I said in a previous article that I’ll admit when I’m wrong. I will also say when I get things right. I have trashed this Chicago Blackhawks team every now and then during the regular season and these playoffs. This Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Kings has brought out not just my wrath, but the criticism of writers, fans and other pundits.
But after last night’s victory, the Blackhawks showed just what can happen when they are motivated.
Head coach Joel Quenneville, who has been trashed by many a Twitter user for his insistence on certain players, took a huge gamble by splitting up his defensive pairings, including the best pairing on the team — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — and it paid off, sort of. Four goals allowed is still a lot. And poor Corey Crawford is still getting heat for his four goals. Never mind the fact that most of the goals he’s given up are on the team and the Kings getting bodies in front of the net.
But Quenneville definitely made the right moves on offense. Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw might be a new extra-dangerous line who deserve a nickname (I heard some suggestions while listening to the radio earlier, but I’m not sure if they’ll work). And once again, the constant criticism of Michal Handzus came to a screeching halt when he scored the game-winning goal. But the criticism against Kris Versteeg is still loud.
There’s a good chance he’ll never see the ice except from the press box.
If there is a turning point in this series, it may have been that amazing nearly eight-minute stretch in the first overtime where both teams were playing arguably the best hockey of the entire playoffs — and I mean entire, as in, the whole league. Or, it may have been that dark horse role player Ben Smith tying the game in the third period.
Sure, the Hawks only extended the series for at least one game. But the Hawks won that game by playing their game — wide-open hockey that prevented the Kings from getting too many men in front of the net. Now the Hawks have the opportunity to repeat their Western Conference Semifinals comeback from last year. They’ll need to play their hearts out against a Kings team that has comeback from 3-0.
But hey, if they can give a little hope to the people who have been trashing them in this series, then why not? They certainly shut the critics up for one night.