The Blackhawks don’t let you down.
They do not ask you to take a seat and then slip a two-legged chair under you, the way the other teams in town do. They’re dependable. They do what they say they’re going to do, but being hockey players, what they say is, “We like our chances’’ or “You only need three molars, two incisors and maybe a canine anyway.’’
They’re a sturdy oak tree, a port in the storm. They’re Warren Buffett, with a lot less money and a lot more Stanley Cup appearances.
They win. They win consistently and they win spectacularly, as they did Saturday night to advance, again, to the Stanley Cup Final. They’re unlike any other franchise in these parts.
The White Sox, who came into the season with so much promise, have been a disappointment.
The last man to play in a World Series as a Cub, Lennie Merullo, died Saturday at 98. The organization he represented in the 1945 Fall Classic is selling new and improved now. Wonder how many times poor Lennie heard that sales pitch over the years.
The Bulls just fired a coach, Tom Thibodeau, who won almost 65 percent of his regular-season games but only 45 percent of his postseason games. They appear to be on the verge of replacing him with a guy from Iowa named Fred.
The Bears haven’t won a Super Bowl in 30 years. But how ’bout that ’85 team!
Ah, but we’re here to celebrate the victors, not lament the also-rans, the almost-wons and the faint stars of light years past. The Blackhawks are aiming for their third Stanley Cup title in the past six seasons. The opponent this time is the formidable Tampa Bay Lightning. If you remember, the Flyers were formidable in 2010, until they weren’t. Same with the Bruins in 2013.
This is how good the Hawks are: They violate a sacred sports commandment by turning it on when they want to, which is to say, when they need to. And they don’t need to in an 82-game regular season. As captain Jonathan Toews said after Game 7 of the Western Conference final, the Hawks don’t require long winning streaks in the regular season to feel good about themselves. The regular season to them is an hors d’oeuvre, an appetite whetter. That’s something Thibodeau never understood with the Bulls. All he had to do was look at his co-tenants at the United Center to figure it out. The ruby skates were on his feet the whole time.
“We come into a playoff series against a tough team, we have that idea of, Why not us?’’ Toews said. “We find ways to win.’’
What a blessing Toews is for Chicago sports fans, or for anyone who appreciates drive, talent and exquisite timing. The Hawks need some early firepower to snuff an opponent’s will to live? No problem. Your man Toews will get you two goals in the first period, which is what he did Saturday night, all but leaving the Ducks to waddle into the offseason.
Everything that Theo Epstein is trying to do with the Cubs is on display on Madison Street. Find the best young players and hope they turn into superstars, the way Toews (third overall in the 2006 draft) and Patrick Kane (first overall in 2007) have. Add them to a roster of promising players like Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Stir in a Marian Hossa and a Brandon Saad. Watch Corey Crawford blossom. That’s how you sustain excellence.
But it’s more than talented people. It’s talented people with attributes that aren’t easily definable. The ability to play your best when your best is needed most. The knack of scoring goals in tight moments and tighter quarters. The desire to be the one to carry a team. Many players don’t want that weight.
“You want to consider yourself that type of player at the end of the day,’’ Toews said. “But it helps when you’re alongside guys that have those same intangibles. … (Keith), Kaner, Sharpie, Hossa, the guys that have been around for years and have had the experience down the stretch in the playoffs, we feed off each other.’’
During the past seven years, after each of the five conference-final appearances, we’ve been told that this can’t go on forever, that salary cap issues would pull the plug on the Hawks’ aura. The same people are clearing their throats again.
Ignore them. Until we’re otherwise notified, the Blackhawks are immovable. A rock of a franchise.