(Photo: NHL Youtube)

The Blackhawks proved they were “inhuman” by withstanding a physical pummeling from the Anaheim Ducks and delivering a Game Seven hit on the scoreboard, as the Chicago team proceeds to the Stanley Cup final for the third time in six seasons.

In the Game Seven 5-3 victory over the Ducks, the Blackhawks proved concerns over smaller size, lacking defense, and being hit into submission were all for naught.

“Every hit that we’ve had–and I’m sure you guys will count them–it’s all for this Game 7,” Ducks Center Ryan Kesler told media after Game Six after declaring that “no human could withstand that many hits” before Game Five.

Hits did favor Anaheim in the series–341-233.

Game 7: 37-15
Game 6: 43-38
Game 5: 41-23
Game 4: 60-52
Game 3: 45-27
Game 2: 71-45
Game 1: 44-34

As it turns out, hitting the body isn’t as important, after all, as that puck hitting the net. And, the Hawks’ “David” took down the Ducks’ “Goliath” with determination, skill, perseverance, and finesse.

The Blackhawks’ stars showed up when they needed to, while the Ducks simply couldn’t pull it off.

Captain Jonathan Toews scored twice in the elimination game, his first just 2:23 after puck drop on a setup from Niklas Hjalmarsson and Patrick Kane. Kane passed back to Hjalmarsson at the blue line for a shot that Toews rebounded in.



Then, unable to catch Brandon Saad on a rush, Jakob Silfverberg took a hooking penalty.



And, 11:55 into the period, Toews was able to capitalize on the man-advantage, firing a wrister past Frederik Andersen off a passing play from Brad Richards and Duncan Keith.




The Hawks continued that momentum into the second period with two more goals.

Saad skated the puck into the zone and passed it off to Johnny Oduya while taking a hit in the corner, then recovered to score off a fake-shot-turned-pass from Kane just 1:18 into the second.



More than 12 minutes later, Marian Hossa tallied the next goal for the Hawks after a takeaway at mid-ice, a pass to Richards for the shot and a rebound that went off his skate. Officials conferred and the play was reviewed, determining there was no intentional kicking motion and the goal stood–giving Chicago a 4-0 lead.



With a little over a minute remaining in the period, Kesler scored the Ducks’ first goal during four-on-four play, with an impressive shot from the right side of Goalie Corey Crawford to just inside the crossbar above the netminder’s left shoulder. Silfverberg and Francois Beauchemin set up the play.



The Ducks would continue their comeback effort in the third.

Corey Perry netted the team’s second goal after Ryan Getzlaf brought the puck into the zone, feeding Patrick Maroon, who sent the puck across the front of the net to Perry–who got Crawford down, then went top shelf at 11:36 into the final period of play.



Then, when Cam Fowler served a hooking penalty on Hossa, the Hawks took back another goal for a 5-2 score.

With 6:37 remaining in regulation and on a power player, Keith passed to Kane, who sent the puck across the ice to an uncovered Brent Seabrook who ripped a shot past Andersen.



And, finally, while Oduya served a delay of game penalty, and with 42 seconds left in regulation, the Ducks pulled Andersen and scored their final goal with a six-on-four.

Matt Beleskey tipped-in a shot from Fowler set up by Hampus Lindholm.



Shots were 38-26 in the Ducks’ favor, but Anaheim was unable to get ahead. And, despite the chippy play, the series ended with the best tradition in all of sports.



Also, no one touched the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, awarded for winning the Western Conference.



The Blackhawks will head on to Tampa Bay next. But first, another look at how they got there:

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


An Electric Final Ahead: Lightning host Hawks

Even though the remaining series is a best-of-seven from over, the Blackhawks have a lot of challenging hockey ahead of them in the upcoming Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning Friday finished a seven-game series against the 2014 Eastern Conference Champion and 2015 President’s Trophy winner New York Rangers with a shutout at Madison Square Garden.

“Certainly watching their series against the Rangers, they have a lot of options with their skill, how dangerous they can be with putting pucks in the net,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of the Lightning.

After playing the Ducks, Wild, and Predators, this will be the first time in the postseason Chicago faces a team similar to itself–fast and smart hockey.

As Keith said about the Lightning:

“I think the thing that stands out to me is their team speed and skill up front. I remember playing them…towards the end of the season and they beat us pretty good. You know, I think as a team we’ve got a lot of respect for them. They’re there for a reason. Like I said, they’ve got a lot of speed up front. They’ve got big defensemen that can move the puck and skate, and a big goalie who can stop the puck, too. I think we’re confident in our team, but at the same time looking at their team, you know, I think those are the things that stick out to me.”


Two-time NHL goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos captains the Lightning and has 17 points in the postseason. They also have the “Triplets” line–with Tyler Johnson (who scored a hat trick against the Rangers and has 21 postseason points), Nikita Kucherov (19 postseason points), and Ondrej Palat (15 playoff points).



But the Blackhawks have a pretty strong offense as well, something Lightning players are quick to commend.

“He’s a guy that I really love watching on the highlight tapes and seeing what he can do,” Johnson, 24, said about Kane, 26.

In addition to Kane, who has 20 points, Chicago has Toews (18 points), Hossa (13 points), and Patrick Sharp (12 points) as star forwards, but also depth through all four lines–with clutch points coming from guys like Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw when needed.

The youth and speed on both sides is going to be incredible to watch and it’s hard to give either side an advantage.

Defensively, the Blackhawks are still running with only four solid defensemen, but my goodness, are they performing. Keith is a plus-13 in the playoffs, with 18 points of his own–16 assists and two goals. He had an assist on all three of Chicago’s Game Six goals against the Ducks and he prevented two Anaheim goals on his own.


The Lightning have a higher quantity of defensemen to turn to. They used seven versus the Rangers, while the Hawks used about 4.5 much of the Anaheim series. Victor Hedman has been solid both defensively and offensively; he is a plus-11 for the playoffs with 10 points.



Goalies Ben Bishop and Corey Crawford are pretty closely matched as well–though Crawford has more playoff experience.  



To get here, the Lightning went seven games with the Rangers (L 2-1, W 6-2, W 6-5 OT, L 5-1, W 2-0, L 7-3, W 2-0), six with the Montreal Canadiens (W 2-1 2OT, W 6-2, W 2-1, L 6-2, L 2-1, W 4-1), and seven with the Detroit Red Wings (L 3-2, W 5-1, L 3-0, W 3-2 OT, L 4-0, W 5-2, W 2-0).



This will be Tampa Bay’s first trip to the Final since the Lightning took home the title 11 years ago.

Meanwhile, Chicago has played in the final three times in the last six years, making the playoffs the past seven seasons and the conference final five of those times.

The Blackhawks were Cup-winners in 2010 against the Philadelphia Flyers.


And, they won again in 2013 against the Boston Bruins.


As for this season, the Blackhawks beat the Lightning 3-2 in a shootout in November, while the Lightning won 4-0 in February (the Blackhawks were without Kane or Crawford for this game) when Stamkos had two goals and Bishop made 48 saves.


Again, none of that matters when the puck drops Wednesday. It’s all a blank slate–a freshly-zambonied sheet of ice. What the two teams are able to do with it this series, this year, that’s all that counts. Because it’s the Cup.

The Schedule:

Game 1: Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 7:00 p.m. CT  Wednesday, June 3 on NBC, CBC, TVA
Game 2: Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 6:15 p.m. CT Saturday, June 6 on NBC, CBC, TVA
Game 3: Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 7:00 p.m. CT Monday, June 8 on NBCSN, CBC, TVA
Game 4: Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 7:00 p.m. CT Wednesday, June 10 on NBCSN, CBC, TVA
*Game 5: Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 7:00 p.m. CT Saturday, June 13 on NBC, CBC, TVA
*Game 6: Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 7:00 p.m. CT Monday, June 15 on NBC, CBC, TVA
*Game 7: Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 7:00 p.m. CT Wednesday, June 17 on NBC, CBC, TVA

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

Carly 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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