Rozner: Blackhawks made winning look easy

 
 
Updated 4/28/2018 4:19 PM
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  • Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews hoists the Stanley Cup after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 10, 2015. As the Blackhawks sit home this postseason for the first time in a decade watching everyone else battle it out for the Stanley Cup, we are reminded just how good Chicago has had it in past years.

    Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews hoists the Stanley Cup after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 10, 2015. As the Blackhawks sit home this postseason for the first time in a decade watching everyone else battle it out for the Stanley Cup, we are reminded just how good Chicago has had it in past years. Associated Press File Photo

The last time the Blackhawks won a playoff series, they didn't sleep much that night.

Or the next night. Actually, for several days.

They saw the sun rise after winning the 2015 Stanley Cup in Chicago, celebrating with city and bringing the silver trophy with them everywhere they went.

It was quite the party, one Chicago became rather accustomed to throwing.

In the process, local hockey fans might have forgotten just how difficult it is to win a single playoff series, let alone four straight in the same postseason.

Sitting home for the first time in a decade, it is far more apparent now as you watch teams around the game try to survive a period, a game, a series.

It's brutal.

Seeing Boston outscore Toronto 4-0 in the third period to win 7-4 in Game 7 a few nights ago -- when the Leafs appeared to be in control -- was yet another reminder of the cruel nature of playoff hockey.

And a reminder of how good Chicago has had it.

The Bruins celebrated like they had won the Cup itself -- and they might yet this time around -- because of how rough the series was and how hard it is to endure and advance.

At the same time, the Leafs can only think about what might have been, giving up a lead going into the third period of a game that might have sent them a very long way this spring.

"I thought we were the fresher team and we were in the driver's seat," said Toronto coach Mike Babcock. "I'm disappointed because I thought we were set up perfectly going into the third."

An early Boston goal during a 4-on-4, with help from a questionable call, tied the game.

"We were still in a good spot there. The next one hurt us," Babcock said. "We didn't respond. It was like devastation instead of keep playing and executing.

"You're all part of it when it goes good and you're all part of it when it doesn't go good. The bottom line is, you own it all as the head coach and you own it all as players.

"That's just the way the game is. The best way to fix things is to take total responsibility yourself."

It's no picnic answering questions after a Game 7 loss, but Babcock did all he could to maintain perspective.

"Right now, you can't say anything. You're emotional," Babcock said. "Keep your mouth shut for a day or two, and then look at the whole picture and comment on that.

"At the start of the series, if you'd have told me we'd be right here going into the third period, I'd have taken that all day long. I don't think anybody in Toronto or anybody on our team would've complained about that."

The Leafs have some really good young players who will have to look ahead, much as the Hawks did after losing to the Wings in the 2009 conference finals.

"You've got to find a way to get to the next level. Some of these hard knocks are a growth opportunity for you in life," Babcock said. "You've got to embrace it. You've got to dig in and you've got to grow your craft in the offseason."

Much like the Hawks did from 2009 to 2010, when they could have lost Game 5 at home to Nashville in the opening round, but a late miracle put them in a position to win the series in six games.

You think of games like the clincher in Philly in 2010, Game 7 against Detroit and Game 6 against Boston in 2013, and Game 7 against Anaheim in 2015.

There were some tough ones, like Game 7 defeats in Vancouver (2011) and St. Louis (2016), and the worst was the Game 7 loss to Los Angeles in 2014 that ultimately cost them a three-peat.

But so many huge wins in games that could have gone either way gave the impression that when it mattered most, the Hawks would find a way.

Now, watching teams tear each other apart just to get out of the first round is a stern reminder of how good the last decade has been, of how special an era we have lived through in Chicago.

Whether that time is over will be debated for at least another 12 months.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• 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.

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