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First, I want to congratulate the Ducks and their fans on a great series. They are a great team with a bright future.
The other guys? Not many more superlatives you can pile on them. They were the ones who were supposed to wear down while the Ducks rolled past them in the latter games of the series.
The opposite really happened.
And to my eye, the Hawks won the series in Game 6. The body language of Bruce Boudreau and the Ducks at the end of that game said it all. Sure, Game 7 was there for anyone's taking at the outset, but I also felt if the Hawks scored the first goal or better still got a two goal lead the series was over. They did. It was.
And the credit for the change in the series goes to Hawk head coach Joel Quenneville, whose matchup mastery basically left Boudreau without answers. And to the Hawks' three arguably generational talents: Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Patrick Kane.
Generational? Yes. But that, and a discussion of this Hawk team's legacy is probably best deferred to the end of the playoffs.
The oft-maligned Corey Crawford played about the best game you will ever see while giving up 3 goals. That's Crawford, he's been here before, hasn't always won, but knows how to clamp it down in the big ones.
I'll break down the Hawks and the Lightning tomorrow. One of the issues that will no doubt be raised again is the minutes put in by the Hawks' top 4. As if this series didn't defuse that issue?
Of the four Hawk defensemen who were supposed to be hobbled and humbled by the "inhuman" pounding of the big bad Duck forwards, Niklas Hjalmarsson was the only one who looked slowed, and that really had more to do with Hjalmarsson's style of play than anything else.
But there was Hjalmarsson in the first period, walking the puck in from the blueline, finding a shooting lane, and instead of blasting the puck in on Fredrik Andersen, just tossing the puck in to the fray, as well-schooled hockey players recognize to do, getting a rebound that his captain jammed home for the first goal of the night.
Again, this isn't the blog where I handicap the Finals. But the Lightning (and congratulations to them) aren't just facing a good hockey team in the Finals, they're facing a great hockey team. A team stacked not just with talent, but with champions, guys who know how to win in situations like these, proven yet again in games 5, 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Final:
Congrats to the Hawks and Hawk fans all over the world. More to come starting Wednesday.