Last night’s final was 4-2 in Game Two at the United Center. Beating Jonathan Quick, the top goalie in the NHL playoffs the last two years, was a feat. After Michal Handzus scored the Hawks’ fourth goal in the second period, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter pulled his goalie and inserted Jonathan Bernier. It was too little too late for the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Looking back, the tone of the game was set when the gritty Andrew Shaw was given a beautiful pass by Viktor Stalberg. Then Brent Seabrook’s slap shot scored on the power play (a rarity for the Hawks). It was another clean look.
The fun really got going in the second period, when Bryan Bickell and Handzus tallied two more goals for the Blackhawks.
Bickell has really come alive this post season and it may pay off after this play-off run is completed. He is an unrestricted free agent and last night when he scored the Hawks third goal of the night, it was his sixth of the playoffs. Bickell has been opportunistic as he creates traffic in front of the net. It’s a familiar scenario: that is what Dustin Byfuglien did when Chicago celebrated the Stanley Cup win in 2010. He also was a free agent after a tremendous post-season and was unable to remain because of salary cap issues. That may happen again with Bickell.
After the victory there were plenty of accolades given to young players by Coach Joel Quenneville. One was Brandon Saad, who contributed with two assists.
“He was dangerous, a threat off the rush [and] had a lot of puck time,” Quenneville said.
Another player who not only played big Sunday night, but has stood tall most of this post season, is Corey Crawford. He made 29 saves yesterday and has won five straight playoff games. Crawford has become a United Center favorite—finally. He cemented their adulation when he came to the defense of Jonathan Toews during an altercation the with Kings’ Kyle Clifford.
In the post-game press conference, Crawford explained why he helped the team’s Captain.
“The guy grabbed him, got a couple free shots,” the Hawks goalie said. “I figured it was enough. I just decided to go in there and grab his head.”
Crawford did give up two Kings goals, one late in the second period to Jeff Carter. Then in the waning minutes of the game, Los Angeles scored on the power play from Tyler Toffoli. It was the first power play scored by a Hawks playoff opponent at the United Center and the second overall.
After Saturday’s 2-1 win by the Hawks, there was plenty of conversation about playing consecutive hockey games in just over 24 hours. You have to say the Hawks were unaffected by it. The Kings may not feel that way. The Rolling Stones may have lost some West Coast fans. It ws their concert schedule that forced the NHL to jam the two games back to back.
While the road has been tough on LA, home has been perfect for them at 7-0. The Kings were in this same position in their opening round against St. Louis—down two games to none—and came back. The Blackhawks are aware of the difficulties that lie ahead when they travel to the Staple Center to play Tuesday and Thursday.
Despite that, the Hawks feel pretty darn good right now. Why not? They have been controlling the games since they were down three games to one against Detroit. With these two wins, the Blackhawks pursuit of the Stanley Cup is down to just six more wins. That will be the ultimate satisfaction.