plan was executed by great young talent – young but experienced, experienced but with plenty of time to capture additional championships.

The Hawks finished this championship series in six games the way they always do. But this one seemed the most draining because of the Lightning’s speed, transition game and depth of dangerous players. That’s what made this the toughest and most artful final round of the Hawks’ hat trick.

I mean, the only two-goal lead in the series came with less than six minutes left in the third period of the final game.

It came courtesy of Kane, natch. Kane always does something like that in elimination games.

The first goal came courtesy of Kane, as well, his sweet pass to Keith resulting in the only goal Crawford would need to author a spectacular Game 6 shutout.

Stars being stars. A Hawks trademark.

Jonathan Toews, the best leader in the NHL, raised the Cup as captain for the third time, but the first at home. The way he thrust Lord Stanley's hardware to the heavens, he looked like he was going to bump the previous two banners.

Toews immediately gave the Cup to Kimmo Timonen, 40 years old, coming back from blood clots, and waiting all his career for that moment.

Then to Antoine Vermette, a comparative youngster at 32 who had won nearly every faceoff but had never won the silver chalice.

Then to Andrew Desjardins, another late-season pickup like Timonen and Vermette who made big plays and got to hoist the big prize.

Then Kane, Keith, Crawford, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Niklas Hjalmarsson -- the core following Toews to their third parade.

Then there were two-time champions Johnny Oduya, who played the last week with one arm; Brandon Saad, the mini-Hossa; Marcus Kruger, who seemed to own every last shift of the game; and Andrew Shaw, who rode shotgun for Kruger.

Eventually the Cup got to goalie Scott Darling, a local boy who grew up a Hawks fan and saved the first-round series against the Predators in relief of Crawford.

Then Teuvo Teravainen, who’s 20, talented, sometimes magical, and a big reason the Hawks will have more chances to do this again soon and often.

There will be changes this summer, probably to the core group, and there will be angst and frustrations over personnel losses. But that’s for later.

Now’s the time to celebrate greatness. Their excellence and determination. A dynasty despite today’s unforgiving financial forces.

The Hawks have carved out a brilliant piece of NHL history during this run with a shot at legendary.

2. Corey Crawford had better watch out or he’ll start getting consideration as an elite goalie.

Crawford has now backstopped the Hawks to two Cups in three seasons while the “elite’’ status gets conferred on goalies who have yet to win their first.

Crawford is coming off a Stanley Cup Final in which he gave up just 10 goals in six games and was otherworldly in the final three games as the Hawks overcame a two-games-to-one deficit.

Capped by the shutout in the clincher, Crawford stopped 80 of 82 shots in the last three games for a gaudy .976 save percentage. Great when it matters is a sign of an elite plate. In my world, anyway.

Crawford stopped 14 shots in the hellacious third period of Game 6, but perhaps his biggest save came a minute after the opening puck drop when he robbed Steven Stamkos on a breakaway.

Coming in clean, Stamkos stopped deep in the slot and looked like Kane on a shootout try, but Crawford did the splits and kicked it away with his left pad.

In closeout games this postseason, Crawford has done this:

  • Made all 13 saves in relief of Darling against the Predators;
  • Stopped 34 of 37 shots in a 4-3 win that completed the sweep of the Wild;
  • Turned away 35 of 38 shots in the Game 7 win in Anaheim;
  • Snuffed out all 25 Lightning shots Monday.

Even with his awful start in the first round, Crawford still finished the postseason with a 2.36 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.

Oh, and the Cup. His second. Something that only the KingsJonathan Quick among active goalies can say.

Quick is considered an elite goalie, but his goals-against average and save percentage during the Kings’ Cup-winning run last year were worse than the numbers Crawford just posted.

Crawford doesn’t get the love that Quick does, and certainly doesn’t get the group hugs regularly given Montreal’s Carey Price and the RangersHenrik Lundqvist, two guys who lost to the team that Crawford just shut out to win the Cup.

Again.

If the Conn Smythe Trophy were awarded solely for performance in the final, then Crawford would’ve deserved it over Keith.

Patrick Kane, who skated off with the Smythe the last time the Hawks brandished the Cup around Chicago, admitted that Crawford should’ve won it instead of him in 2013.

Crawford has been at his best when it mattered most. Looks elite to me.

This is what we know. This is what we’ve known for a while. The national types don’t recognize it. But someday those experts will wake up.

I’m telling you, Crawford had better watch out.

3.  If there was a Conn Smythe Trophy for an injury, then Kane’s broken left clavicle would be a unanimous choice.

Florida’s Alex Petrovic crosschecked Kane into the boards Feb. 24, causing a fracture that required surgery. The Hawks placed their star winger on injured reserve for the rest of the season.

Without the league’s leading scorer, the Hawks would have to change the way they won games. They would have to hope it would be good enough to clinch a playoff berth. They would have to hope they could stay alive until Kane’s expected return in the third round.

But what shape would he be in when he came back? How sharp would his game be? How dangerous would he be? How vulnerable? What would he be able to do with all the ice time a dynamic world-class player gets?

There were more questions than answers. A team built to win this season faced a struggle to avoid a wild-card berth. Everyone’s left clavicle ached.

But the bad break brought great financial news. The Hawks gained salary-cap relief against the part of Kane’s paycheck that he wasn’t earning.

That's a rule in the collective bargaining agreement, and Bowman wielded it like Kane on a shootout.

Bowman dangled players and draft picks at the trade deadline and landed Vermette, Timonen and Desjardins.

Which did not look like a good choice at first. Not good at all.

Vermette cost the Hawks a first-round pick and young defenseman Klas Dahlbeck. He failed to score in 19 regular-season games and was moved to the wing and then to the press box.

He finished the postseason with four goals, three game-winners, two in the Final. He also won 58.9 percent of his faceoffs. How do you like that for value?

And this was despite starting the postseason as a healthy scratch and getting sent to the press box again for no good reason for a game in the Western Conference finals.

Timonen hadn’t played all season because of blood-clot issues and looked every bit of slow and bad in the playoffs.

In the Western Conference finals, Timonen's life seemed in danger every time the Ducks put the puck in deep.

Because the Hawks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, the price the Hawks will pay the Flyers for Timonen increased to two second-round picks, no thanks to Timonen.

But somehow, after Michal Rozsival was lost to injury and David Rundblad and Kyle Cumiskey played badly, the respected Finn found something that allowed Quenneville to spot him against the dangerously fast Lightning and buy some rest for the top four defensemen.

Desjardins came from the Sharks for penalty-killing ace Ben Smith and a conditional seventh-round pick, but didn’t score in 12 regular-season games.

First playoff game, however, bang, first goal of the series.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound left wing and linemates Kruger and Shaw weren’t expected to score as much as they were tasked with stopping the other guys from doing it, and by other guys, it was usually the OTHER GUYS -- Steven Stamkos to Ryan Getzlaf to the best the opponent had.

Desjardins became a fixture on the fourth line, which drew the greatest compliment any coach pays: He always had that line on the ice to protect leads in the final minute.

The Kruger line played a big role in getting the Hawks going in the second period of Game 6. After getting outshot 4-0 and outskated in the first nine minutes, the fourth line began a barrage that evened the shots in 90 seconds.

It shouldn’t be left to fourth-liners to start things on a team with Toews and Kane, but that’s what relentless energy lines can do.

And that depth in different positions to complement the big names is why teams win Cups.

Oh, and Kane returned for the first round of the postseason, not the third. He closed the playoffs tied for the playoff points lead and did it the way a star does: setting up the winning goal and scoring the insurance marker in the game that clinched the third Cup in six years.

Your basic win-win-win deals.

4. The four words that beat the Lightning’s aggressive puck pressure: trailer on the play.

That was Keith, coming from two zones away and taking a sweet pass from Kane to put the Hawks up 1-0 in the second period.

That also was Brad Richards, who took a perfect drop pass from Saad and worked a two-on-one with Kane down low that Kane buried with a one-timer.

Kane finished the postseason with 19 goals and 42 points in 31 career games in which one team could be sent home.

5. The Conn Smythe-winning Keith had a Corsi For plus-minus of plus-4 after two periods, according to war-on-ice.com. But in the metric that measures puck possession, Keith was a minus-4 in the first period, which meant he was a plus-8 for the second period, which was when the Hawks took over play and Keith scored. The offense starts with Keith, and sometimes ends with him.

a. Richards had one point and was a minus-player in the first five games of the Final. He played in last year’s Final for the Rangers, but the Kings destroyed him, sending him from centering the first line to the fourth in less than five games.

Understandably, there were questions whether the 34-year-old Richards could survive the regular season and contribute for the four rounds required to win the Cup.

He piled up seven points in seven games against the Ducks in the Western Conference finals and potted a goal earlier in the Final, but that pass to Kane was everything the Hawks hoped for when they signed him last summer.

b. After the Hawks’ Game 5 win on Lightning ice, Crawford told NBC rinkside reporter Pierre McGuire the Hawks would “carry this momentum’’ into Game 6.

Please. No. Stop.

There’s no such thing as momentum, and a goalie playing for a team that was in double figures for goals allowed after scoring itself this postseason ought to know that better than anyone.

That Game 5 momentum, by the way, resulted in a scoreless first period at home in Game 6. The Hawks outshot the Lightning 13-4 in the first period, but Tampa Bay had the better of 5-on-5 play, registering five scoring chances to the Hawks’ zero after 18 minutes.

Bad enough that the Hawks blew two power plays in the first period, but it would’ve been an ugly start for the team with the supposed momentum if Oduya hadn’t caught Nikita Kucherov on a breakaway early and knocked away the puck with his one good arm.

Kucherov’s injury in Game 5 and whatever lingered into Game 6 created a major problem for the Lightning, hampering one-third of the Triplets line that had scored 31 of the team’s 64 goals in the postseason through the first five games of the final.

The most dangerous sniper on the Triplets line revealed he played the final with a broken wrist, which limited him to one goal and often took him out of the faceoff circle.

Those things matter more than momentum.

That said, I so hope they give Crawford a microphone at the rally again. I so hope.

c. Call it “Dining with Desjardins.’’ Blogging periodically for NHL.com, Desjardins described his first visit to legendary Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa when the series began:

“I got six oysters, they were delicious. I actually have a slight shellfish allergy, but I love shellfish. I’ve figured it out and I know how much I can eat, but I don’t touch shrimp, lobster, crab, any crustaceans. Oysters, mussels, those kind of things are alright.

“Then I had beef carpaccio. I actually just went there for appetizers originally but it kind of turned into a full-out meal. After the carpaccio, it was outstanding, so I was like, ‘Wow. Might as well get a steak.’

“I got the smallest one they had, and I really made a mistake not getting the mushrooms. I should have got the steakhouse mushrooms. I saw them coming out after getting my steak and I knew I kind of blew it on that one.’’

Better a mistake on the mushrooms than a clearing pass inside your blue line.

In a more recent post, Desjardins described himself as a foodie and knows what he will eat out of the Cup:

“A big bowl of Lucky Charms.’’

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