NHL Playoffs: 5 Best Blackhawks in Chicago's Series Win over Detroit Red Wings
Chicago trailed 3-1 in the series heading into Game 5, but used home ice to their advantage and stole one on the road to advance to the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings.
While many Blackhawks were critical in the comeback against Detroit, here's a look at the five best players for the Hawks over the entire series.
No. 5: Brent Seabrook
Brent Seabrook is no stranger to jumping into the play offensively and driving toward the net, but he's starting to develop a penchant for overtime-winning goals.
During the regular season, Seabrook helped Chicago extend their record-breaking, unbeaten-in-regulation mark to 21 games with an overtime winner against Columbus on March 1. On Wednesday night, he stole the show again.
After a highly controversial call wiped out a Niklas Hjalmarsson go-ahead goal and cost the Blackhawks, late in the third period, a 1-1 tie in Game 7, Seabrook jumped into the play early in the first overtime period and beat Detroit's Jimmy Howard to lift the Blackhawks to the Western Conference Final.
While Seabs finished with just two points for the Detroit series, his only goal came at exactly the right time, and his physical play was paramount to the Blackhawks' success in their final Western Conference tilt against a fierce rival.
Having his ice time limited in Game 4 to just over 12 minutes, Seabrook personally rebounded to score his first goal of the playoffs on his first career overtime winner.
No. 4: Marian Hossa
Marian Hossa tied Patrick Sharp for the team lead in points in the Detroit series with five. The big winger had two goals in the series, both coming via the power play.
After helping the Blackhawks to a 4-1 victory in Game 1, Hossa was held goalless until Game 6, where his early power-play goal helped Chicago rebound on its horrid man-advantage play.
The goal put the Blackhawks up, 1-0, as they looked to set establish an early tone, but heading into the third period, the Hawks trailed, 2-1. In the first minute of the third period, Hossa won a battle in the corner, leading to a Michal Handzus goal that tied it at 2-2.
A few minutes later, Jonathan Toews and Hossa set up Bryan Bickell for the go-ahead goal, one that the Hawks would not look back from.
In the pivotal Game 7, Hossa added another assist on a tick-tack-toe passing sequence between himself, Handzus and Sharp to set up the latter's goal which put Chicago up, 1-0, early in the second period.
Hossa is tied for the team lead in points this postseason with 11 and had been the catalyst on the power play, scoring three goals to this point.
No. 3: Patrick Sharp
Patrick Sharp came back down to earth a little in the Detroit series after scoring five goals in five games in the Blackhawks' first-round series against the Minnesota Wild. Still, the veteran winger added another five points, including two goals, against the Red Wings.
Sharp led the rush and was rewarded for his play with a pretty tick-tack-toe goal in Game 7 early in the second period that put the home side up, 1-0.
After skating on the second line with Patrick Kane and Dave Bolland early in the series, Joel Quenneville loaded up his top line by pairing Kane and Sharp with Jonathan Toews. The move was a successful one and helped the Blackhawks captain pick up his play, particularly at home.
Sharp leads all Blackhawks in shots and goals this postseason, with 44 and seven, respectively.
No. 2: Bryan Bickell
Despite only scoring two goals in the Detroit series, no other forward for Chicago made his presence felt more in the comeback than Bryan Bickell.
Down 3-1 in the series, Bickell scored the first goal in Game 5 to give the Blackhawks a jolt of life. Later, with Chicago cruising to a 4-1 victory, Bickell laid a huge hit on Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, a player known for doing just that to opponents.
Bickell's physicality was crucial to Chicago's wins in Games 6 and 7 as well and enabled him to become a dominating net presence. After Marian Hossa tied Game 6 at 2-2 early in the third period, Bickell went hard to the net a few minutes later and was rewarded with the go-ahead goal.
The big winger's net presence and physical play has picked up since being paired with Michal Handzus and Hossa and is making the case to pick up the spot abdicated by Dustin Byfuglien after the 2010 Stanley Cup campaign.
No. 1: Corey Crawford
Corey Crawford's performance in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Phoenix Coyotes had many people worried heading into the 2013 version. After posting an 8-4 record with a 1.70 GAA through the first two rounds, perhaps, no Blackhawk deserves "most improved" more than the 27-year-old netminder.
Crawford gave up 14 goals over the seven games with Detroit and significantly picked up his play after the Blackhawks went down, 3-1, in the series. Crawford let up just one goal in the Game 4 loss, as well as the wins in Game 5 and 7. He posted a 0.96 save percentage in each of those games.
Perhaps, his best performance however came in Game 6, where his side was outshot, 38-28. After letting up a soft goal that put Detroit up, 2-1, at home heading into the third period, Crawford and his defensemen locked down, allowing for the Blackhawks to come back and win the game, 4-3. The only goal he allowed in the third came in the final minute after the Wings pulled Howard for the 6-on-5 advantage.
After backup goaltender Ray Emery suffered a late-season injury, there was no question that Crawford would be the man in net for the Blackhawks. There were several questions, however, as to whether or not he could get the job done after the previous playoff series in 2012 against Phoenix.
So far, he has answered the call and is the biggest reason the Blackhawks were able to come back and survive the series against Detroit. His next step will need to be a big one as well, as he'll be asked to outplay 2012 Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick.