HAWL IN: Even in defeat, appreciate what the Blackhawks have won

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ST. LOUIS - Lit up by white towels twirling as furiously as the crowd was screaming, Scottrade Center was what you would call "Up For Grabs" on Monday night.

As their Blues shook hands at center ice with the Blackhawks, fans roared their approval of their team's 3-2 win over the rivals for a good ten minutes. The stadium organist even used the moment to play a slow-paced, gothic version of "Chelsea Dagger" to troll the visitors as they skated off the ice for one final time in the 2015-2016 season.

This was a crowning achievement for a franchise frustrated by three consecutive years of failure. Frankly, from the players to the organ to the fans, it looked and sounded like the Blues finally won their first Stanley Cup in 48 seasons.

Instead this joy was all about getting past the first round. That's it. One round of four to get to hockey's "Holy Grail."

By saying this I don't mean to be uppity.

Led by Brian Elliott's goaltending along with timely contributions from a number of players, the Blues deserve all the credit for playing to their potential and dethroning the defending Stanley Cup Champions. By getting rid of the Blackhawks, St. Louis is a dangerous opponent for anyone that meets them along the road to the Stanley Cup Final.

Pointing out the intensity of the celebration is more about Chicago hockey fans who were watching scene unfolding Monday night in St. Louis. Many of them took to social media to discuss how sad and frustrated they were that a season has come to an end. A few even brought out the word heartbreak.

That's to be understood considering the team has made a knack of pulling out those types of games in the Joel Quenneville era. Even with a bit of a sluggish finish to the regular season, experienced veterans like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford were poised to make a deep run for a fourth Stanley Cup in seven years.

Yet this frustration should be temporary. It's should then be replaced by perspective which could be achieved by watching what unfolded in the minutes following Game 7.

A number of NHL teams have sat by hoping just to win a playoff series while the Blackhawks have been routinely winning Stanley Cups over the past decade. Maybe that's why the celebration in St. Louis mimicked one of a championship.

The Blues, for instance, have never won the Stanley Cup and haven't returned to the Final since 1970-the last of three consecutive sweeps in the NHL's championship series. Title celebrations the Blackhawks have enjoyed in 2010, 2013 and 2015 are sweet dreams that exist only in imagination for that fan base and 11 others in the NHL which have yet to win a Stanley Cup.

New fans of the franchise who've watched the team over the past few seasons may not remember the years that followed the first Stanley Cup championship of this era in 2010. There were seven seasons from 1997-2008 where the team qualified for the playoffs just once-and in that series they were defeated in five games by Quenneville's Blues.

Don't even talk about the early 1990s. The Blackhawks were the best team in the NHL in 1991 and the best in the Western Conference in 1993 only to get upset in the first round. In 1992 the won 11-straight games to make the Stanley Cup Final only to be swept by the defending champion Penguins. Mid-1980s fans remember the team making it to the Campbell Conference Finals four times and losing every one of them.

This is intended to be a rant from a 35-year old Blackhawks fan who remembers the days when winning one Stanley Cup was a sporting milestone. (We'll maybe a little. Roenick+Belfour+Chelios+Amonte=No Cups? Ouch)

But seriously three championships in six years is something incredible. Two in the last three seasons is even more improbable in the salary cap era of the game. So what if the Blackhawks lost an incredibly hard-fought, intense series with Blues. Blow off the fact that a shot by both Andrew Ladd and Brent Seabrook managed to cling off both goalposts yet not going in during two of the seven games.

Quenneville will bring back the core of Crawford, Kane, Keith and Toews and next season. Artemi Panarin is entering just his second season and figures to grow with Artem Anisimov in their second season on a line. A little more depth in the defense would help but Stan Bowman's added championship pieces before and will likely do so again.

The renaissance of Chicago hockey is still going strong. Experiences missing for a generation of Blackhawks have been enjoyed three times over and may return sooner than later.

Watching a celebration fitting for a fourth series win after a first shouldn't make you bitter or angry. Instead, chose to be grateful.

Choose to be thankful.




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