2011 NHL Playoffs: Thank You Chicago Blackhawks, Keep Your Heads Held High
After one of the most dramatic, intense playoff series in recent NHL history, the Canucks finally defeated the Chicago Blackhawks after two years of failure in a thrilling Game 7 that was forced to OT.
The Canucks had led nearly the entire game 1-0 after an early first period goal by Alex Burrows. They controlled the play from start to finish and it seemed the Blackhawks were all but done for.
But the Blackhawks didn't give up so easily. A shorthanded goal by captain Jonathan Toews, scored by sheer will power on one knee, at 18:04 in the third period forced sudden-death overtime.
The 'Hawks had an early opportunity in overtime to complete the comeback on the powerplay, but Luongo made a great save on Patrick Sharp.
Then, 5:22 in overtime, Alex Burrows, who scored the only goal for the Canucks in the game, forced a turnover at the 'Hawks blueline and hammered a rolling puck at Corey Crawford, which beat him on the blocker side to end three years of playoff demons.
Canucks fans rejoiced and 'Hawks fans were hit with disappointment, as their hopes for completing the most impossible task in professional sports evaporated.
It is disappointing for 'Hawks fans. But let's get real: who actually expected this after going down 3-0?
Can anyone tell me they actually believed the 'Hawks would come back after the first three games and force overtime in Game 7 while shorthanded?
Unless you can actually see the future, you could not have predicted it.
The fact is: the Blackhawks have so much to be proud of, as do Blackhawks fans.
Only six other teams in the history of the NHL have forced a Game 7 after going down 3-0 in a series. That, in itself, is a remarkable accomplishment.And the fact that they did it against the Presidents' Trophy winners makes the comeback even more unbelievable.
They were down 3-0, beaten, injured and without their second best defenseman. It seemed like a sweep was inevitable. But the 'Hawks demonstrated that they are a team with pride and they fought back hard and made it a series.
James Duthie called it, in terms of back-story and drama, the best series in NHL history. I have to agree with him.
I give all the credit in the world to the Vancouver Canucks. They didn't collapse despite all the pressure they faced. They rebounded very well after losing three straight, played with intensity and urgency all game and didn't fall apart after giving up a shorthanded goal with the game all but won.
They demonstrated a lot of character and resiliency. They wanted this game more, and you could say they and the city of Vancouver needed it more.
Congratulations to them and I wish them the best of luck against the Predators in the second round.
But even more, I give the Blackhawks credit. They played their hearts out and Crawford stood on his head and gave his team a chance to win, not just this game, but the entire series. They battled hard until the very end. I was as impressed as I could possibly be with them.
I would like to say some final thank yous to some players who I think truly made this season, especially this series, something to be proud of.
To Corey Crawford. What can I say? You're the real deal. You're a champion. You kept the 'Hawks in this season, in this series and in this game. In my opinion, you was the best goaltender in this series, if not the best of the entire first round. The Blackhawks' future looks extremely promising with you in net.
To Jonathan Toews. You're one heck of a player and an invaluable leader. You kept the Blackhawks alive even when things looked terribly dismal. You've been my favorite player since your junior days and I am so excited to watch you in a 'Hawks uniform for many years to come. I know you will be a Hart Trophy winner someday.
To Duncan Keith. Thank you for finding your Norris Trophy-winning form when the team needed you to. Thank you for your leadership and determination and for never giving up on this team. I know it's been a rough season for you, but I know you'll come back next year ready to win the Norris again.
To Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger, Nick Leddy, Bryan Bickell and all the other rookies who stepped up when the Blackhawks needed them to, you guys are great. Because of you, I have so much confidence in the Blackhawks going forward.
To Joel Quenneville. You're one of the best coaches in the league. You kept this team going with your excellent style and your awesome moustache. I know this team will be successful as long as you're behind the bench.
To everyone else. I know it wasn't the best season and there was a lot of tough times. But you guys did some great things this year and made 'Hawks fans proud. You exceeded all my expectations for this series and made it one of the most exciting I've ever watched.
The Chicago Blackhawks and their fans can keep their heads held high. They didn't go down without a fight. They proved to everyone that they can still compete with the best and deserved to be in the playoffs.
You guys have played a lot hockey over the past few years, especially the Olympians, and are due up for a much-needed rest. Rest up and come ready to compete in September.
I'm looking forward to see what Stan Bowman does with the team over the course of the summer. Unlike last summer, it will be a summer of building and improving.
Thank you Blackhawks for a great 2010-2011 season, have a great summer and see you next year!
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