Think about all of the emotions that this series has already made you feel. The “meh” after Game 1. The total confidence you felt after Game 2. The frustration you felt after Game 4. The weariness and nausea you felt from Game 5 (a game that I haven’t totally physically recovered from). The panic and then the elation you felt in Game 6. I hope you’re prepared to experience all of that tonight during Game 7. Playoff hockey truly is the only sports experience that makes you want to simultaneously puke and pee at the same time, so tonight should be a wild ride.
So who is going to decide to be the hero tonight? Patrick Kane always seems to step up when the lights are the brightest. Brent Seabrook has a knack for scoring in the clutch. If I’m betting, it’s Jonathan Toews who comes up big, as he has been held scoreless so far this series and sounded awful determined to change that since before Game 6.
It’s not that Toews has played badly. He was a beast in Games 5 and 6. He’s got five assists and has looked more and more dominant as this series has gone on. So expect Toews to be the leader that he always has been and carry the Blackhawks to a big win tonight.
Maybe the hero will be Corey Crawford. While Blues goalie Brian Elliott, in his first true playoff experience, stood on his head for the first five games of this series before slowly smoldering into a garbage fire, Crow has been his usual, steady self. There have been several occasions where you could say that the Hawks wouldn’t even be in the game without him, so hopefully the experience Crow has gained from all those huge games the past three seasons provides an advantage in net tonight for the Hawks.
While the Blues are dealing with the ghosts of playoff failures past, the Blackhawks are gaining confidence. I felt like that would be the advantage for the Hawks before this series began, so we’ll see how the Blues respond to the challenge.
It didn’t look good on the bench with the Blues top player Viktor Tarasenko visibly upset about his playing time during Game 6. I think this speaks to the advantage the Blackhawks have between their ears with Joel Quenneville able to adjust on the fly while Ken Hitchcock, or just about any other coach for that matter, is not as adept as Q at responding in-game with his matchups and getting his best players on the ice when the situation calls for it.
Either way, tonight is going to be fun. This is what the Blackhawks saved themselves for throughout those February and March snoozefests. When it looks like they are playing half-assed in the regular season, it’s because they know they have games like these waiting for them in April and May. Just think, this could be just the first leg of an even more stressful journey for the Hawks and their fans.
Put those same clothes back on, sit in the same chair, or whatever it is you’ve been doing to get that mojo working. The Blackhawks are going to need every bit of it tonight. LET’S GO HAWKS!!!