Captain sets the tone early in Hawks' big win
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- KA-BOOM!
That mushroom cloud you saw over the Honda Center on Saturday night came courtesy of Jonathan Toews during the Blackhawks' 5-3 Game 7 victory in the Western Conference finals.
Yes, the Captain -- paired up once again with Patrick Kane on the top line -- set off the equivalent of two atom bombs early in this winner-take-all affair with a pair of first-period goals that enabled the Hawks to seize the momentum and vanquish the Ducks.
"It's pretty remarkable how he comes through in these games and seems to come through time after time," Kane said.
Next stop: Tampa Bay for the Stanley Cup Final. Game 1 is Wednesday in Tampa.
Toews scored just 2:23 into the game when he pounded in a rebound off a Niklas Hjalmarsson shot, then added another on the power play at 11:55 of the first. Those were his eighth and ninth goals of the postseason, putting him just 1 behind Kane for the team lead.
And to think he had just 4 total goals coming into Game 4 of this series.
Kane finished with 3 assists and, if possible, seemed to find even another gear in Games 6 and 7 skating with Toews.
"There's no two guys I'd rather have on my team coming into a big game," said Duncan Keith. "They have that ability to rise to the occasion and just find a way no matter what. (They have that belief) they're going to get it done, they're going to find a way.
"I think that rubs off on a lot of guys."
The third part of the Hawks' explosive first line is the up-and-coming Brandon Saad.
The 22-year-old 20-goal scorer had himself a heckuva Western Conference finals, scoring short-handed in Game 4 and then really strutting his stuff in Game 7.
Saad drew 2 penalties Saturday, the first of which led to Jonathan Toews giving the Hawks a 2-0 lead. Saad also scored 1:18 into the second period to make it 3-0 to take all the remaining life out of the Honda Center.
"Saader had a real good last part of the series where he was dominant in a lot of ways," coach Joel Quenneville said.
Back where it started:
Brad Richards, who played for Tampa Bay from 2000-08 and won a Cup with the Lightning in 2004, will be facing his old team when the Stanley Cup Final begins Wednesday.
"There's going to be a lot of different feelings," Richards said. "I grew up as a player and as an adult, human being there. Lot of great friends still. Very happy that the (organization) is back on track. ... It's going to be special, but I want to win one. So we'll worry about friendships later."
Bickell, Kruger issues:
Bryan Bickell played just four minutes, 22 seconds in Game 7. His last shift came early in the second period. Marcus Kruger, the recipient of a big hit in the third period, played just 10:34.
Coach Joel Quenneville said he thought both players would be fine when the Hawks take on Tampa Bay in the Cup Final.
He said it:
"I'm not going to lie, it's going to hurt for a while. We truly believe that we're a different team and we had a really good chance of winning five more games." -- Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau