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updated: 5/14/2014 9:13 AM

Never lack of confidence for Blackhawks

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  • Blackhawks right wing Kris Versteeg (23) reacts in front of left wing Brandon Saad (20) after scoring on Minnesota Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov during the first period of Game 6 in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday.

      Blackhawks right wing Kris Versteeg (23) reacts in front of left wing Brandon Saad (20) after scoring on Minnesota Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov during the first period of Game 6 in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday.

 
 

The evolution of the Blackhawks has been fascinating as they pursue dynasty status.

Not just the talent aspect on the ice but also the leadership aspect in the locker room.

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The Hawks needed all of everything they had Tuesday night to beat the Wild 2-1 in overtime and advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Right up to Patrick Kane's winning goal, the Hawks looked gassed as if they were skating on fumes,

"It was a battle," Kane said on CNBC immediately after he ended this second-round series. "You have to give Minnesota a lot of credit."

The Wild dominated play much of this night and much of the past week, but the Hawks have so many guys who have fought through these kinds of gut checks.

Four years ago the Hawks had to surround fuzzy youngsters like Kane and Jonathan Toews with successful veterans like John Madden and Andrew Ladd.

The mix won the Stanley Cup.

After that, the Hawks didn't have to import players to demonstrate to the core how to win and how to behave professionally.

Now the Hawks have maybe a dozen leaders, guys who have won championships and reside in the comfort zone of knowing what it takes.

No wonder that the Hawks won another Stanley Cup last year and they're still contending to win a third this year.

Leadership instills confidence, the Hawks' confidence leads to resolve, and their resolve leads to success … all of which they needed during the six games against the Wild.

The package of physical, mental and emotional ability enables the Hawks to survive the high degree of difficulty they often appear intent on creating as they navigate through the postseason.

Very few teams have what the Hawks have going for them because very few have been as successful as they have been for as long as they have been.

Very few Chicago sports teams, especially.

Individuals slump, become frustrated and harbor doubt. But the Hawks as a group maintain their self-assuredness.

Trail the Red Wings 3-1 in their playoff series last spring? Just go ahead and win the next three games. Trail the Blues 2-0 this spring? Just go ahead and win the next four. Lose twice in Minnesota last week? Just go ahead and win the clincher up there this week.

The Hawks resemble the Bulls, who won six NBA titles during the 1990s. That team never panicked or bowed to pressure.

Two championships don't equal six, but the mood around these Hawks is similar to the one around those Bulls, minus the arrogant excellence of a Michael Jordan, of course.

If the Hawks lose a game or consecutive games during a playoff series, their heart rates don't accelerate to hazardous levels.

The Hawks just sort of know -- not think but know -- that they're going to rebound. If they don't right away, then their feeling is that they will eventually.

These champions have those two Stanley Cups in four years. Been there, done that. In between they also lost in the playoffs twice. Been there, done that, too.

In other words, the gamut of emotions the Hawks experienced the past four years serves them well now.

No Chicago team since the Bulls' dynasty has had that luxury of self-assuredness until these Hawks won and then won again and now have the potential to win again.

The Hawks sense that they have won before so why can't they win again? And again and again, for that matter?

None of this means the Hawks will win this year's Stanley Cup. The NHL playoffs are much less predictable in the 2010s than the NBA playoffs were in the 1990s.

But somebody is going to have to beat the Hawks physically because they aren't going to beat themselves emotionally.

The Hawks are the rare Chicago team that evolved to the point where it has been so successful that its confidence and resolve never waver.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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