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Saturday, June 22

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Blackhawks Wed May 27 2015

Do or Die for Blackhawks in Game 6

Chicago BlackhawksThere haven't been many times in which the Blackhawks have found themselves facing elimination over the last six seasons. The threat was very real in 2013 against the Red Wings, facing a 3-1 deficit, only to rally back in legendary fashion to win the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.

There also was last year's 3-1 deficit to the Los Angeles Kings, but another miraculous push to a forced Game 7 fell short after tempting fate with the likes of Michal Handzus and Brandon Bollig earning ice time. There also was the 2012 season, which was cut short by the Coyotes in the first round and, of course, the near-miraculous turnaround against the Canucks in 2011.

All those series seem so far back in the rear-view mirror, but remain tucked in our memory banks for a lifetime. What Game 6 memory the Hawks create will depend on how strong they play in the first period, how well they defend in front of Corey Crawford, and whether or not the likes of Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell and a host of others are ready to push a Game 7 or discover their fate in another hockey town for next season.

It's no secret the Hawks' cap issues will play a role in who stays and who goes for draft picks. The decision for Stan Bowman could be an easy one if Sharp (zero goals, three assists, minus-2 in his last five games), Bickell (zero goals, one assist, minus-2 in his last five games), and Marian Hossa (one goal, two assists, plus-2 in his last five games) aren't able to pick up their games, which are weighed down by their respective contracts.

The Hawks have found ways to claw back into games, especially in the postseason. The trend this series against Anaheim is to play from behind and fight back to take matters to overtime and gamble from there.

There was no better example than the 5-4 overtime loss at the Honda Center Monday evening where the Hawks were beaten like a rented mule, being outshot 11 to three in the first 20 minutes of the game. It was a near-perfect period by the Ducks, keeping the Hawks from getting anywhere near goalie Frederik Andersen by disallowing one single shot for 16 minutes, 20 seconds of the period.

Despite yet another miraculous turnaround by the Blackhawks, led by captain Jonathan Toews's two goals 1 minute, 12 seconds apart from each other to send the game to extras, Matt Beleskey fired in a rebound past a diving Crawford 45 seconds into the extra frame to end it and put Joel Quenneville's team on its heels.

Hawks fans are hoping this series mirrors the Game 4 result: fighting back to the very end, only to skate away with a victory. That also could depend on whether or not Kimmo Timonen can be limited with his ice time as a blue liner, which would limit his turnovers.

It's unfamiliar territory, but an uphill battle this team certainly can conquer. They are 9-4 in elimination games under Quenneville, and in order to ensure a chance at 11, they'll need attack, defend and outlast what's surely to be an extremely aggressive Ducks teams, looking to make it to their first Final since 2007.

It could be the last go-around for most of this squad with trades imminent to fit within a shrinking cap. It all starts tonight to ensure this group continues into June.

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