Blackhawks show their championship mettle in Game 4 victory


Blackhawks show their championship mettle in Game 4 victory

On every team's journey to a Stanley Cup they're going to have their championship mettle tested. For a battle-tested Blackhawks group that has their eyes set on a third Stanley Cup since 2010, that moment may have come in a span of 37 seconds in Game 4 against the Anaheim Ducks Saturday evening.

After a Brent Seabrook goal put the Blackhawks up 3-1 in the third period and sent the United Center crowd into a frenzy, the Ducks flexed their muscles by scoring three times in 37 seconds to give the visitors a brief lead. 

Just 64 seconds after Seabrook's tally, Ryan Kesler cut the lead in half for the visitors with a one-timer off a pass from Jakob Silfverberg. Only 23 seconds later, Matt Beleskey evened the game with a strip of Antoine Vermette and a shot that sailed past Corey Crawford. Sensing his team needed to regroup, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville used a timeout, which he later proclaimed was the worst timeout he's ever called. The slight break in the action didn't stop Anaheim's onslaught as Corey Perry notched his ninth goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs just 14 seconds later to give the Ducks their only lead of the evening.

[MORE HAWKS: Antoine Vermette wins it in double OT as Blackhawks tie series

The three goals in 37 seconds by the Ducks set a franchise record and is the second-fastest in NHL history behind the 1978-79 Toronto Maple Leafs who scored three goals in 23 seconds against the Atlanta Flames with none other than Quenneville assisting on one of the goals. 

The shock and disbelief was felt by the 22,404 fans in attendance at the United Center, but it wasn't something the Blackhawks were going to let faze them.

"When it rains it pours in some moments, especially for us today in that third," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "A lot of teams wouldn’t feel too good about themselves but we did a good job of staying calm, knowing it is what it is. You can’t change that. You have to get yourself back in the game.

"It’s moments like that when things don’t go your way, they swing the other way for a minute it’s looking pretty good. We had the character and the poise to calm ourselves down, make a game of it and get ourselves back into it."

[MORE HAWKS: Five Things from Game 4 - Blackhawks back with a bang]

In desperate need of an equalizer, it was a man who is no stranger to postseason heroics that rose to the occasion with a streak-breaking power play goal.

After being held in check by the Ducks for 10 straight power plays, Patrick Kane snuck one past Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen for his team-leading ninth goal of the postseason to help send the game into overtime.

"We've been in these situations before," Kane said. "Everyone is accustomed and used to playing in these types of games, whether it's going to overtime or tight games. It seems like we've been in this situation a lot. We just try to stay calm and try to do whatever we can to get the next one."

To survive in the postseason you need contributions from each man on the roster, and the depth that the Blackhawks bring to the table was at the forefront in Game 4.

With a roster full of All-Stars, Olympic gold medalists and Stanley Cup champions, the hero from the Blackhawks' 5-4 double overtime victory on Saturday evening would be a player who was watching Game 3 on television.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Game 3, Vermette provided his biggest moment in a Hawks sweater since being acquired in a trade deadline deal back in March. 

Not letting his brief one-game hiatus from the lineup and earlier turnover that led to an Anaheim goal bother him, Vermette came through in the clutch with his second goal of the postseason to even the Western Conference Final at 2-2. 

After being questioned ad nauseam for sitting Vermette in Game 3, Quenneville was finally able to let out a sigh of relief when talking about his veteran center following Game 4. 

"I was very happy for him," Quenneville said. "What a huge goal for him and for us. What makes our game so great is that players are so competitive, they want to play in the worst way and want more ice time as well. You can understand where he was at, very disappointed. But he’s a great pro, stayed with it, and that line had a couple of looks in overtime.

"I’m glad he finished it because that was a huge, huge goal. Huge."

Down 3-1 vs. tied 2-2 in the Western Conference Final? Huge may be an understatement. Even for this resilient bunch. 

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: