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Blackhawks Tue May 28 2013

Hawks Still Alive Against Red Wings

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png It doesn't get much better than a Game 7 in any sport, but when it happens in hockey, and your opponent happens to be your biggest rival, it's the best thing going. All together now, everyone, take a deep exhale.

The Hawks' 4-3 win over the Red Wings in Game 6 last night put smiles on a lot of faces, but not before fans raised alert status to DEFCON 1, while flipping over to the Cubs and Sox game. Those who stuck it out witnessed a classic effort from the Hawks, which almost turned into disaster at the end of the game. Nevertheless, game over, Hawks win, Game 7, all is right with the world (for now), and someone tell the Stones to end their show early tonight so that the stadium crew can get the rink ready.

The recent turnaround from Coach Joel Quenneville's squad is becoming something of legend and mystery. Here was a team which broke records during the lockout-shortened season and looked every bit the part of a champion which would raise Lord Stanley's Cup come June. But then came Games 2, 3 and 4, and a Hawks squad that resembled a pee-wee league team, dressing against a 1970s Russian national squad.

The power play was dismal -- beyond dismal, in fact (0-9) -- and Henrik Zetterberg was getting into the mind of captain Jonathan Toews, so much so that Toews took an unheard of three straight penalties in Game 4, which killed his team. It was as though the Hawks had no fight or will to move on, that is until Game 5 at the United Center where the Hawks were two of three on the power play and displayed a fight similar to that of a wounded animal backed into a corner.

What's interesting is that whenever a team scored on an empty-net goal at the end of a game, they would go on to lose the next game (Hawks scored one in Game 1; the Red Wings scored one in Game 4). With that logic, it's good Johnny Oduya didn't score on his attempt yesterday, which ended up going for an icing call.

The Hawks have played in 10 Game 7s all-time, splitting them down the middle with five wins (3-1 since 1987). And the chips are still stacked against the Hawks for winning this Game 7, at least according to the history books. According to The Puck Report, there have been 258 teams that have fallen behind three games to one in a best-of-seven series, with only 24 of those teams charging back to win (9 percent).

However, if you were to ask Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, et al their thoughts on stats, stating who should win or lose Wednesday night, they'd more likely agree with the likes of Hawk Harrelson and credit TWTW as the driving force behind making it to the next round.

And that's another thing: If the Hawks are able to beat the odds and come out of Game 7 alive, there's still the Western Conference Finals and then the Stanley Cup Finals. So a long way to go even after what will be their biggest game of the year tomorrow night.

One of the biggest keys to last night's win was the switch of Michal Handzus on Zetterberg in place of Toews. Zetterberg had a bad game last night, and that's because "Zeus" was able to get into his head and rattle his cage. In other words, he got a taste of his own medicine for what he was doing to Toews all series. Credit Quenneville for that move.

If the Hawks are going to win Game 7, they're going to have to keep up the pace and continue to kill each penalty they face (they've killed an amazing 35 of 36 thus far). It also would be nice if they stayed out of the box to prevent those numbers from moving up. Winning the draw and net presence in the Wings' zone also would be a way to keep the dream season alive. OK, and maybe just a little TWTW.

It's only perfect that these two rivals will play a Game 7 tomorrow night for the right to move on against either the San Jose Sharks or defending Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. And while you're watching, remember, deep breaths.

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Eternal Fields / May 28, 2013 4:15 PM

Remember when you hopped aboard the "Detroit Sucks" bandwagon at the outset of this series? I do.

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