MORRISSEY: Hawks earn trip back to Detroit with spirited effort in victory
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com May 25, 2013 11:44PM
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 25: Bryan Bickell #29 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebtrates his first period goal against the Detroit Red Wings in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on May 25, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
At Hawks 4
At Hawks 1
At Wings 3
At Wings 2
At Hawks 4
7 p.m. Monday
at Detroit, NBCSN
GAME 7 if necessary
Updated: June 27, 2013 7:16AM
If you are of the belief that all goals are created equal, then the first of the Blackhawks’ four goals Saturday had no more meaning than the others. It was worth exactly 25 percent.
But if you happened to be sitting in the United Center after Bryan Bickell’s first-period goal, then the hearing loss you still are experiencing is telling you that some goals are better than others.
‘‘Huge,’’ teammmate Andrew Shaw called it.
That one whack of the puck was a primal scream, a rebel yell, a stress release so intense it threatened to knock the stadium off its moorings. It did so many things for the Hawks, who had been far enough back on their heels in this Western Conference semifinal series that they needed tow service to be extricated from the ice.
‘‘We knew we needed a good first period, and I think we did,’’ Bickell said. ‘‘Momentum in this game goes a long way, and I think we have it right now.’’
The Hawks are alive after a 4-1 victory against the Red Wings. How alive is in the eye of the beholder and in the team name on his or her NHL-licensed sweater. The Red Wings still lead the series 3-2 heading into Game 6 on Monday in Detroit. That’s fact. But they might be the ones on their heels now. Suddenly, the Hawks look a little more like the No. 1 seed they were when they entered the playoffs. That might be a matter of nuance, but it doesn’t make it any less real.
They look confident. Gone are the empty looks and blank stares.
There were so many feel-good things for the Hawks to build on from the victory. The Hawks scored two power-play goals after looking pathetic with the man advantage in Game 4. And when captain Jonathan Toews, who had been scoreless in nine playoff games, beat goalie Jimmy Howard on a power play in the second period, it was official confirmation that something special was in progress.
‘‘It’s a lot of weight off his shoulders,’’ Shaw said.
‘‘Everybody helped each other,’’ Toews said of the power play. ‘‘I think in some situations previously, we seemed to get complacent, where we watched the puck carrier a little bit and we don’t move our feet and don’t help him out. I think the most important thing on a power play is the guys without the puck.’’
The first of Shaw’s two goals came on the power play, and it showed what can happen with lots of effort. He was in the middle of a pitched battle with defenseman Niklas Kronwall in front of the Red Wings’ net when Duncan Keith took a slap shot from the point. Shaw muscled his stick up and deflected the shot past Howard. It gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead.
The Hawks were much more involved, much more engaged, than they had been in any of the first four games. They were electric where before they had been leaning toward acoustic. Funny what desperation will do for you. The question now is whether the Hawks can use it moving forward. If they can’t, it’ll be just a blip on the way to a disappointing end to the season. But if they can, it could be a real turning point for the team that had the best regular-season record in the league.
‘‘We’ve got nothing to lose,’’ Bickell said. ‘‘They have their backs to the wall.’’
For all the talk by the Hawks that they weren’t feeling the pressure heading into Game 5, well, it was talk. The feeling of being down 3-1 in a series you’re favored to win is something like the feeling of a major appliance on your back.
But keep in mind that the seventh-seeded Red Wings overcame a 3-2 series deficit to beat the Ducks in the first round. Buzz kill after such a stirring Hawks victory, you say? No, just the truth.
It’s a reminder that if the Hawks are going to win this thing, it’s going to take a huge effort against a team that has found itself in the playoffs after being AWOL for most of the season.
For the Hawks and for Chicago, relief could be measured in decibel levels at the United Center.
‘‘We didn’t face much adversity during the year,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘Finally, a game like [Saturday], we had our playoff intensity where it needs to be at. We’ve just got to move forward from here.’’
Forward is a good way to go. Much, much better than going home for the offseason.