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updated: 4/30/2014 10:57 AM

Good to the core, Blackhawks advance

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  • Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford deflects a shot as Blues center Patrik Berglund and Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson close in on the net Sunday in Game 6 at the United Center. Crawford finished with 35 saves in the victory.

      Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford deflects a shot as Blues center Patrik Berglund and Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson close in on the net Sunday in Game 6 at the United Center. Crawford finished with 35 saves in the victory.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 

By Mike Spellman

Credit the Blackhawks' series-clinching 5-1 victory Sunday over the never-say-die Blues in Game 6 to two things: Crow and the Core.

Goalie Corey Crawford kept the Hawks in this one through two periods, especially the second, which featured six -- count 'em six -- St. Louis power-play chances.

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And then the core of the team took over in an epic third period that put an exclamation mark on an epic first-round series that began with the Hawks dropping the first two games before rallying to win four straight.

"We've had our backs against the wall in previous series and going down 2-0, you know, it's tough to come back from," said Andrew Shaw, who had a goal and an assist Sunday. "But the boys came together and the leadership took over and we just stayed positive and kept doing the little things right and we found ways to win."

Jonathan Toews broke open a 1-1 game 44 seconds into the third with a power-play goal, and the Hawks followed with 3 more goals -- including one each for core players Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp -- to turn this one into a rout.

But it was how the boys in red managed to reach that third period still tied in the first place that proved the key.

And that key was Crawford, who was simply sensational in stopping everything the Blues threw his way … and it was quite a bit.

"I know some shots, it's just like holy … I don't know how he sees them," said Bryan Bickell, who opened the scoring with a deflection of a Brent Seabrook blast from the point. "He finds ways to see them. He was our best penalty killer."

"Crow played unbelievable," added Seabrook, who had 2 assists in his first game back after serving a three-game suspension for his hit on David Backes in Game 2.

Besides his play on the ice this series, Crawford won even more points from his teammates early on when he publicly took blame for the first 2 losses to St. Louis, even though it certainly didn't rest entirely on his shoulders.

"That's what leaders do," Toews said. "They take blame and deflect credit."

And that's exactly what Crawford was doing after picking up his 25th career playoff victory.

"Yeah, I think I was pretty sharp the whole game," was as far as Crawford -- who turned aside 35 of 36 shots, including 11 while short-handed -- would go afterward. "There was a little bit of penalty trouble and our PK was great again."

His coach was in absolute agreement.

"I think both our PK and Crow won the game and the series, ultimately," Joel Quenneville said, "That was a big factor in us getting through this series. They (Blues) were dominating the first 40 minutes there, and we came back with maybe our best third period of the year."

And it was keyed by 3 goals by the Hawks' core, a group that Blues coach Ken Hitchcock will no doubt have nightmares about when he looks back at this series.

"Every time someone seemed to be scoring a goal he had a 19, or 88, or 81 or a 10 on his back," Hitchcock said. "That's all I really know."

All the Hawks really know is that now they'll get a few days' rest as they await their next opponent, either Colorado or Minnesota.

"This group here, they'd rather just play. but we'll need a couple practices there to keep that pace going," Quenneville said. "But after this series, nothing wrong with taking a few days off to enjoy it."

mspellman@dailyherald.com

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