The Blackhawks aren’t all that good beginning a series, but they sure have figured out how to finish one.
And with 1 more victory, they can complete a dream season.
The Hawks are now 9-1 after Game 3 since the postseason began after smothering the Bruins 3-1 at the United Center on Saturday night in Game 5, taking a 3-2 Stanley Cup Final lead back to Boston for Game 6 Monday night — when they can win the trophy on the road for the second time in four years.
Whether Jonathan Toews will be skating to lift the Cup is now the big question, after he took an elbow to the head from Zdeno Chara and another shot from Johnny Boychuk, and then sat on the bench in the third period.
Knowing Toews, expect to see him in the lineup Monday, but knowing the Hawks and what they’ve already overcome during this playoff run, they will play through it like champs regardless of whether Toews can go.
“Every successful team faces adversity,” said Patrick Sharp. “We’ve had our fair share and we take a lot of pride in what we can do in those situations.”
And while the big line of Toews, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell will get a lot of deserved attention after another 5-point game, it was goaltender Corey Crawford who stood up to everything Boston could throw at him.
“It’s funny that we keep having to answer questions about him, because nobody in here has any question about him,” Sharp said with a smile. “People keep asking but you’re not going to get a different answer. He’s been great all year for us. He’s the reason we’re here right now.”
Crawford came under fire for a few glove-side goals in a Game 4 victory — yes, a victory — but once again the maturing Crawford shook it off and played a strong game Saturday.
“I’m a little bit amused by it,” said defenseman Duncan Keith. “It’s just one of those things. It’s the Final and there’s a lot of media and guys are looking for something to write about. Every play and every player is dissected. We don’t see it the same way.”
Particularly in the first period when the Bruins were the better team, Crawford was calm, poised and ready for the test — and postgame he was no different when discussing the criticism of the last few days.
“Not really listening to it,” Crawford said quietly. “I have a job to do. No matter what’s been said, it doesn’t affect what I do on the ice.”
Crawford is, on the other hand, aware that his teammates won’t sit for it.
“They’ve had my back the whole time,” Crawford said. “We’re pretty tight in here. We’re not gonna let anything affect us. We just play our game.”
The Hawks did play their game nicely in the second period against a tired Bruins team missing their best player, Patrice Bergeron, who was taken to the hospital after just two second-period shifts.
The difference in speed between the two teams in the middle stanza was evident and the Hawks had the better of the play.
“I thought we did a good job establishing the pace we want,” said defenseman Brent Seabrook. “That’s how we want to play the game.”
After the line of Toews, Kane and Bickell collected 5 points in Game 4, the trio was at it again in Game 5 and propelled the Hawks to a 2-0 lead.
Boston carried the play in the first period, pounding the Hawks with a ferocity missing since Game 3, but the Hawks grabbed a 1-0 lead late in the period and it was Kane and Toews right in the middle of it again.
Toews carried into the Boston zone, and after Kane fired a backhander through the slot that caromed to the point, Johnny Oduya threw the puck at the net and a couple bounces later, Kane tucked it in past Tuukka Rask at 17:27.
Five minutes into the second period, Bickell and Toews worked a nifty give-and-go. Bickell shot from a bad angle and got his own rebound behind the net, where he swept around and found Kane in front with a bouncing puck. Kane picked it up on his backhand and flipped it high off the water bottle for a 2-0 lead.
“We knew Boston wasn’t done,” Keith said. “We knew they’d come at us hard.”
The Bruins did just that, looking like they were on the power play for much of the third period, but only a Chara slap shot beat Crawford and a Dave Bolland empty-netter iced it with 14 seconds remaining.
So now the Hawks are a 60-minute effort away from dancing with Lord Stanley’s bowl again.
“We’ve done a great job of maintaining our focus all year,’’ Sharp said. “We know what the goal is and we don’t intend to let up.”
If they do, they’ll be back here for a Game 7. If they don’t, they’ll have all summer to rest.
ŸListen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score’s “Hit and Run” show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.