Sports

Hawks are … almost … there …

Duncan Keith entered the press conference area and set down a plastic bag holding four enormous bottles of juice.

After what the Blackhawks defenseman and his teammates had just endured Saturday, you can't blame him for being thirsty. It can't be easy to recover from a double-overtime, Western Conference title-clinching win.

Will the Hawks have enough left for an encore in the Stanley Cup finals? That will be decided starting Wednesday at the United Center.

For the time being, amid their usual preparation for a playoff series, one can only imagine how much they need to unwind. Setting aside the physical obstacles they've overcome to this point, ponder some of what has happened the past six months:

>> 140 days ago, the Hawks were scattered between two continents, unsure whether the bitter lockout would swallow the entire NHL season.

>> When the season finally began, the Hawks went 21-0-3 in their first 24 games, the best start in league history—with all the national media attention and pressure that came along with it.

>> Two weeks ago, the President's Trophy winners were on the ropes against archrival Detroit, having been shut out in Game 4.

>> With 10 seconds left in the third period of Game 5 against Los Angeles, it looked like that series was over. Ten seconds later, the game was headed to overtime.

As Keith, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews sat at the podium after Saturday's victory, their 12th of these playoffs, they looked like they each had just run a marathon. While wearing a Tommy Hawk suit. Even sitting still and conserving energy looked like a chore.

Kane was the only one of the three who came close to cracking a smile during the 13-minute interview session. He looked to be under the spell of fatigue mixed with focus wrapped in hat-trick euphoria.

"Right now I think it's almost like I'm in a different zone, like in the twilight zone or something," Kane said. "I'm kind of out of it. It's definitely a good feeling, though."

Wherever that is, he might want to take his teammates with him. The Blackhawks' foe in the Cup finals, Boston, just discarded high-powered and heavily-favored Pittsburgh like Justin Bieber would his pet monkey.

Throw in the fact that the Bruins will have a groundswell of sympathy in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, and non-players and -coaches can barely begin to understand how monumental the emotions in this series will be.

Fortunately, the Hawks have plenty going for them. Coach Joel Quenneville and his mustache are as unflinching as ever. Bryan Bickell is becoming a star before our eyes. Corey Crawford is impenetrable when he has to be. Kane and Toews are scoring points in bunches again.

Maybe, just maybe, they have enough juice left.

Chris Sosa is RedEye's sports editor. Follow him @redeysportschi.

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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