Hawks delivering career-defining moments
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From the franchise's low point just a few short years ago, Blackhawks fans now find a roster loaded with players who perform best under pressure.
Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer
Night after night in these playoffs the Blackhawks have showed us something.
What we have here is a collection of players who do special things at the most critical times in important games.
These types of players don't come around often for a franchise - if ever - and the Hawks have a roster full of them.
It goes beyond being clutch. These are defining moments in careers, moments that will forever be etched in Hawks history, particularly if all this ends up in the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
It all starts with Jonathan Toews, the 22-year-old captain who's already on his way to being one of the greatest players ever to wear the Indian head. Toews' hat trick and 5-point night in Game 4 of the Vancouver series could turn out to be the best single performance of the entire playoffs when all is said and done.
Patrick Kane already has had some unforgettable playoff moments in his young career such as his hat trick in Game 6 against Vancouver last spring, but maybe none bigger than his short-handed tying goal with 14 seconds to play in Game 5 in the first round against Nashville - a game the Hawks went on to win in overtime, turning around that series.
Patrick Sharp's short-handed goal in Game 2 against Vancouver was another monumental play at a critical time, the kind we're getting so used to seeing.
The Hawks had already lost Game 1 to the Canucks and trailed 2-1 in the third period of the second game when Sharp chipped the puck off the boards to himself past the defenseman and beat goalie Roberto Luongo with a slick backhander in tight.
The Hawks won that game 3-2 when Kris Versteeg scored with 1:30 left in regulation on a perfect shot under the crossbar from the left side - another big play at a big time.
See a pattern here?
Dustin Byfuglien's hat trick in Game 3 at GM Place was the kind of dominant performance that creates playoff legends.
And Byfuglien was just getting warmed up. He scored the game-winner late in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals at San Jose, added another goal in Game 2 and scored in overtime on Friday night to win Game 3.
Dave Bolland has scored the biggest goals of his pro career in the playoffs starting with the winner late in the pivotal Game 5 last spring at Vancouver when the series was tied 2-2.
Bolland's short-handed goal in Game 6 of the Vancouver series this spring sealed that series-clinching victory. He stepped up again Friday in Game 3 against the Sharks with a dramatic third period goal before setting up Byfuglien's winner in overtime.
Now you add to the mix a goaltender in Antti Niemi who has saved his best work for these conference finals, and it's almost as if the Hawks have found that last piece of the puzzle to go with the game-breakers they have up front and the steadiness and mobility of what they have on defense in Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Nicklas Hjalmarsson.
This is a team to be appreciated for the moments it delivers. And there are more to come.
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