Hey Hawks fans, lighten up

NHL's Holy Grail never has been attained without a few roller-coaster rides

Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook tallked about his team's resiliency after a 2-1 Game 7 win completed a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.

While the Blackhawks and Red Wings were shaking hands late Wednesday evening, the numeral "8" appeared on the United Center's video board.

That's for the eight more wins the Hawks need to accomplish their One Goal — winning the Stanley Cup. Anything less is unacceptable, an abject failure.

Since the team got its mitts on the Cup three years ago, that's been the standard. It should be. Wouldn't it be novel if every professional sports franchise set the bar that high?

Along the way, some turbulence is a certainty. The NHL's Holy Grail never has been attained without a few roller coaster rides.

So with a run deep into next month the mission, I'm taking the opportunity to give Blackhawks enthusiasts a motion sickness tablet. Here are some items about which Hawks fans can lighten up.

Corey Crawford. Goaltenders sometimes give up bad goals. The best do it. Always have. Ask Tony Esposito, the best netminder in Hawks history, what he remembers most about the 1971 finals against the Canadiens.

Crawford is human. He proved it in Game 1 of the first-round series when Cal Clutterbuck beat him on a weak shot from the left circle on the Wild's first shot of the night.

And "Crow" did it again in Game 6 in Detroit, when he lost sight of a Joakim Andersson knuckler.

What means more is that the 28-year-old Montreal native has been unflappable after his worst moments. Crawford was the Hawks best player against the Wild and duplicated that distinction against the Red Wings.

If the Kings have an edge with Jonathan Quick, it's a slight one. Quick copped last year's Conn Smythe trophy and was terrific in L.A.'s second-round series win over the Sharks, but Crawford has answered the bell when needed most.

Whatever controversy existed six weeks ago (remember Ray Emery?) is dead. Crawford is the biggest reason the Hawks are Western Conference finalists.

Officials. I get it that coincidental penalties call by Stephen Walkom on Kyle Quincey and Brandon Saad — questionable in itself — negated the would-be game winner from Niklas Hjalmarsson with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

Stop whining. It was a terrible call, but on the heels of the Hawks' dramatic series win over a longtime rival, I've heard far too much about Walkom and not nearly enough about the tic-tac-toe passing that led to Patrick Sharp's seventh postseason goal that gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead early in the second period Wednesday.

Both teams got away with chippy play in the series. Jonathan Toews got from the Wings what every great player deserves — to be treated rudely in a playoff series. Expect a lot of that from Darryl Sutter's Kings as soon as the puck drops Saturday afternoon.

Joel Quenneville. A week ago, some of the most sour Blackhawks fans were calling for his dismissal after being "pantsed" by Mike Babcock. Quenneville then demonstrated why someday he'll be making a Hall of Fame acceptance speech. He rejuvenated his blue line, re-pairing a slumping Brent Seabrook with former partner Duncan Keith.

Quenneville has created an offensive zone monster in Bryan Bickell, whose confidence is through the roof after potting his fifth playoff goal Monday in Game 6. "Q" also has pushed the right buttons with role players such as Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik.

I can't defend the Hawks' coaches for the club's anemic power play, but Quenneville's nomination as a Jack Adams trophy finalist doesn't mean he's an idiot.

Television coverage/scheduling. Will it make you feel better if I tell you NBC has Pierre McGuire between the benches for the Eastern Conference finals?

Furthermore, find a solution if your cable or satellite provider doesn't provide NBC Sports Network. Amazing technology is easily available – this coming from a guy still using AOL.

And so what if the Hawks and Kings are playing back-to-back games this weekend? Both clubs are fit for it. The product won't suffer.

The Cubs and White Sox play every day all week. That's decidedly more worthy of your angst.

Special contributor Dan McNeil hosts "The McNeil and Spiegel Show" weekdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on WSCR-AM 670.

CHICAGO

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