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Five reasons Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Of the three Stanley Cup championships the Chicago Blackhawks have won during the past six seasons, the one they clinched with a 2-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at United Center on Monday was the most difficult and least probable.

The Blackhawks played most of the Cup Final with four defensemen; one of them, Johnny Oduya, told he played the final three games of the Stanley Cup Final with a torn elbow tendon.

Chicago's star forwards, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, were limited to one goal each in the six-game series by the Lightning's suffocating defense.

The Blackhawks' four wins in the Cup Final weren't pretty, but they showed why they were the last team standing.

Here are five reasons the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup:

1. Shape-shifting -- The Blackhawks say they use their own style of play to win, but throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs they used adjusted to their opponents' style and even were able to use it against them. The Lightning was the latest team to lose at its own game.

Tampa Bay played great defense, but the Blackhawks were better. They allowed 10 goals in six games, and two in the final three. They also broke up an increasing amount of plays before the Lightning were able to transition into the Blackhawks' zone.

The Blackhawks usually play a strong defensive game but typically use it to create extra time in the offensive zone. The Lightning didn't allow that to happen much; they scored 13 goals in the series. But it was enough as when the need arose for stronger defensive play, the Blackhawks ramped theirs up enough to grind out wins.

2. Deeper contributions -- In a series that featured little offensive input from star players on either side, the deciding factor became which team got more key goals from depth players. That team was the Blackhawks because of talented forwards Brandon Saad and Teuvo Teravainen.

Teravainen earned the nickname "Finnish Cold" for his goal and assist that led to the Blackhawks' 2-1 victory in Game 1 at Amalie Arena, while Saad scored huge goals in Games 3 and 4 at United Center. His goal in Game 4 stood as the game-winner, which turned out to be the first of three straight victories for the Blackhawks.

Teravainen, a 20-year-old rookie, showed great development during the postseason and might have earned himself a top-six role next season. Saad, 23, is about to make a lot more money this offseason. An impending restricted free agent, the Blackhawks are expected to sign him to a new contract or match any offer sheet he might sign with another team.

3. Corey Crawford -- The adversity Crawford had to endure at the start of the playoffs could be enough to ruin other goalies. Pulled after the first period of the first game of the first round against the Nashville Predators, Crawford was relegated to backup duty behind Scott Darling to start Games 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the first round.

He wasn't happy but channeled his anger into an impressive comeback effort. After replacing Darling and backstopping the Blackhawks to a win in Game 6 against the Predators, Crawford became one of the Blackhawks' best players and stole several key victories, including Games 1 and 5 of the Cup Final.

Crawford's shutout Monday in Game 6 was the cherry on top of his impressive display of resilience.

4. Superhuman defensemen -- Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler had one of the most memorable quotes of the 2015 playoffs when he said "No human can withstand that many hits," when referring to the physical play the Blackhawks' top four defensemen absorbed in a grueling seven-game conference final.

At the time coach Joel Quenneville was using his top four defensemen about 85 percent of the time. Rather than backing off, he pushed the pedal down and played them 90 percent of the time the rest of that series and all through the Cup Final.

Conn Smythe Trophy winner Duncan Keith spearheaded the charge, but just as impressive was the ability of Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Oduya to handle the taxing workloads with virtually no drop in their play. There were those who doubted whether they could sustain it and win the Cup, but no doubts remain now.

5. Kane's clavicle -- When Kane left the ice at United Center on Feb. 24 because of a broken left clavicle sustained in a game against the Florida Panthers, the thought was Kane wouldn't return until the conference finals at the earliest.

While losing their leading scorer and at the time a Hart Trophy contender could have been crushing, the Blackhawks were able to take advantage of the situation.

With Kane placed on long-term injured reserve, the Blackhawks had enough salary cap space to acquire defenseman Kimmo Timonen from the Philadelphia Flyers, center Antoine Vermette from the Arizona Coyotes and forward Andrew Desjardins from the San Jose Sharks. The extra depth paid big dividends in the postseason. Vermette scored three game-winning goals in the postseason, including the winners in Games 1 and 5 of the Cup Final. Desjardins and Timonen added valuable depth to the bottom of the roster.

And Kane didn't miss a single playoff game, returning in time to play Game 1 of the first round against the Predators.

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