Fittest loser
Article updated: 4/25/2011 10:25 AM

Hawks get it done their way

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There is a Blackhawks' Way, and consider it alive and well.

That's the only explanation I can think for how the Hawks' kept an improbable playoff run alive Sunday night with a 4-3 victory over the Canucks.

Ben Smith's goal with 4:30 left in the first overtime period delivered the Hawks to Vancouver for a decisive Game 7 on Tuesday night.

The Hawks' Way resurfaced last week after a sloppy regular season and after they went down 3-0 to the Canucks in their best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series.

"We hung in there," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Finding a way to win was important."

Last year at this time I wrote that a Hawks' Way was established as they proceeded toward a Stanley Cup championship.

So what's the Hawks' Way?

Well, it's the residue of last year's title, when the core players grew up to the point they should play like champions in victory or defeat.

Perhaps the best way to describe it is playing with drive, determination and dedication. It's never giving in to long odds. It's overcoming adversity. It's playing with big hearts as much as big talent.

More than anything it's pride in the job.

Judge for yourself whether the Hawks strayed from that during the regular season, when they were fortunate to gain the eighth and final playoff berth in the West.

Judge for yourself whether the Hawks still hadn't found their Way when Vancouver outplayed them to take command of this series.

Anyway, if the Hawks did lose their Way, consider it rediscovered last week when this team insisted it wasn't going to exit like chumps instead of champs.

Who knows what turned around the fortunes in the series? Maybe it was Dave Bolland's return from a concussion, maybe it was the Canucks' cheap hit that concussed Brent Seabrook, or maybe it simply was bound to happen sooner or later.

Of course, maybe it was the Canucks returning to their customary role against the Hawks as Canuckleheads.

No, no, no. Credit the Hawks because they clearly demonstrated that they decided if they were going down, they would leave their grit and guts on the ice.

Three times the Canucks took a 1-goal lead in Game 6, and three times the home team responded for a 3-3 tie before a grateful crowd of 22,014 in the United Center.

Along the way the Hawks failed to score with a two-man advantage -- normally fatal -- but moments later Bolland scored at full strength.

Overall this was a pretty remarkable game, starting with Vancouver desperately starting goalie Cory Schneider in place of regular Roberto Luongo.

Then on Michael Frolik's successful penalty shot in the third period, Schneider was injured doing the splits and Luongo replaced him.

You couldn't script these storylines. It was playoff hockey at its dramatic best, so good that 60 minutes couldn't hold it.

The type of comeback the Hawks made in this series generally is made by teams that own a championship and know how to survive low points and create high points.

"They're Stanley Cup champions," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "They're a great team."

The Hawks deserve praise for surviving their Way, which should serve them well Tuesday night at Vancouver and for years to come.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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