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2011 in review: Top 5 Hawks stories

Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks came all the way back from a 3-0 deficit against the Canucks to force a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs in April. Rich Lam/Getty Images

1. Hawks force Game 7: A hit to the head of Brent Seabrook by the Canucks' Raffi Torres coupled with the return of Dave Bolland to the lineup ignited the Hawks' run to Game 7 against Vancouver. Down 3-0, the Hawks dominated Games 4 and 5 and squeaked by in overtime in Game 6 to set up the dramatic series finale in Vancouver. An improbable shorthanded goal by Jonathan Toews with 1:56 remaining tied the game, sending it to overtime again. The Hawks' Patrick Sharp couldn't convert on a beauty of a power-play chance and moments later former Hawk Chris Campoli turned the puck over at the Hawks' blue-line where Alex Burrows grabbed it and buried the game-winner, ending an instant classic playoff series.

2. Hawks 'earn' No. 8 seed: Needing just a point to make the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, the Hawks lost to the Detroit Red Wings. Their only hope was a back-door chance if Minnesota could beat Dallas later in the day in the final regular season game in the NHL that season. The Stars played tight in the second half of the game and lost to the Wild who were playing for nothing. The Hawks "earned" the No. 8 seed.

3. Cup defense comes up short: With a roster gutted due to the salary cap and a short summer, the Hawks started slow and never really got into gear the season following their Stanley Cup championship. A brutal early schedule doomed them. By late November they had played up to five more games than other teams in their division. They admitted midseason contests just didn't have the energy that the playoffs and the Olympics created a year earlier. They sputtered until an eight-game winning streak got them in position to make the playoffs, albeit by the skin of their teeth.

4. Kane to center experiment: The Hawks couldn't find a center to play behind Toews so they moved one of the best right wingers in the game to play in the middle. The smaller Kane shocked everyone by handling the task for the first month of the new season, but soon his play in the middle got stale. He struggled on the road where the opposition can dictate matchups, but overall Kane proved he could play there on a need basis.

5. Kane's wrist surgery: Kane showed up in Chicago in July days before the annual fan convention looking better than ever. Then came the shocking news he would need wrist surgery for an injury that occurred at the end of the regular season. It helped explain, in part, his mediocre playoff series against the Canucks. Surgery was a success and Kane started the regular season on time.