Watching the opening video the Hawks had put together for the playoffs, I can't help but feel that no better song could have been used in the background. "Testify" by Rage Against The Machine hits home with the Blackhawks' season, and with the energy exuded by the fans throughout.
Like the proclamations of faith by the constituents of a Baptist church, the fans have Testified their love for the Hawks, and they in turn have answered the prayers.
Time and time again, they appeared to be on the edge of destruction and Quennville has righted the ship, they have gotten strong leadership from Keith, Havlat, and Khabibulin, and time and time again their young guns like Kane, Versteeg, and Byfuglien have stepped up and done what was needed.
After a worrying two game home series against Vancouver where they struggled to maintain any momentum on their own ice, the Blackhawks went west to Vancouver for Game 5, and they dominated.
They commanded their presence from end to end, and though the rest of the media might not see it as a dominating performance, to go from the lack of energy they had shown on their home ice to running the tempo of the game at GM Place for about 58 of the 60 minutes Saturday night was an impressive turnaround.
They didn't shoot as much as they could have or should have, but when they did, they made their shots count. They played physical, but unlike Vancouver they stayed away from stupid penalties, and when Vancouver sat in the box, they took advantage, scoring two goals over five minor penalties.
So in the end, the keys to clinching their berth in the Western Conference Finals are simple:
First of all, they have to play physical again, from the first drop of the puck. The Hawks went hit for hit in Game Five with the Canucks, and then did them one better. The Hawks' hits, led by Eager, Ladd, and Byfuglien, were clean, concise, and bone shattering.
Second, the Blackhawks need to command the control of the puck once again as they did at GM Place on Saturday, and while still taking advantage of good scoring chances, take more chances as they did in the third period, and shoot more from the perimeter.
Their defense consists of great point shooters, namely Keith, Campbell, and Seabrook, and they can't be afraid to light the fuse on the cannons they have.
Third, along with physical and commanding play, they need to pull the packed crowd at the United Center into the game early.
I have personally felt the energy and the sheer crowd presence of a sold out UC, and it almost moved me to tears to see the passion that has returned to support the team I have for so long held so near and dear to my heart.
My hope would be that every man, woman, and child who leaves the Heartpounding Confines on West Madison cannot exchange excited retellings of the game as they walk to their cars because their voices will have ceased to exist.
Fourth, and last, they need to control the tempo of the game. In Game 5, they established that this is their series to lose now, with Vancouver taking stupid penalties, and the Hawks staying out of the box and keeping their emotions in check.
Even if the Hawks were to lose Game Six, which at this point would be a decent shock with the energy and charge they bring to the UC tonight, if they command the tempo of the game, they can carry that remaining momentum into GM Place for Game Seven.
In honor of this Game Six, and possible clinching of a Conference Finals berth, I propose a new song to serve as the opening for the Hawks tonight: “Riot” by Three Days Grace.
The heart and the passion has returned to Chicago hockey, and these young Blackhawks have answered the call for a decisive rush to the finals, and a chance to once again hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.
So now it's our turn Chicago, lets continue cheering, “refusing to go down”, and let's start a riot as the Chicago Blackhawks clinch a Conference Finals berth for the first time in almost 15 years.
-- Robert I is a freelance fiction writer, sports analyst, poet, and political cynic. His Blog can be found through his facebook LiveBlog or at Our Lives In Retrospect. His sports writing can be found at Bleacher Report.