11:44 PM CDT, May 27, 2013
I was going to write about which players the Blackhawks should trade, and I still might.
But not now.
Not after that third period.
The Hawks were down a goal, they were on Detroit ice, and they were 20 minutes from being booted from the Stanley Cup playoffs far short of the expected Stanley Cup championship.
The Hawks had scored two goals in eight periods in Joe Louis Arena, their top four forwards had combined for two goals in the last three games and they had wasted two early power-play chances Monday night.
I was going to write about which stars the Hawks ought to trade to win the Stanley Cup, and I still might.
But not now.
Not after the Hawks’ most remarkable third period perhaps since Game 5 against Nashville in that magical spring of 2010.
Game 6 belonged to the afterthoughts. Michal Handzus, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik all scored before the third period was 10 minutes old.
Handzus, Bickell and Frolik -- your three stars who aren’t stars.
Handzus scored from alone in front, deftly beating Wings goalie Jimmy Howard inside the far post. Bickell scored while fighting for space in front, banging in a loose puck. Frolik scored on a penalty shot borne of his terrific speed, executing a big-time, top-shelf backhander.
Just like that, 4-2, Hawks. Just like that, Game 7.
These Hawks were built with this kind of depth in mind. They were built to feature their stars, sure, but they spent much of this season rolling four lines, perhaps hoping for something like those Game 6 performances.
Frolik and Bickell grew their games this season to meet moments like these.
Frolik came from Florida with a scorer’s reputation, and we certainly saw that in a highlight move Monday night, but he has developed into a relentless checker and is one of the big reasons the Hawks have the best penalty-killing unit in the league.
Bickell is a big body who played a big role on the third line that sparked the Hawks early in the season. He complemented his size and toughness with some important goals and earned the right to play on the top lines. He has been a monster with the body and stick against Detroit. An unrestricted free agent this summer, Bickell is getting himself paid while paying off for the Hawks
Handzus, meanwhile, the oldest player in the postseason, came at the trade deadline to win faceoffs and provide depth at center. The Hawks won that deal less than a minute into the third period. Handzus was sudden and clutch. He wasn’t alone in that, but his cool in front of a goalie who had vexed the Hawks changed everything.
I was going to write about the Hawks’ early exit from the postseason. But not now. Not after that, and probably not until after the next series at the earliest.
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