11:32 PM CDT, May 29, 2013
The Blackhawks were the better team entering their second-round playoff series against Detroit.
It just took them seven painful games to prove it, right down to an excruciating and exhilarating Game 7.
No, wait, even that wasn’t enough. It took Game 8 before Brent Seabrook scored 3:35 into overtime to finally vanquish the dreaded Red Wings on Wednesday night.
It took coming back from a three-games-to-one precipice, something the Hawks had never done.
It took two goals by Andrew Shaw to win that first game, a harbinger of the impact the young center would have on the Wings and the series.
It took a season-saving third period to win that second game, as Michal Handzus, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik made like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa.
It took recovering from a bad call late in the third period of Game 7 that wiped out a potential series-deciding goal, the Hawks’ regaining championship-caliber poise to give themselves a chance to win another championship.
It took a belief in their game, no matter how thin their public statements sounded.
It took the Captain maintaining his poise, as Toews scored and continued to be the only reliable Hawk in the faceoff circle.
It took an alternate Captain remembering how to finish, and what a brilliant three-way passing play Patrick Sharp finished for the Hawks’ only goal in regulation in Game 7.
It took Joel Quenneville changing the defense pairings, allowing the Hawks to take control of their zone and start their puck-possession game.
It took one of those defensemen scoring the biggest goal of the season -- the biggest of Seabrook’s career.
It took character by goalie Corey Crawford, who ignored an oops goal in Game 6 to play nearly perfect the rest of the series.
It took a lot of character by all the Hawks. You can’t say enough about that. That record 24-game unbeaten streak in regulation to start the season gave the Hawks only one acceptable end to this season. For the longest time, it loomed as a taunt. The Hawks’ heart would have none of that.
And so, the jubilant and relieved Hawks move into the Western Conference final against the reigning champion Kings. They earned it.
But yet, after two weeks of emotion, frustration, celebration, aggravation, and ultimately celebration again in sudden death of a sudden-death game that capped a series worthy of a Stanley Cup Final, the Hawks are only halfway there.
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