Rozner: Blackhawks show heart of a champion
After so much has occurred in such a short time, words no longer suffice.
It seems incomplete to measure the heart of a team in black and white, when they're willing to sweat blood and bleed tears.
That is the epitome of the Chicago Blackhawks, who will take a run at their third Stanley Cup in six seasons after dispatching the Ducks with a 5-3, Game 7 victory Saturday night in Anaheim.
While the Ducks go home knowing they've lost Game 7 in their building after having a 3-2 series lead three straight seasons, they might take a sliver's solace in also knowing they are the best team the Hawks have defeated to reach the Final since they began winning playoff series in 2009.
Playing with a short bench against a very deep and talented Anaheim team, the Hawks had every right to go away and call it a season during this series, but they simply would not quit and came back from down a game three times until the Ducks ran out of games.
And now the Hawks have a date with the Lightning that begins Wednesday night in Tampa.
"It was a test. That's a heck of a team," Jonathan Toews said of the Ducks. "We didn't underestimate them. We really had to earn every little bit of success we had."
Naturally, it was the best captain in sports leading the way, with Toews scoring twice in the first 11:55 of the game to get the visitors started the right way.
"It's pretty remarkable how he shows up in these games," said Patrick Kane of Toews. "Great leadership from Toews and (Patrick) Sharp and (Duncan) Keith. We just follow their lead."
The Hawks made it 3-0 only 78 seconds into the second, before the Ducks could even get anything going, when Johnny Oduya had a nice keep on the left side and the puck bounced right to Kane, who fed Brandon Saad on the right doorstep for a wide open net.
With 6:15 left in the second, Marian Hossa kicked in a Brad Richards rebound and the Hawks had a whopping 4-0 lead.
The Ducks closed to within 4-2 with 8:24 remaining in the game, but Hossa drew a penalty and Brent Seabrook's power-play goal ended the Ducks' hopes at 13:23.
"Tonight had to be our best game," Toews said, "and it was."
While Corey Crawford got better as the series went on and was terrific in goal again Saturday, Frederik Andersen gave up 18 goals in the last four games.
"Corey was great and we're not surprised," Sharp said. "We know what we have in this room and we believe in each other and you saw that the last few weeks."
There have been too many times over the years that effort was the issue for the Blackhawks in the postseason. You wondered why they would start so late, finish so early and fail to find a 60-minute effort.
But that was not the case against the Ducks, save perhaps a single period in the seven games, and they did not want to head for the golf course for the second straight year merely a few pucks short of a chance to win the big prize.
"We were in this position last year and didn't get it done. We didn't want to have that feeling again," Kane said. "We haven't done anything yet. It's a big step. We put ourselves in a position to play another series."
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau, now 1-6 in Game 7s, summed up admirably what it means to play in a Game 7 with a chance to play for Lord Stanley's silver bowl.
"I think it's more the prize than the stake," Boudreau said. "You do whatever it takes to win because you grew up from five years old, when you're playing ball hockey in the driveway, you're dreaming about holding that thing.
"So you do whatever it takes in all the cases, which is what makes hockey so great."
A great series is over and the next one has little chance to be as historically epic as was the one that just ended, but that's of no significance to the Hawks.
All they have on their minds now is a parade.
• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.