Any number of adjectives could be used to describe yesterday afternoon’s Game 1 of the Western Conference Final rematch between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings. But that list would by no means include “snoozefest.”
Even if you missed the game, by now you most likely heard about a certain incident that occurred early in the second period. Jonathan Toews scored what was initially considered a good goal to increase the lead to 2-0. Then the refs decided to review what shouldn’t have been reviewable in the first place.
The original on-ice judgment was that it was a goal. A review (in contradiction to the rule) occurred. Then the subsequent “on-ice” judgment was that goaltender interference happened, so it suddenly wasn’t a goal. Shortly thereafter, the Kings scored to tie the game at 1-1.
But the Hawks didn’t get mad – they got even. Or uneven, as it were, score-wise. Duncan Keith fired one home, bouncing a puck off two Kings players on its way past goalie Jonathan Quick, who raised his glove about a second too late. And the Captain would ultimately have the last laugh about that disallowed goal; Toews got his revenge – and the Hawks an insurance goal – with less than 4 minutes in regulation. With one exception, Corey Crawford shut down the Kings offense. In the end, the Hawks “survived” with a 3-1 win to lead the series 1-0. “Survived,” some say, because of all the stats that pointed to a Kings win: SOG, Corsi, etc.
Social media was rife with debate yesterday afternoon about the disallowed goal, no doubt causing fans on both sides to miss parts of the game in an attempt to convince the other side about who was right, most likely with some nasty ad hominem attacks thrown in. Bad calls happen all the time in sports, but true champions rise above the fray and focus on the task at hand. Thankfully, the Hawks haven’t lost the character and work ethic that carried them last year to their second Stanley Cup in four seasons. If anything, their will to win has increased this year.
Not to say they didn’t have their challenges last year – the series against the Detroit Red Wings immediately comes to mind – but this postseason has tested the Hawks right from the very first game of the first round against the St. Louis Blues, all the way to yesterday’s game. At the very least, the test will continue for the foreseeable three (to six) games in this series. Even if the stats and the calls didn’t seem to go the Hawks’ way, they only strengthen their resolve and find a way to win in spite of it all.
Moral of the story, kids: you can crunch numbers all you want. You can cry about bad calls all you want. But there’s no denying that what truly makes the Chicago Blackhawks tick is a winning mindset and a championship heart.