Just thirteen months ago, the Blackhawks qualified for the playoffs for only the second time this decade. Now, they sit four wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.
It’s really incredible to believe when you stop and think about it.
Today, the Hawks battled back from a 2-0 deficit when the Sharks capitalized twice off from a Duncan Keith re-direct; one off his stick and one off his face.
Brent Seabrook and Marian Hossa got the Hawks on the board 14 minutes through the second frame. On a 4-on-4, Seabrook beat Pavelski around the corner and fired a shot towards Nabokov’s feet. The puck laid there for awhile where Seabrook and Hossa each took turns whacking at the loose puck. It slipped through Nabokov’s legs and past the goal line for a heartbeat before Douglas Murray knocked it out. A call to Toronto caught Murray red-handed and the Hawks were on the board.
It was a huge goal as the Hawks weren’t posing much of a threat to that point and the Sharks were more than content clogging up the neutral zone with all five skaters.
Then with a minute and a half left in the second, Dave Bolland completely worked over Logan Couture behind the Sharks net. Bolland skated out in front, waited and fluttered a shot over Nabokov’s stacked pads.
Heading into the final frame knotted up at 2, the Sharks didn’t want their season to end. The first few minutes of the period saw San Jose all over the Hawks. After Joe Thornton’s deflection nicked the crossbar, the thought that it just wasn’t the Sharks’ year became a reality. The Hawks turned it up after that, forcing the Sharks into taking three straight penalties.
It wasn’t until the third penalty nearly expired that Dustin Byfuglien finally made San Jose pay. Patrick Kane’s primary target, Jonathan Toews, coughed up the puck back to the corner and Kane didn’t hesitate. He fired a pass to Byfuglien who tipped it past Nabokov. When the puck went back into the corner, it looked like the Sharks let up for just a split second and it was all Kane needed to see.
From there, it was only a matter of killing off the final 6 minutes. Kris Versteeg’s empty-netter which came off a huge defensive zone face-off win sealed the deal for the Hawks.
There’s your 2009-2010 Western Conference Champions.
–After three months of wedding showers, looking for a house, buying a house, moving, getting married, and going on a honeymoon, it’s been a busy time for Bobby and I….um….I mean me. The good news is the posts should be much more frequent again and if anyone needs to know where to watch a hockey game in Maui or Kauai, just ask. I searched high and low on both islands to find Versus and was successful on both accounts.
–Major kudos to Joel Quenneville for finally kicking the door down on a Western Conference Championship. If he didn’t win it here, he likely would’ve gone the rest of his career without one. Regardless of the President’s Trophy he won in St. Louis (mumbles something about different time, different team), this was the most talented team he’s ever had and he didn’t blow this opportunity.
–Who knew that losing Andrew Ladd in the first period was the equivalent of the Hawks losing Jeremy Roenick in his prime?
—Dustin Byfuglien continues to prove that while he’s mostly dead weight for the first few months of the season, he’ll help carry you across the finish line. He scored his third game-winning goal of the series and completely frustrated the opponent for the second straight series.
–High moments of hilariousness when Jonathan Toews was presented with the Clarence Campbell Trophy. The look on Toews’ face was that of someone who was halfway through a prostate exam. He wanted no part of touching it, even though it’s well documented that touching it does nothing to affect the outcome of the Stanley Cup Finals. Either way, very funny and I’m very relieved that I don’t have to hear various radio callers complaining about it. Well done, Captain.
–The Sharks are faced with a fairly large decision this summer: keep moving along with Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley and lose Patrick Marleau as well as Joe Pavelski to free agency or move one and/or both of them and lock up Marleau and Pavelski. Logan Couture looks like he might be something in a couple years but other than that, there’s not a whole lot in their pipeline as far as intriguing young talent.
–Speaking of the Sharks, after three games where they played their game and lost, they switched up their game-plan. The Sharks seemed more content with one forechecker or none. They still lost.
In the end, the only solace they or the fans can find is that maybe it was just the Hawks year. No matter what they tried, it just wasn’t going to happen for them.
–With his recent hiring in Florida, it shouldn’t go unnoticed as to how much Dale Tallon had in assembling this squad. Name any Hawk contributor from this season and Tallon’s fingerprints are all over them. It’s really a shame that he won’t get any recognition or credit for what he did. For all his negative flaws, in the end, it looks like it was all worth it.
–Philadelphia and Montreal await. More on them whenever we find out who survives. Don’t believe what you read, both will pose as a very viable threat to the Hawks.