Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Hawks' toughness measured by success
By Jesse Rogers
Toughness includes being able to take a hit and make a play, as Jonathan Toews does.
CHICAGO -- It's been a knock on the Chicago Blackhawks going back to the year they won the Stanley Cup: They're not tough enough, they don't throw their body around enough, and yes, they don't drop the gloves enough.
That last critique has little to do with winning a title, and the other two matter everywhere but the stat sheet. The Hawks have been outhit 133 to 98 in their series with the Minnesota Wild but lead 3-1. They were outhit 20-10 on Tuesday but won the game handily, 3-0. In fact, their 98 hits is the least of any playoff team, including four that have played one fewer game.
"I feel like our team can play a number of different ways," Patrick Sharp said after Tuesday's game. "People want to make a big deal of the hits. That's fine. We've won a physical game before. We've won a lot of games with our speed and playmaking ability, so whatever the type of game there is, I feel confident in our guys."
That's the mark of a championship team: winning in different ways. The NHL calls for it especially over the course of the postseason, which lasts for two months. Some games will be tightly contested, others more wide open. The Hawks have proved they can play both ways. That has something to do with their goaltending as well.
"He's maturing," coach Joel Quenneville said of Corey Crawford after his Game 4 shutout. "He's had some good experience in big games ... I like his motion, his movement in net. His rebound control is in place."
Last season, the Hawks could only win one way in the playoffs -- with a wide-open style -- but they played the one team in Phoenix that didn't allow for it and had better goaltending as well. So it was one and done for them.
This season's team is more reminiscent of the one that won the Stanley Cup in 2010, which also was a team not known for big hits or fighting. As radio analyst Troy Murray mentioned during Tuesday's game, toughness comes from taking a hit and making a play, not from dropping the gloves.
Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik have proved to be players who will do just that. The stars of the Hawks aren't bad at it, either. When you have the puck as much as the Hawks do, you're going to take more hits than you dish out. That's where the hit totals are misleading and nearly useless.
Have the Hawks lost a game here or there because they got run out of the rink? Game 1 in the 2011 postseason in Vancouver comes to mind, but they've always responded. It's never held them back from achieving what they want, it's only fueled questions which aren't relative to winning a title. The Hawks were also dead last in hits during this past regular season, and how did that turn out for them?
Last in hits, first in points. The Hawks are plenty tough enough. They always have been.