Chicago, IL – Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville always says “no one loves winning more than I do”, but I’m not so sure that the entire team is not comprised of individuals that share this same sentiment. Last night the Blackhawks had a second chance at putting away their competition and they did not miss the opportunity.
The “core” of this team stepped up as we have all seen them do in the past and maybe that is what separates this team from others and makes them special. It doesn’t matter if it’s Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook, Nik Hjalmarsson or Patrick Sharp they all share a unique quality in that when moments are the most crucial they know how to respond and give their best.
We forget sometimes as fans, but this team is really an all star team. It is a team comprised of such unique talents that complement each other so well. This is a team of Olympic medalists, Stanley Cups winners and maybe most importantly team players.
Experience plays a big part as well. This team knows it doesn’t matter if your down 3-0 they still have the tools to get the job done and the know how to do it. In this first round series they reminded everyone again who the Chicago Blackhawks still are and the hockey talent this team still possess.
After the first game of the series which Duncan Keith won in overtime, Predators coach Peter Laviolette said “that’s a dangerous, dangerous team” and he is not wrong. I almost felt sorry for Laviolette when Patrick Kane scored the game tying goal. Laviolette looked like he just ate some bad tuna and was sick.
This is not the first time a Laviolette coached team’s dreams were squelched by Mr. Patrick Kane remember 2010. I wonder how many sleepless nights coach Laviolette has had because of Patrick Kane but I digress.
The problem is it’s not just Patrick Kane for coaches, but an entire team of players that are difference makers. Three of this series game winning goals came from defenseman Keith 2, Seabrook 1. The other big impact on this series in subtle but effective ways was Brandon Saad who scored the other gwg and also by legal contact knocked out Predators captain Shea Weber.
Duncan Keith was huge in this series not only for the game winning goals but the time on ice he logged and his being a threat every time he is on the ice forces other teams to cover him like you would a forward. On the goal to clinch the series he showed moves I have never seen him use and I have been watching the Hawks for a while. His instincts and savvy are top shelf to say the least. Seth Jones got schooled by a master.
There is also no question that Brent Seabrook’s marathon game winning goal probably turned the tide of the entire series had the Hawks lost that game not only would they have been tied but it has to take something out of you to lose a game like that. We all know how clutch Seabrook is, talk about stepping up in big moments this guy could give tutorials when he is done with his playing career on facing up to challenges.
Jonathan Toews there simply isn’t any words for other than this guy just does not accept defeat and leads the way in so many little ways. At the end of the series the best indicator of Toews being a leader was when he put his arms around both Crawford and Darling equally.
The other thing to come out of this series was the camaraderie between the team and their goalies and between the goalies themselves. This could teach us all about being a team player and taking one for the team. Both of the goalies while disappointed I’m sure never let ego get in their ways. That I believe they call character.
Neither Corey Crawford nor Scott Darling can really be blamed by the play of the team in front of them and the Blackhawks know this but maybe it was good it happened when it did as the team knows it has two outstanding net minders if it needs it. I don’t believe there has ever been a playoff series with two different starting net minders other than injury. Leave it to the Blackhawks to continue to break new ground.
Is the team perfect? No they are human and they have a lot to clean up before the next round regarding overall team defense and giving up too many turnovers in their own end. I mean Chicago is known for its pizzas but please let’s not serve up any on the ice. Also there is too many shots against given, which is leaving all the goalies out to dry. That really needs to be cleaned up but the Hawks know all this.
Listen they got through the first round not playing their best, they have time now to rest, work on cleaning things up, oh yeah, special teams could use a jolt too, but every series will be different and maybe what will win games will need to be different. This series it was well timed offense by your stars, maybe next series it will be special teams or defense or secondary scoring.
Whatever it takes for the Hawks to win is all that matters, but I suspect everyone in the Blackhawks locker room including the coaches would be the first to tell you that.