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updated: 4/19/2011 11:47 PM

Finally, Hawks show the pride of champions

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Ah, yes, sweet reminders of the good old days.

No, not back to 50 years ago when Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita led the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship.

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Remember, you don't have to go back that far. All you have to do is recall last year when Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane helped win the Hawks' most recent Cup.

The United Center had some of that feel Tuesday, when the Hawks beat Vancouver 7-2 in Game 4 of their opening-round playoff series.

"We did get outworked tonight," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.

This one really did have the texture of 2010 when the Hawks beat Vancouver in the playoffs. Better yet it had a fragrance rather than the odor of the last 10 days. Best of all it had the sound of "Chelsea Dagger" repeatedly ringing throughout the building after Hawks goals.

"The playoffs are fun," Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell said. "There's nothing better than winning in the playoffs."

He didn't have to add that there's nothing worse than losing in the playoffs.

Anyway, the Hawks are alive, still down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series but on the way to Vancouver for Game 5 instead of home for vacation.

Look, whatever happens from here -- and elimination remains just a defeat away -- at least the Hawks didn't let the Canucks close them out in Chicago on this night.

"We're too good a team to not challenge Vancouver," Campbell said.

The Hawks finally did what defending champions do. They played with the hearts, minds and bodies of, you know, defending champions.

Add pride and purpose to the formula. Pride especially is the motivation for a team to play hard when there appears to be little else to play for.

Maybe all it took for the Hawks to catch their balance in the series was Dave Bolland's return to the ice for the first time since suffering a concussion on March 9.

"The team fed off his presence," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

Craziness is a tradition in hockey, and it's crazy to risk another blow to the brain with your team trailing 3-0 in a playoff series.

So why would Bolland lay his head on the line? Because he's a hockey player and that's what hockey players do for their team and teammates.

Bolland didn't just make a comeback. He might have been the Hawks' best player. He certainly was one of the most visible on the ice, on the score sheet, on offense and on defense.

The Hawks' third line of Bolland, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik were involved in 4 of their team's first 5 goals.

Whatever the driving force was, Bolland or something else, the Hawks came out skating and hitting and defending a championship that is theirs for at least another couple of days now.

So the United Center really was like a year ago, when the Hawks kept being challenged and answering the challenges all the way to the point they could drink from the Cup.

When the Canucks escalated the rough stuff in the third period, the Hawks stood up to that, too, matching pushes with shoves.

Afterward Quenneville issued a warning that "we still haven't played our best."

Can the Hawks beat Vancouver three more times during the next week to steal the series?

Probably not, but on this night that didn't matter because what did was that the Hawks reminded fans of last year's good old days.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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