After 18 long years, the Blackhawks are back playing for the Stanley Cup. It’s still surreal to think about.
By now you’ve read every recap, so I’ll spare you the regurgitated details of Game 4. Here are some thoughts:
— Despite sweeping the Sharks, this series was no smooth ride. San Jose played outstanding in this series and played four great games. It just wasn’t enough to beat a more talented Blackhawks team. In Game 4, San Jose completely slowed the tempo of the game by sitting back and playing more of a Nashville-type game. It was Todd McLellan’s last gasp in a series in which the Sharks pretty much threw their arms up after each game. They tried everything, and the Blackhawks simply beat them.
— Jonathan Toews extended his point-scoring streak to 13 games and has been the best player on the ice nearly every game this post-season. Think of every single hockey adjective to glorify and praise a single human being and apply it to Toews. He may have already locked up the Conn Smyth.
— Dustin Byfuglien. Buddy, I don’t even know what to say anymore. Prior to Game 3 of the Vancouver series, Byfuglein scored one goal in 27 games. He now has 8 goals in the last 8 games, including a hat trick against the Canucks and a single goal in each of the four games against San Jose. His OT winner Friday put the ‘Hawks on the brink of the Final, and Sunday’s goal putting the finishing touches on a Western Conference Championship. I don’t know where you were the majority of the regular season, Buff, but thanks for turning it on in the playoffs.
— Antti Niemi got his fluff pieces from the mainstream media, but he’s still not going to get enough credit for this conference championship because of the Blackhawks’ offensive flare. All the late, game-winning goals will do that. But Niemi is a huge reason the Sharks were so flustered, being forced to change lines and gameplans to figure out a way to beat the ‘Hawks. He had two separate 44-save performances in four games and came up big when the ‘Hawks leaned on him. Don’t forget that.
— I could sit around and mention Joe Thornton’s 1-point and minus-5 performance in the series, along with Dany Heatley’s disappearing act and decisive Game 4 slashing penalty, but … oh wait, I just did. Yeah, they sucked in this series, and San Jose paid for it. Patrick Marleau had to carry their offensive slack and was the Sharks’ main crutch. Obviously, Marleau could’ve used some help.
— Duncan Keith lost four teeth and is probably in a dental chair as we speak right now. Even though his face created San Jose’s short-handed goal with made it 2-0, kid played a hell of a series. He earned his new dentures. Good for him. (Actually, it really sucks for him. But he’s a hockey player, and he was bound to lose those teeth sometime.)
There’s what I’ve got for now, with a lot more coming. Chicago Blackhawks: 2009-10 Western Conference Champions. It has a nice ring to it, huh?