Sports

Been waiting for those Hawks

The power play showed up.

Captain Jonathan Toews showed up.

The Blackhawks we’ve known showed up.

As a result of their 4-1 win in Game 5, the Hawks extended their Western Conference semifinal playoffs series against Detroit.

The Hawks weren’t as bad as their three-games-to-one deficit made them out to be heading into Saturday night’s game at the United Center. They had chances. They managed good shots. They forechecked hard.

But they had lost three straight.

And then the best team in the regular season started converting like it.

It required more line switching by coach Joel Quenneville, who deftly worked the last change that goes to the home team. Quenneville, who spent much of this season rolling four lines, made it a priority to keep Toews away from series-long annoyance Henrik Zetterberg. Suddenly, Toews and linemates Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane had some ice and pressured the Wings.

Almost all the Hawks forwards did. The attack was fearsome with defenseman jumping into the play from the start. The Wings managed no flow. The Hawks forced turnovers and got to loose pucks. They showed speed and jump. The Hawks skated, checked and moved the puck with the kind of advantage their roster suggested entering the series.

They had done that in the last two losses. The difference in Game 5 was the Hawks finished plays.

Quenneville also changed his defense pairings, most notably reuniting Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and the old defense partners did what they do, leading all skaters in ice time.

Seabrook delivered resounding hits and took big slap shots. Keith skated, moved the puck and took some slap shots himself. One of them was heading wide of the Wings net, but Andrew Shaw fought to get a stick on it and deflected the puck behind Jimmy Howard for the go-ahead goal in the second period.

What’s more, it came on a power play, the Hawks’ first in their last 13 chances in the series.

And suddenly, it was a power-play onslaught, as Toews, goal-less in the postseason, fired one off Howard’s mask from a steep angle to put the Hawks up 3-1 after two periods.

A sign of the Hawks’ commitment was their third period. Instead of falling back to try to protect a two-goal lead, they continued to buzz the Wings with a 17-4 shot advantage.

Shaw would score again in the third, and it became a night of redemption for two Hawks centers who had lost their composure in the two games in Detroit.

It was a night of redemption for the Hawks, period. This was the kind of game we’ve been waiting for since the opener. This was the Hawks dominating and making it count. This was the Hawks team that must show up in Detroit on Monday night.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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