The list could go on for two pages. There have been many hockey greats to don the Blackhawks sweater, but none have brought Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Chicago.
Wednesday night is a chance for the current Hawks to do it for all who came before them. All great players, but never on the greatest team. That’s reserved for Cup winners, and these Hawks are on the verge of being called such.
Final preparations for Game 6 are complete as the Hawks will employ the same lineup that dominated Game 5. Andrew Ladd did not skate Wednesday morning but is expected to play as he continues to nurse his left shoulder.
The first Stanley Cup title is in their sites and there are plenty of reasons they want to avoid a Game 7. The least of which is three teams have lost Game 7’s at home this postseason. They don’t want to leave anything to chance.
The Hawks have been dominant in Game 6’s under Joel Quenneville. Undefeated in two postseasons, the Hawks have never tasted a Game 7. They don’t want to make Friday a first. The pressure is on Philadelphia on Wednesday, but that switches if there is a game two days from now. The Hawks will be feeling the heat then. This is their best chance to play loose and free.
Past numbers do favor the visitor in this scenario. Twenty four previous times -- since the finals went to a best of 7 in 1939 — has the visiting team in a Game 6 led 3-2. Their record in Game 6: 14-10. The visitors win more often than the home team. On some level it makes sense. The visiting team in a Game 6 has home-ice advantage and usually is the favorite in the series and probably the better team, so they win more often than not.
But Philadelphia has its own trends and they aren’t small potatoes. First of all, they are 9-1 at home this postseason, including winning their last seven home games, while Michael Leighton is 6-0 at the Wachovia Center this postseason. They are 4-4 in games when facing elimination. All of those wins came against Boston when they were down 3-0.
And that brings us to the resilience of Philadelphia. On the surface, it would be hard to imagine the team that got into the playoffs on the final day by beating the New York Rangers, and then beat Boston four straight would lay down for Chicago to win a title on its home ice. But this is not Boston or the New York Ranger they are facing.
The Hawks smell blood in the water. Their perfect record in Game 6 over the last two seasons is no coincidence. The Hawks play their best when it matters the most, and again, they know going to a Game 7 leaves open the possibility of a bad bounce losing them the Cup.
The Hawks have tried to maintain a normal routine surrounding the team since Game 5 ended. Tuesday night was dinner, a little Wii (Niklas Hjalmarsson won) and a movie. Quenneville said he doesn’t have a Knute Rockne type speech ready -- again, that wouldn’t be normal. He just wants them to go out and play the best game of the season.
If they do, the ghosts of all those Hawk greats now turned Alumni will be vindicated. This isn’t just for the 20 guys on the ice. This is for a city and a franchise and every player that’s worn the Blackhawks sweater.