Blackhawks ready for 'ultimate test' of Game 7


Blackhawks ready for 'ultimate test' of Game 7

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of, at least going into the game itself. It will take 60 minutes, perhaps even longer, to decide who wins/continues the dream and who loses/faces the crushing emotions the defeat brings.

We’re talking about a Game 7 here. And no matter what emotion may come out of one, there’s nothing like playing in one.

“As a hockey player, you want to talk about the cliché of growing up as a kid, playing on the backyard rink and playing in that Game 7, you just think of that as the ultimate test for any player to see what you’ve got and what you can bring in a high-pressure situation like that,” Jonathan Toews said. “I think that’s the exciting thing.”

[MORE: Toews-Kane combo clicks again for Blackhawks]

A Game 7 brings energy, excitement, anxiety, desperation, the whole shebang, really. And that will all likely be on display when the Blackhawks face the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday night. For the Blackhawks, it’s a chance to complete the conference-final comeback and go to their second Stanley Cup Final in the past three seasons. For the Ducks, it’s a chance to prove they can finish off a series in which they were up. Much like in this series vs. the Blackhawks, the Ducks led Los Angeles 3-2 in 2014 and Detroit 3-2 in 2013; they lost both series.

Whether or not the Ducks are studying their Game 7 history, the Blackhawks glimpse at theirs just enough to remind themselves how to handle certain situations.

“It's very similar to just playing overtime, to be honest with you. Right from the drop of the puck in the first period, every shift is important like it always is," Patrick Sharp said. "It's magnified that much more in a Game 7. 

"Our group has played plenty of overtimes, also Game 7s to draw experience from. I like the guys in our locker room; we get excited for opportunities like that [and] we don't shy away. We want the puck, want to score goals, play as well as we can.”

When asked if he would start with the same lines in Game 7 as he did in Game 6, coach Joel Quenneville said, “we’ll see.” He didn’t start that game with Toews and Patrick Kane together on the top line, but it’s likely he will this next contest. As far as personnel changes, it’s doubtful there will be any. The Blackhawks played their best game of this series on Wednesday night. Sure, the Ducks had a serious push in the third period; this is a good team, and a good team is going to threaten. But the Blackhawks withstood it.

Now they’ll see if the momentum they got from Game 6 carries over to Game 7 in Anaheim.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“We’ve all been in the situation before, we’ve been on the winning and losing side,” Marcus Kruger said of Game 7s. “It’s exciting, those type of games, when everything’s on the line. It’ll be a good game [Saturday].”

This series begged for a Game 7. It begged for a dramatic ending that certainly would compliment how this entire series has gone. The current players, as kids playing for bragging rights, probably drew up this scenario on the backyard pond countless times. Now many of them are doing it again for the chance at a much bigger prize.

“We can resort to our experience in these situations and just feel confident we’ll go work, that fate is on our side and we’ll find ways to make things happen,” Toews said. “We want to reverse the trend of alternating games, back and forth, with this team. We know we have another step to make if we want to finish this series off on the road.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson gets standing ovation from United Center crowd in Chicago return

Niklas Hjalmarsson played for the Blackhawks for 10 years and won three Stanley Cups with the team so his return to the United Center was a big deal.

The defenseman, now with the Arizona Coyotes, made his return to Chicago in Thursday's game. The Blackhawks had a tribute video for him during the game and the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the video.

He was teary-eyed after getting the warm reception.

Hjalmarsson was traded by the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin after the 2016-17 season. He played against the Blackhawks on Oct. 21 and again on Feb. 12 last season, but both games were in Arizona.

Injuries limited Hjalmarsson to 48 games last season and he missed Arizona's only trip to the United Center last season, which came in December.

Watch the video above to see Hjalmarsson's tribute and reaction.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Corey Crawford is BACK, are the Bulls legitimate playoff contenders?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Corey Crawford is BACK, are the Bulls legitimate playoff contenders?

Mark Lazerus and Hub Arkush join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Corey Crawford’s return and what it means for the team’s playoff chances.

Khalil Mack misses practice again. The guys debate if it would be better to leave him out vs. the Patriots.

The latest on the MLB playoffs with controversy in Houston and gamesmanship by the Brewers.

Will Perdue and Kendall Gill join the panel to discuss Kris Dunn’s absence from the opener and the team’s playoff chances this season.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.