Blackhawks

Blackhawks cruise past Ducks, headed to Stanley Cup Final

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Blackhawks cruise past Ducks, headed to Stanley Cup Final

ANAHEIM, Calif. — There’s a belief system that’s been instilled in the Blackhawks’ core for some time now.

It’s the belief they’ll find a way to get through different situations, whether they’re down in a game or, in the case of the Western Conference Final, down in a series entering Game 6.

Couple that belief system with the appropriate drive and talent, and you have a team heading to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the past six seasons.

Jonathan Toews scored twice and Patrick Kane had three assists as the Blackhawks beat the Anaheim Ducks, 5-3, in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday night. The Blackhawks will play Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay beginning on Wednesday night.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks-Lightning Stanley Cup Final schedule]

Brandon Saad, Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook also scored for the Blackhawks. Duncan Keith had two assists, and Corey Crawford stopped 35 of 38 shots for the victory.

For the Blackhawks, who are making this Stanley Cup trip for the third time since 2010, this series brought plenty of challenges. The Ducks were physical, determined to knock the Blackhawks off their game and through the boards, if need be. If that physicality took a toll on the Blackhawks, they weren’t showing it much. Two question marks remain: Bryan Bickell didn’t play past the early part of the second period, and Marcus Kruger — who took a big hit later — didn’t play over the final six minutes of regulation. Both remained on the bench, and coach Joel Quenneville said both “should be fine.”

As for the Blackhawks in general, they couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. Toews was the catalyst, scoring twice in the first period, his first giving the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead just 2:23 into the game. Toews’ power-play goal, which he scored about 10 minutes later, gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead and quieted the Honda Center.

“I don't know if one particular person made a difference. I think we played a good team game,” Seabrook said. “We came out of the gates hard. We wanted to play well to start the game. We knew how well they can start in this building, like (in) Game 5, so we wanted to come out and establish our game early.”

[WATCH BLACKHAWKS: Keith on Toews, Kane: 'No two guys I'd rather have on my team']

It didn’t dissipate in the second period. An odd bounce off the boards went right to Kane, who found a wide-open Saad, who found a wide-open net, for a 3-0 lead.

“That’s one of them, for sure,” said Saad, when asked if that was one of the easier goals of his career. “Being able to play with (Kane), there (have) been multiple times when things like that happen, but what a great pass backdoor.”

Hossa’s goal put the Blackhawks up 4-0 before Ryan Kesler scored late in the second period and Corey Perry scored midway through the third to make it 4-2. But Seabrook, who has come through with some big goals of his own this postseason, got his sixth of the playoffs to give the Blackhawks a 5-2 lead.

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The Blackhawks got big performances throughout this series, from Keith’s ability to play nonstop (seemingly), to Toews scoring the last two goals in the Honda Center in Game 5 and the first two in Game 7 to Saad reminding everyone he’s going to get paid quite handsomely this offseason.

Now the young, fast, upstart Lightning wait. The Blackhawks will savor this for a day before focusing on Tampa Bay. The task isn’t complete yet for the Blackhawks, but once again, they’ve found a way to get where they want to be.

“We got ourselves to a seventh game, and we always say anything can happen,” Toews said. “Tonight we came out flying as a team and had contributions offensively across the board. I’d say it was our best game of the series, continuing with the pressure knowing they were going to respond as well.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”