Hawks History Lesson
There weren't many who thought the Hawks would make the playoffs, long before they slipped in on a Dallas Stars loss to the the Minnesota Wild. I told everyone I knew it'd take time to build chemistry and for younger guys to fill roles on the team. And sure enough, just after the New Year, the team started to click and Toews marched his team through the Spring and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Over half the bandwagon fans have jumped off; most of them never left the Untied Center, as they bought a ticket to the Chicago Bulls wagon, which left months ago. The Bulls might be the favorite these days in Chicago, but the Hawks shouldn't be written off despite the transparent drop-off the team has taken since last year's historic run to the Stanley Cup.
The Vancouver Canucks are undoubtedly a better team this year, and deeper than the Hawks. The Canucks won the President's Trophy by adding depth to the blue line and in the middle with Dan Hamhuis and Manny Malhotra (who is now out indefinitely after undergoing eye surgery). The Hawks lost key players like Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien and now are playing without Dave Bolland.
At first glance, and to an untrained eye, this shouldn't even be a series. And yet the Hawks played a dismal 1st period Wednesday night and kept the game there at 2-0 the last 40 minutes. The Hawks were out hit, intimidated and beat up, but every time they skated back to the offensive zone they were one bounce away from making it a one goal game and Vancouver knew it.
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Remember back in 2009 when they opened their 2nd round series at the GM Place and the Canucks jumped to a 3-0 lead through 2 periods? The Hawks scored 3 straight before giving up a late goal to Sami Salo. Then in Game 2, Vancouver scored 2 goals a minute apart in the first period before the Hawks roared back with 5 straight goals, including 3 in a 6 minute span late in the second. The Hawks lost Game 3, but won 3 straight to close out the series, pouring 7 goals in on Luongo, who cried in his Post Game interview.
Maybe you remember last year when the Hawks didn't even show up to the United Center in Game 1, letting Vancouver blitz Antti Niemi for 5 goals before Patrick Kane tallied early in the third period. In Game 2 the Hawks started flat footed again, allowing Vancouver another early 2-0 lead just 5 minutes in before they rallied and won on Versteeg's wrist shot from the left circle. Again, Chicago showed poise and went on to win the series in 6 games.
This is not the same team that won the Stanley Cup. But they have a fierce leader in Jonathan Toews, a sniper in Patrick Sharp, a playmaker in Patrick Kane and a Norris Trophy winner in Duncan Keith, who still has 25 teeth left. There's a hard hitting defenseman in Brent Seabrook, a terrific 2 way forward in Marian Hossa and a rush starting defenseman in Brian Campbell and a shot blocker in Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Is this the same Hawks team? No. But the biggest pieces are still there, and they still have the same hearts. Maybe they'll remember that tonight.
By: Tim Hoskinson
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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