Daily Herald
Hawks hoping 2-0 Finals lead turns out better this time
By Mike Spellman | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 6/2/2010 12:00 AM

The Blackhawks have history on their side after sweeping their first two Stanley Cup Finals games at home over Philadelphia.

The 1933-34 Blackhawks won the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals en route to the club's first championship. The all-time record of home teams who win Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals is 31-2.

In fact, the only two teams to win their first two at home and not go on to hoist the Cup were Detroit last year against Pittsburgh, and ... the 1971 Blackhawks.

Oh, the 1971 Blackhawks.

Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Chicago Stadium.

Blackhawks jump out to a 2-0 lead in the game, then Jaques Lemaire's long distance shot eludes Tony Esposito in the fog late in the second period and Henri Richard scores twice in the third to seal a 3-2 comeback for the Canadiens.

Sad memories for Hawks fans. Even sadder memories for the players on that team.

"It's just something that has stuck with me my whole life," said Cliff Koroll, a member of that 1970-71 team. "I still wake up nights from that; being so close from winning that ultimate goal that slipped away from us in that Game 7 at old Chicago Stadium."

And to think the picture looked so rosy for the Hawks after their 2-0 start in the series.

"We felt pretty comfortable with our situation; we were just hoping to at least split up in Montreal," Koroll said. "They played very well up there and made it a series.

"The home team won every game."

Until Game 7, that is. Or the "horror story," as Koroll refers to it.

"Bobby Hull hit the crossbar and Jacques Lamaire got the puck and shot it from center ice ... and the puck went in," he said. "Momentum changed and they came back to beat us.

"It was pretty quiet in that dressing room afterward. It was a pretty long night. Thank goodness my older brother Bill and my agent were in town that night because who knows what would have happened with (Keith Magnuson) and myself - especially Maggie, because Henri Richard went around him for the winning goal, which he blamed himself for, but it was a bad line change - he got on the ice a little late."

As president of the Blackhawks Alumni Association, Koroll had a chance to relate the tale of the 1971 team to the current group of players at a scholarship luncheon in March.

"I told them you only get that opportunity once in your life," he said. "They're in the position now where they need to seize that opportunity. You never know if you'll get another chance.'

Koroll said he was pleased to hear the way the Hawks were talking after their Game 2 win Monday. To a man they all said the series is far from over and that the most important game is Game 3 in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

So maybe it'll be different this time around.

"I think so," Koroll said. "I think there is enough character and depth on this team and Joel Quenneville has done a fabulous job coaching.

"They realize the opportunity is there and they don't want to have to live through the rest of their lives like I have."