Hawks March to the Cup Continues
Heading into game 6, the Hawks were 12-2 in series clinchers in the Toews and Kane era, and had won at least one road game in 11 consecutive playoff series. Despite this phenomenal record, many people doubted if they would repeat history based on how they were dominated by Minnesota during games 3 and 4.
But after 69 minutes and 42 seconds of gut-wrenching, even play, the Hawks sealed their bid to the Western Conference Finals and silenced the naysayers with a slick goal from Patrick Kane. With this goal, he now has 3 series-clinching overtime playoff goals, only the second player to do this in NHL history.
Though Kaner made it look easy, as he tends to do in clutch moments, the rest of the game was not such a breeze. Kris Versteeg, celebrating his 28th birthday, ended his previously shaky play and silenced a maximum capacity, rowdy Wild crowd just two minutes into the first period. The Hawks had a leg up until Erik Haula scored at the start of the second period, bringing the Wild and their fans back to life.
The game stayed even through regulation, sending the teams to their first overtime of the series. Despite the Wild looking a bit sharper through the game, the Hawks came out in OT looking like a team that was playing to defend their Stanley Cup and ready to put the Wild away for good. One could feel the momentum building for the Hawks- it was evident that they had “flipped a switch”, as many people say they can and will do to win games. After much back and forth, Brent Seabrook shot from center ice, and the puck ricocheted off the rear boards right in front of Ilya Bryzgalov. Peter Regin had the pick go through his legs because he was tied up with Ryan Suter. And sure enough, Patrick Kane showed up to save the day, once again displaying his almost-superhuman puck handling abilities, and went top shelf above a stunned Bryzgalov.
Indeed, Patrick Kane was the Hawks’ hero once again. But Corey Crawford deserves the majority of the credit for throwing his previously streaky road play to the wayside, allowing only one goal with 34 saves. Not to mention, he did this with the ever-taunting “Craw-ford” chants pouring from the Wild stands. When asked if he could hear the crowd, Crow replied “Yeah it was fun..better than being quiet.”
The Hawks attribute their win to the confidence they had going into overtime, and knowing they had been in that exact position countless times. Captain Jonathan Toews said, “You’re always going to have to face some moments when some people on the outside maybe doubt what you’re capable of as a team but in the locker room you never have that doubt and you never let it creep in.”
They certainly left no room for doubt- in themselves or for the fans- as they advance to the Western Conference Finals. And the best part about it all? The players have said they feel like they can still be better, and with the return of the fiery Andrew Shaw, this is certainly the case. If this play still hasn’t been their best, we’re in for some pretty great hockey, and a chance for “history” to continue to work in the Hawks favor. Cue dynasty talk.
The Hawks will face the winner of the Ducks/Kings series; the Ducks lead 3-2 with game 6 being played tonight and the if necessary game 7 scheduled for Friday.