(Photo: Blackhawks Facebook)

For the first time in the series, the Chicago Blackhawks looked like themselves against the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday night as they fought elimination.

Perhaps Captain Jonathan Toews was right about the team playing their best with their backs against the wall. They finished with a resounding 5-2 lead–in regulation, nonetheless–but it didn’t come without moments of excitement–or dread, fear, and nausea for fans like myself.

But before we think of Saturday’s impending cardiac nightmare, let’s reflect on Wednesday’s.

The first period was mostly uneventful. The Ducks outshot the Hawks 10-6, perhaps partly due to another too many men on the ice penalty served by Teuvo Teravainen about two minutes into the game.

Here’s hoping they practice their counting on the extra day between games.

The Blackhawks also had a power play thanks to a Corey Perry hook on Duncan Keith about five minutes later, but they were unable to set up any plays let alone capitalize on the man-advantage. (Why bother penalizing them for too-many-men at this point? We all see how little they do with an extra attacker.)

But the second period was spirited.

At 8:23 in, a neutral zone feed from Keith, Brandon Saad took a puck up the middle of the ice outskating defenseman Hampus Lindholm and went five-hole on netminder Frederik Andersen. Patrick Kane earned a secondary assist.

Two minutes later, off a feed from Brad Richards, Keith faked a shot twice before dishing to Marian Hossa for a one-timer inside the right post and a two-goal lead.

And, because Hossa’s been earning assists but hasn’t tallied a goal since Game One of the series, here’s a nice Hossa celly.

Less than two minutes later, Keith would earn his third assist of the night on a Kane goal. Keith stole a clear attempt from Clayton Stoner and made a wall pass to Kane, who would undress forward Matt Beleskey before firing to the net for a three-goal lead. Captain Jonathan Toews gave the puck and extra push at the goal line, just in case.

Anaheim would answer with a fast goal while Richards sat for a hooking penalty. At 14:13 into the second, Patrick Maroon tipped in a Cam Fowler shot off a fed from Sami Vatanen shortly after a faceoff win.

 

Just under two minutes into the third, a controversial and deflating no-call shortened Chicago’s lead even more. Jakob Silfverberg obviously hit Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford‘s glove, interfering with his ability to make a play–but goaltender interference was not called and Stoner was credited with a goal. Goaltender interference is not a reviewable play.

Silfverberg and Nate Thompson were credited with assists on Stoner’s goal–a shot from the blue line after passes through the zone.

Coincidentally and frustratingly, Andrew Desjardins fell onto Andersen less than two minutes later, giving the Ducks a goalie interference power play and giving me an “ohmygoodnessno, they’re going to tie it here” two minutes of astronomically high blood pressure.

But, thankfully, the Blackhawks were able to kill the penalty. And, despite the Ducks outshooting Chicago by more than three times–13 to four–the Blackhawks were able to extend their lead.

As Coach Joel Quenneville said:

It was a great stretch, great start there. Saader scoring a special goal–nice play in the middle of the ice. Duncs makes a spectacular play. All of the sudden we got three, puts us in a good spot. They got right back in it right away with a power play, scored one of those goals right off the bat. We know their success in the third period, how they come, having gotten beat in regulation. We know we’re going to have to spend some time in our end. Shawsy scores a goal and puts us in the right spot.

Despite that third period momentum in Anaheim’s favor, Andrew Shaw went top-shelf with a backhander off a shot from Desjardins with 3:32 left in regulation.

And, with a setup from Marcus Kruger and Desjardins, Shaw gave the Hawks even more insurance as the clock ticked down–scoring an empty-netter with 49 seconds remaining.

This comes on the heels of a series really dominated by the Ducks. Despite three wins on each side, Chicago only took the other two by a goal–in third and second overtimes.

Now, they’ll move on to Game Seven Saturday.

But, first, here’s how they got there…

Hawks and Ducks Close Calls
The Blackhawks and Wild Sweeping Series
The Blackhawks and Predators Series

 

Game Seven

There are tons of stats about these teams and their records historically. I’m not going to share those because, honestly, none of them matter. When these two teams skate onto the ice, they both have one ultimate goal in mind. They’ll be putting blood, sweat, tears, and bones on the line to make it happen.

As Toews said:

I think you raise your play every game as you go deeper and deeper into a series. I think as a hockey player, you want to talk about the cliche of growing up as a kid, playing on the backyard rink, pretending you’re playing that Game Seven. You think of that as the ultimate test for any player to see what you got–to see what you can bring in a high-pressure situation like that. I think that’s the exciting thing. Again we can resort to our experience in these situations and just feel confident. We’re going to go work. Fate’s on our side. We’ll find a way to make things happen.

 

Last year, the Blackhawks lost the Western Conference Finals Game Seven to the Los Angeles Kings with a wobbly puck in overtime, in what Quenneville called “the toughest loss of probably our lives.”

The Ducks fared similarly in previous seasons.

“If you want to prove people wrong, you’ve just got to go out and do it,” forward Kyle Palmieri said. “Yeah, we blew 3-2 series leads the last two years, but no one is going remember that if we go out there on Saturday night and beat these guys and go play in the Stanley Cup Final. We need to get back to work and we’ll start to do that tomorrow.”

Neither team has any intention of backing down. And both will be ready in all the ways that suit them best.

“Going into a Game Seven, it’s always about preparing exactly the same way you always prepare,” Former NHLer Tom Laidlaw said. “If you do something different, then you are getting off your game. A lot of guys are superstitious and if you always tie your left skate up first, you are going to tie you left skate first this time. You don’t want it to seem like it is a bigger deal, even though it is.”

I’ll keep my game-day traditions as well. I’ll be wearing what I wore Wednesday, eating what I ate Wednesday, and wishing and praying to Lord Stanley to put me through another round of this beautiful emotional turmoil–because it’s the Cup.

 

 

 

The Blackhawks and Ducks play at 7 p.m. ET on NBC, CBC, and TVA. The winner of this series will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final.

(As always, click the bold links for video clips or other information. Gifs via Stephanie Vail @myregularface)

 

Carly Mullady grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

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