ANAHEIM, Calif. — Well, here we are again. Or maybe we should say, here the Blackhawks are again.
For all the concerns at the end of the regular season, when the goals and the victories were in short supply, the Blackhawks are heading to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the past six seasons.
Call it determination. Call it hitting their stride at the right time. Regardless, the Blackhawks had to go through a tough Anaheim Ducks team to get there, and they made a statement with their 5-3 victory in Game 7 on Saturday night.
But enough of us prattling on here; we know you’re tired. So let’s get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Western Conference final triumph over the Ducks.
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1. Jonathan Toews leads in every way possible. Toews just about led the Blackhawks to a Game 5 victory with his two late-regulation goals in that one. And he was why the Blackhawks got off to a tremendous start in Game 7, scoring the team’s first two goals. There’s plenty to say about Toews — we’ll save that for another story — but the postseason is about top players being leaders off, but especially on, the ice. The Blackhawks got that with Toews.
2. Brandon Saad is making a name for himself. And soon enough, Saad will be making some serious cash for himself, thanks in part to his postseason. Saad added another goal on Saturday, his sixth of the playoffs, and he drew a penalty with his speed on a breakaway short-handed attempt in the second period. Saad got his chance to be a top-line guy as a rookie; he’s just kept earning his time there since.
3. Duncan Keith is still OK. Another game, another (nearly) 28 minutes of ice time, another two assists and another great performance for Keith. About midway through this series we stopped asking how the minutes and physical play were affecting the Blackhawks’ top four defensemen; three of the four, fine, but it was obvious Keith was feeling no effects. Told he looked “spry” following the game Keith asked, “What does spry mean?” All kidding aside, he looks like he’s ready to keep logging those minutes and playing well through them.
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4. Don’t forget about Brent Seabrook. The Ducks had their second goal (from Corey Perry) and momentum midway through the third period. Then the Blackhawks got a power play, and Seabrook, who comes up big this time of year, scored a power-play goal to restore a three-goal lead. Seabrook gets overshadowed by Keith a lot, but there’s no doubt he’s been a big contributor the past few postseasons, especially with critical goals.
5. Mental toughness remains. Whenever there’s a Game 7, you never know how it’s going to go. The Ducks were back home, where they had lost just one previous game this postseason — to the Blackhawks. They had lost just once in regulation this postseason — to the Blackhawks. Still, would this be the year the Ducks broke through? It wasn’t, mainly because the Blackhawks have that will at this time of year, know how to win and wasted no time in getting up on the Ducks in Game 7. Coach Joel Quenneville said, “Commend the guys’ perseverance, finding different ways through different challenges.”