In the Wake of the News
May 28, 2013
DETROIT — With 20 minutes potentially left until Chicago's longest hockey offseason ever, defenseman Duncan Keith spoke up in a quietly determined Blackhawks dressing room.
So did captain Jonathan Toews, the voice that typically guides the Hawks through situations as dire as their 2-1 deficit looked between the second and third periods Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Several other veterans added short-but-sweet "pop-up speeches,'' according to Bryan Bickell, to remind everybody in an Indianhead sweater of the stakes.
"It was emotional,'' Bickell said. "I was just listening.''
Bickell clearly wasn't the only one with good ears as the Hawks responded with a three-goal third period on the way to a remarkable, rejuvenating 4-3 victory in Game 6.
"I don't know what was said when we weren't in there,'' coach Joel Quenneville said. "But our focus was: We're going to find a way.''
The Hawks' will now leads them back to Chicago for a Game 7 on Wednesday night at the United Center that restores home-ice advantage and favors the team that has won two straight. Before the game, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock put a game that lived up to the hype in perspective.
"You play all year for this,'' Babcock said. "This is fun. The best players relish these moments.''
On championship teams, role players do too.
If you had to pick three guys most likely to save the Hawks' season, anybody guess Bickell, Michal Handzus and Michael Frolik? Anybody not related to them?
Everybody says the Hawks need their stars — not their secondary scorers — to beat the Wings. Yet the depth of the NHL's most talented team surfaced at the best possible time.
Handzus beat goalie Jimmy Howard with some Patrick Kane-like puck-handling 51 seconds into the period. At the 5:48 mark, Bickell continued a postseason that will make him a rich man during free agency by stuffing the go-ahead, rebound goal past Howard.
Finally, Frolik made the highlight reel that ruined Memorial Day in the Motor City by converting a penalty shot with a nifty backhand.
"Games like this, you'll remember the rest of your life,'' Handzus said.
Somewhere inside The Joe, general manager Stan Bowman stopped pacing long enough to smile. Bowman traded with the Sharks at midseason for Handzus, apparently to win faceoffs and save seasons. Nice Handz, indeed.
Because after two periods, it appeared as if Chicago sports fans might have to focus solely on baseball long before anybody in town is ready. Especially Corey Crawford.
Wings fans broke into a mocking chorus at the 10:11 mark of the second period after Crawford whiffed on a shot from the top of the left circle from Joakim Andersson.
"CRAW-FORD! CRAW-FORD!'' the crowd of 20,066 chanted.
Back in Chicago, they were muttering things much worse. Usually when a Joakim makes a play in a postseason game, Chicagoans don't cuss.
Crawford had a clear view of Andersson's knuckleball shot that sailed past his glove. If it were baseball, you would say he left the bat on his shoulder looking at a batting-practice fastball.
It will dredge up the old question of whether the Hawks can win the Cup with Crawford. No matter how well Crawford has fared statistically this season, the save he didn't make threatened to leave a deeper impression. Even Crawford called it "brutal.''
"I told myself it can't get any worse,'' Crawford said. "Be strong.''
Crawford finally regained his composure in a so-so third period that included a late goal by Damien Brunner, yet that will not be what people remember about Crawford's Game 6. People outside the dressing room, that is.
"Stuff like that's going to happen,'' Toews said defending Crawford. "It's not the end of the world.''
When skewering Crawford, keep in mind his soft goal wouldn't have mattered so much if the Hawks' power play didn't blow two golden opportunities earlier that period. But one disorganized man advantage led to another, re-energizing the Red Wings.
It contrasted with how the Hawks established a pace one would expect for a team 60 minutes from extinction. Just nine seconds into their first power play, the Hawks gained the early lead they identified as a key.
Toews won the faceoff and attacked the net, where Andrew Shaw — the Pocket Pest — obstructed Howard's view. When a rebound squirted out, Marian Hossa — remember him? — nudged the puck past Howard for what Quenneville would call a "greasy goal.''
Seldom has something so greasy been so healthy for a hockey team. Seldom have the Hawks gone any deeper — on the roster or into their reservoir of resolve — to win a clutch game.
Now the Hawks will bask in two words that once seemed implausible. And they aren't Game 7.
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