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One Minute Remaining: Supporting cast leads stars to finish

by Harvey Wittenberg / Chicago Blackhawks

If Blackhawks fans ever had any doubt about where the Stanley Cup would wind up this year, they should have stuck with the oddsmakers in Vegas who labled Chicago the winner back in September. But like a Hitchcock movie, every game in the final series with Tampa Bay was tense, with twists and turns on every shot off the posts.

To win the coveted Lord Stanley, you need your top players to be their best. However, to capture 16 games over a two month stretch, your supporting cast has to step forward. Going back to the opening round against Nashville, it took the goalscoring of Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith (twice) and Brent Seabrook, plus the rookie goaltending of Scott Darling until Corey Crawford took over in Game 6, to eliminate the Predators.

The second round saw the Blackhawks take on the hottest Western Conference team, the Minnesota Wild, who eliminated the division champion St. Louis Blues. The series pattern was set in the opener when rookie Teuvo Teravainen scored his first playoff goal at the 19th minute of the second period for the game winner in a 4-3 decision on the way to a four-game sweep. Corey Crawford made at least 30 saves in every game.

The Western Conference Final had the underdog Blackhawks take on the number-one seeded Anaheim Ducks. This is where the supporting cast stepped up to save the day in overtime, twice. After losing the opener 4-1, fourth-line center Marcus Kruger tallied in the 16th minute of the third overtime -- a franchise record -- to tie the series. Crawford made a team playoff-record 60 saves. And in Game 4, after being scratched the previous game, Antoine Vermette scored the game-winner in the second OT to tie the series. After losing the fifth game, Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa registered winning goals in Games 6 and 7, respectively, to take the series.

For the Final, the spotlight swung back to the supporting cast, with Vermette getting the winner with less than 5 minutes remaining in the opener. After dropping the next two, Brandon Saad stepped up with deciding marker 6 minutes into the third period of Game 4 to tie the series. Vermette picked up his third playoff game-winner 2 minutes into the final period of Game 5 for the 3-2 series edge. Keith, Kane and Corey Crawford took over in Game 6 to end the suspense of another Stanley Cup for Chicago fans.

Even Hitchcock couldn't have written a better ending!

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