Blackhawks a team Chicago can be proud of
After four brutal contests, the Stanley Cup Final is right back where it started.
And now it's a best-of-three, with neither the Blackhawks nor the Bruins possessing a measurable advantage. The Bruins have been the better team through 17 periods, but the Hawks have regained home ice.
What's striking is how dissimilar these teams are in style, and yet so close on the scoreboard, with three games already going to overtime and the other decided by 2 goals.
The 75:47 of bonus time is the second most in Stanley Cup Final history, only three minutes behind the 1931 Final between the Hawks and Habs, and this series will undoubtedly break that record, with more OT on the way.
This series once again appears headed for seven games and is looking more and more like it could ultimately become one of the greatest, most closely contested and memorable in NHL history.
And you are right in the middle of it all.
There are some times in sports when you have to take a breath, maybe even a step back, and recognize that what you're watching is more than just a fabulous event, that what you're watching will be remembered forever because of how special it is.
This is the road the 2013 Stanley Cup Final is traveling.
And if you're a Chicago sports fan, you ought to be immensely proud of what the Hawks have done in the last month.
Beyond entertaining and gut-busting, this hockey team has shown heart and resolve that not even its coaching staff could have known it had before the Detroit series.
And it was more than just recovering from a 3-1 deficit against Detroit.
Tied in Game 5 at the midway point, the Hawks fought though it for the victory.
Down in Game 6 going to the third period on the road, they came back and beat the Red Wings in their building.
Tied late in Game 7, they thought they had the victory, yet a ref's call sent them to OT, where they eventually prevailed.
Against Los Angeles and missing their best defenseman on the road, they played a spectacular third period in Game 4 and dominated the Kings.
In Game 5, a late tying goal did not stop them from winning in overtime.
And now against the Big Bad Bruins, the Hawks were beaten up and down the ice, and just plain beat up for three games, facing a must-win Game 4 on the road that would make the difference between almost certain elimination and regaining home ice with a chance to win it all.
Instead of quitting, the Hawks went out and played a courageous game, knowing they would have to take another pounding in order to win a game that could decide their season.
Easier said than done.
The Hawks are a 190-pound team in a 230-pound series, and as a hockey player you have to make a conscious admission that you will suffer pain to win a game.
Hockey is brutal this time of year, filled with heavy checks and cruel punishment, and a small team must fight through the agony and brutality to possess pucks and get to the net.
It is no cliché to say that it takes a brave man to admit he must get beat up before he can get up again.
The Hawks did that in Game 4, throwing their game in the face of a Boston team that intimidates with every shift.
Instead of cowering, the Hawks played a five-man offensive game and dared the Bruins to break out, risking odd-man breaks and the occasional penalty.
This is how the Hawks must play. They can't let the Bruins dictate the play in the Chicago end because the Hawks' defensive corps simply can't handle the Bruins' size down low.
So Joel Quenneville -- as he did against L.A. -- has taken this tack, and it has worked brilliantly for the Hawks.
But the Hawks can't let up now. If they play afraid in Game 5, they will be trailing in the series again with a Game 6 facing them in Boston.
They didn't play scared in Game 4, and you saw the difference in their play.
It was something to behold, and it's a game Chicago hockey fans will forever remember.
No matter what happens the rest of the way, the Hawks are a team Chicago can be proud of.
It's a team with tremendous heart that should never again be questioned in that regard -- and it's a team that should remain in the hearts of its fans for a good long time.
•Listen 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.