Chicago Blackhawks are no strangers to coming up clutch

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane is just one of many Blackhawks who know how to score when it's do-or-die time. The Hawks have scored 20 game-tying or game-winning goals in the final 5½ minutes or overtime this season.

    Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane is just one of many Blackhawks who know how to score when it's do-or-die time. The Hawks have scored 20 game-tying or game-winning goals in the final 5½ minutes or overtime this season. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/10/2017 9:53 PM

Any Chicago Bulls fan over the age of 35 fondly remembers the days of Jordan and can recall with great clarity the myriad clutch shots MJ drained over his career.

Regular season. First round. Second round, conference final, NBA Final.

 

It didn't matter.

Michael Jordan was the ultimate modern-day assassin and he destroyed the dreams of more opposing fans than perhaps any athlete in several generations.

Throughout the 1990s, ear-splitting screams echoed throughout the Chicago Stadium, United Center and countless watering holes across the city. That eight-year stretch was a glorious era, one unmatched in the city's history.

For those of you too young to remember the Bulls' glory days, thank your lucky stars that you are now growing up in a new era known as the days of Kane and Toews. The Blackhawks of the 2010s have unleashed their fury across the NHL, and have shown the uncanny ability to deliver during clutch moments much the way Jordan did in his heyday.

It all began with Patrick Kane's remarkable short-handed goal in 2010 in Game 5 of their opening-round series vs. Nashville. Kane proceeded to tear out Philly's heart in the Cup Final with his where-did-the-puck-go goal in Game 6. Brent Seabrook wrecked Detroit's season in 2013. Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland worked their magic in Boston in the Final. Duncan Keith in double OT against Nashville in 2015. Seabrook again in triple overtime in Game 4.

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And on and on and on.

All of this experience in late-game situations has flooded over into this season in some remarkable ways. Twenty times -- count em, 20 -- the Hawks scored the game-tying or game-winning goal with less than 5:30 remaining in regulation or in overtime. It happened with great regularity early in the season as 15 of the team's first 33 victories came about this way.

On top of that, in 10 other wins, the Hawks extended a 1-goal lead by scoring in the final four minutes (4 of those goals went into empty nets).

"When games are on the line, finding ways to win (has) always been one of our strengths," coach Joel Quenneville said recently. "But you might be right saying that this year (has been) a little bit more clutch. Timing wise, we've scored some big goals at big times."

It all began in the sixth game of the season when Artem Anisimov and Richard Panik scored with 2:28 and 1:28 remaining to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 4-4 game against Toronto at the United Center. The Hawks went on to win in a shootout.

Six nights later, the Hawks appeared destined to lose in New Jersey, but fans no doubt exploded when Marian Hossa tied the game with just 2:11 remaining. Anisimov then gave the Hawks a 3-2 victory by scoring 75 seconds into OT.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

What's amazing is it wasn't just Kane, Toews, Hossa, Anisimov and Artemi Panarin delivering late in games. Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza, Richard Panik, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Brian Campbell also got into the act and helped the Hawks escape with 2 points.

After the Hawks beat the Islanders 2-1 in a shootout at the United Center -- a game they tied with 74 seconds left on a Panarin goal -- Quenneville talked about how important it was for the team to stay patient and not take unnecessary risks. That's not easy to do when you trail 1-0 for 24 minutes, but it's something the Hawks under Quenneville are able to do.

And the young guys buying into that philosophy is a big reason why that's possible.

"I think they're part of it," Quenneville said. "We see the progression of a guy like (Nick Schmaltz) at this time of the year, (Tanner) Kero's been up doing a good job since he's been here. Hartsy's scored some big goals this year.

"Their contribution is very important to our team and them being consistent … that's getting to the next level and making us better."

Hawks' opponents in the Stanley Cup playoffs -- beginning with Nashville in the opening round -- would be wise to remember all of this in the coming days and weeks. The Predators and future opponents (if the Hawks advance) almost need to change their philosophy when they are leading. They must continue to push the pace and look to increase their lead in the third period.

Because as we've seen, sitting back and waiting for the clock to wind down as Kane, Toews and the rest of the Hawks circle like hungry, blood-thirsty sharks is a lethal strategy that often leads to heartbreak and crushing defeat.

"It's definitely been a strong point this year," Kane said. "Maybe as time goes on certain guys understand the moment, (and) you get certain breaks."

Kane, Toews and the rest of the Hawks -- like Jordan before them -- understand the moment better than most.

And they deliver better than most.

Which is exactly why the Blackhawks win more than most and seem destined to carve out their fair share of hearts once more this postseason.

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