Jonathan Toews took a lot of heat early in the Western Conference semifinal series with Detroit for not scoring and for taking 3 straight penalties in Game 4.
But now it's the captain who can have the last laugh if the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings in Game 7 on Wednesday night at the United Center.
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Toews is pumped for Game 7, which has to be good news for the Hawks. It was Toews who scored that memorable short-handed goal with time winding down at Vancouver that forced overtime in Game 7 in 2011.
Unfortunately for Toews and the Blackhawks, they lost that game 2-1.
Toews has a goal and 2 assists in the last two games to lead the Hawks back into this series.
"You've got to feel better about yourself coming off 2 wins," he said. "But at the same time, you have to keep your feet on the ground the same way we did when we were down 3-1 in the series.
"We're excited about the way we've played in the last couple games. We feel like we deserve to be where we are. We've got a great chance to go win this series in Game 7 at home, so we'll be excited about that, but we know that we've got a lot of work left to do if we want to do that."
Toews is banking on the United Center crowd to provide a big lift.
"It's going to be huge for us," he said. "We have to use our home crowd. It's very simple. We get a lot of energy off of it when we score goals and get big hits. Guys feed off of it. Our bench feeds off of it.
"For us, it's a huge advantage to have, and we're looking forward to having it."
In a series that has been so even for six games, it comes down to this.
The Hawks have been in Game 7 mode since they faced a must-win situation in Game 5, but this is a true Game 7 that will decide who advances to the West finals and who goes home for the summer.
"I just thought we played two Game 7s, so we're looking forward to the real Game 7," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We've put ourselves in a good spot, and I'm excited about it."
The Hawks' dramatic 3-goal, third-period rally in Game 6 has given them all the momentum.
"We've been playing a Game 7-type of game the last two games, and we've been doing it pretty good," defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "But it's all for nothing if we can't win the next game here.
"We're trying not to be happy winning two games in a row. We have to end this (Wednesday). Playing in front of our home crowd is inspiring."
The Hawks played all year to have the home-ice advantage, and now it can pay off.
"We never ever said we were going to win the series in four, five, six, seven games," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "It was just a matter of trying to find a way. We have that opportunity now in Game 7 to try and do it."
At one point in the series the Hawks trailed 3-1 before they met as a team to discuss things.
"We look back the last couple games, we thought we were in a pretty good place when we had this meeting after Game 4," Quenneville said. "The belief was definitely in the room here, and we believed in each other and we wanted to go capture the momentum."
This will be the first Game 7 for the Hawks since that overtime loss at Vancouver in the first round in 2011. It's Detroit's sixth Game 7 in the last five seasons.
Hawks goalie Corey Crawford played one of the best games of his career in Game 7 at Vancouver in 2011.
"I guess having a little bit of experience does help, maybe to calm the nerves a little bit," he said. "But it's more about going out there and being prepared to play at our best and play to win."
Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg has 2 goals and 6 assists in five career Game 7s, while Pavel Datsyuk has 4 goals and 1 assist in six Game 7s.
This will be the Red Wings' last chance to put away the Hawks.
"They're a good team, let's get the facts straight," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. "They weren't going to go down quietly.
"Now it's down to one game, and we've already played one this year (a 3-2 Game 7 victory in Anaheim in the first round). Now we get to play in another."
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