Three-goal third period puts Blackhawks in driver’s seat for Game 7
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org May 27, 2013 10:33PM
Chicago Blackhawks v Detroit Red Wings - Game Six
At Hawks 4
At Hawks 1
At Wings 3
At Wings 2
At Hawks 4
At Wings 3
7 p.m. Wednesday
at Hawks, NBCSN
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Updated: May 28, 2013 7:26PM
DETROIT — What a precarious position the Blackhawks found themselves in Monday night, in probably the funkiest sport of all. It’s sort of hard to control your destiny while standing on a seesaw at knifepoint.
If the Hawks lost to Detroit in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal series, their season was over, and there was a good chance that big, unpleasant changes would be coming for the franchise.
If they won, well, party on! And what offseason changes?
If they lost, it would be seen as an utter, unmitigated disaster. No matter how you’d slice it, there would be no getting around the fact that the NHL’s best team during the regular season had lost to a seventh seed. You could throw in the peculiarities of hockey, the odd bounces and the history of playoff upsets, and it still wouldn’t change the fact that the Hawks, with their epic season-opening point streak, should have made it to the Stanley Cup finals. Anything less would be a failure.
If they won, you just knew the Red Wings would wilt like daisies in Game 7 at the United Center, didn’t you?
In the end, the Hawks unleashed a third-period scoring barrage on goalie Jimmy Howard that led to a 4-3 victory and ended any conversations about Whose Head Will Roll.
Does it follow that the Hawks will win Game 7? I think it does.
Do you trust that they’ve righted themselves and made Detroit realize it’s the low seed it is? I think you should.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn’t see it that way.
“They got what we gave them,’’ he said of the Hawks.
Despite Babcock’s odd worldview, it’s fair to say that everything is back to normal for the Hawks, who had gone down 3-1 in this series because of uninspired play. But the better team won. And the better team should wrap up this series Wednesday night.
Consecutive goals by Michal Handzus, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik, on a penalty shot, bring on that kind of bold talk. Remember when bold talk was the Hawks’ first language during the regular season? Good to see it back.
It certainly was there when the Hawks went into the locker room down 2-1 after the second period. Not even a bad goal given up by Corey Crawford could shake them.
“It was just pure confidence,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. “Our heads were just in the right spot. We knew what we had to do, and we weren’t panicking. We just had to stay with it. I think all our hard work is paying off. … We’ve got that momentum; we want to keep it.’’
There was intense pressure on the Hawks as they skated around the rink at Joe Louis Arena. Oh, they’ll say there wasn’t, that all of it was media- and fan-driven stuff, but that can’t possibly be true. You can look at desperation as a positive thing, that having nothing to lose is a good thing, and the Hawks surely looked at it that way. But I’m pretty sure the word “desperation’’ comes from the word “despair.’’ It was a fine line the Hawks skated.
That’s why Patrick Eaves’ rebound goal for the Red Wings was so painful near the end of the first period.
It started with Dave Bolland’s inability to clear the puck for the Hawks. It led to a Drew Miller slap shot that Crawford should have caught with his glove to stop play. Instead, the puck bounced off him to Eaves, who was by himself near the net. You’d call it a comedy of errors, but there was nothing funny about it or the 1-1 tie.
But the low point of the night for the Hawks came in the second period when Crawford completely missed a glove save on a hard wrist shot by Joakim Andersson. It’s the kind of goal that wakes goalies up in a sweat in the middle of the night. It’s the kind of goal that has dogged Crawford and made him a target for fan criticism.
“I told myself, ‘It can’t get worse than that. I’ve just got to come up with the next save and build off that and keep going and keep us in the game,’ ’’ he said.
It was a huge moment for Crawford and the Hawks.
“His confidence level and his attitude after goals like that are a little different from last year,’’ Bickell said. “We needed this for him. I feel this whole playoffs he was there for us.’’
The Hawks turned on the blasters soon after.
So, no worries. It’s safe to say that. Now.