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What. A. Win.
So many awesome individual Blackhawk performances to celebrate.
Way to go Bryan Bickell! The man is the offensive star of this series after scoring his second massive goal in two games.
Bickell did just what the Hawks desperately need him to do (besides initiating as many Red Wing rough rides as possible), which is go to the net and find a way to connect with rebounds.
The classic power forward's goal put the Hawks in front in the third on their way to the 4-3 victory that evened this second-round series at 3 and set up Game 7 on Wednesday at the UC.
And then Michael Frolik (!) gave a clinic on how to take a penalty shot to provide critical insurance.
Way to go Johnny Oduya and Nik Hjalmarsson! You guys are just about the Hawks' top defensive pairing at this point. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are good but are they as good any more as Oduya and Hjalmarsson (the pairings probably aren't No. 1 and No. 2 - let's go with No. 1 and No. 1A)?
The former second pairing received all sorts of ice time in the clutch last night. Hjalmarsson's tendency to flip irresponsible passes out from the end boards into the Hawks zone costs the team some fearsome scoring chances against at times. But he tends to make up for it with clever, gritty little plays like his pinching in to win the puck along the boards early in the third period and sending it to Michal Handzus all alone in front for the biggest goal of the series (the one that tied the score at 2).
And a few kudos to Handzus while we're here. It seems like it should be easy to score from right in front of the goal when it's just you and the goalie, but that is oftentimes exactly false. A good netminder can do all sorts of things to psyche a shooter out and the spaces into which to score in those sorts of situations are small and getting smaller as the goalie moves toward you. And Handzus took his time but didn't take too much time.
The same could be said for the Hawks offense as a whole. Going into the third down 2-1 in a building where the Red Wings rarely lose, it didn't look good. After Marian Hossa's backhand power play goal just 3 minutes and 53 seconds into the game, the Hawks were blanked until Handzus put up his tally. With their three goals in the third period, the Hawks offense finally came through late.
On the other side of the puck, there was a lot of real-time and post-game chatter about Corey Crawford giving up a soft goal to give the Red Wings a 2-1 lead in the second period. And it was a soft goal by the way - I don't care if the puck was on edge just before it was shot.
The puck may have been tumbling through the air in an unusual way but it was doing so in a straight line. Crawford just missed it.
Crawford will have to find a way to save shots like that if the Hawks are going to make a deep run. But on this evening, his performance was good enough for the Blackhawks' biggest win since they beat the Flyers that night in 2010 - also on the road - and raised the Cup for the first time in almost 50 years.
Crawford was good enough and actually, he has been very good through 11 playoff games now. If the Hawks manage to win Game 7 versus the Wings (and remember that Hockey Town's finest just came out of a series in which they played a Game 7 on the road - in southern California for goodness sake - and won it), Crawford is likely the guy in front of the net the rest of the way.
On the down side, Jonathan Toews is a great leader but he's been exposed in this series as the Red Wings have thrown him off his game by just pounding on him - he blew at least two more glorious scoring chances Monday night.
And this team can't take another miscalculation by Joel Quenneviille, like his benching of Viktor Stalberg. Coach Q was sure that when Viktor Stalberg challenged him (allegedly on the bench, asking why he was no longer on the power play unit), he could take the speedy forward out the lineup without damaging his team too much. Of course, a gazillion other factors came into play as the Hawks fell behind 3-1 in this series, but one of them was that their fastest forward was out of the lineup early on. Stalberg has been back for a couple games now and while he hasn't scored big goals, he has been an offensive threat to be accounted for by the Red Wings and he has handled his responsibilities when Detroit has had the puck.
The Hawks are on the verge of one of the best playoff comebacks in NHL history. And thank goodness, because we desperately need the Hawks to continue distracting us from the baseball season.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on
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