Sunday, June 23, 2013
Hawks one win away -- again
By Jesse Rogers
We might be more than a win away from using dynasty to describe the Chicago Blackhawks organization.
But it certainly would be a tempting proposition now that the Hawks are within one victory of earning their second Stanley Cup championship in four years, following a 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of their best-of-seven series on Saturday.
The Hawks lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 in Boston on Monday.
“I’m not even thinking about that right now,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said after a frantic finish to Game 5. “It’s going to be really tough.”
Win or lose, this is how it should be for the Hawks: vying for Lord Stanley’s Cup as often as the stars on this team will allow.
Following the two short playoff seasons after the first Cup win in 2010, the Hawks had people scratching their heads. With so much talent, why wasn’t it working?
“Anytime you can put out [Patrick] Kane, [Jonathan] Toews, [Marian] Hossa, [Duncan] Keith, [Brent] Seabrook, [Corey] Crawford, those are some pretty big names,” Patrick Sharp said. “The key this year has been the depth of our team.”
Sharp had to be reminded he was part of that group, as well.
It’s as talented a core as you’ll find in the league, but it’s more than just added depth that’s brought them to the brink of another Cup. After all, the Hawks only added a couple of new faces to the roster in defenseman Michal Rozsival and center Michal Handzus. The rest are leftovers from last season -- which ended with a second consecutive first-round exit.
“I knew we would get back sooner or later,” Sharp said. “That Phoenix series [last year] is one that definitely stayed with people throughout the summer.
“I trusted in the organization and the players we had.”
That franchise doubled down with Joel Quenneville and its core group after the struggles of a year ago. Quenneville laid the hammer down in areas of weakness. The team’s penalty killing improved, as did its overall defense and goaltending.
The Hawks should always have enough offense. But was there enough grit and desire to play team defense the right way? They’ve answered that question this year.
“Right from the start of this season, we didn’t know what to expect,” Sharp said. “We didn’t know if we had a terrible team or a great team. Obviously, starting the way we did you can’t help but to think ahead to what might be down the road.”
Down the road was a playoff run, one that might end the same way it did in 2010 -- with a road victory in Game 6 and a championship.
First, the Hawks have to get past a gritty Boston team that will most certainly rally around a fallen star in injured center Patrice Bergeron.
“We have enough going on as far as incentive for what’s on the line,” Sharp stated. “Playing a team like Boston, it’s going to be another battle. No question.”
And while Jonathan Toews didn’t play in the third period in Game 5, there is hope he’ll return for Game 6.
The Hawks still might do this the hard way and give the home fans one more game next week. That simply might be how this team -- this organization -- likes it: with their backs against the wall. They’ve shown that time and time again.
“We know the situation, but we're not going to get ahead of ourselves,” Duncan Keith said. “We know there is a lot of work to do and a lot of sacrifice here to be made still.”