We’re approaching somewhat of a rarity in the Joel Quenneville-Chicago Blackhawks era. For only the fourth time ever Saturday, the ’Hawks will participate in a Game 7. This after a relatively sound 5-2 win against Anaheim on Wednesday in Game 6.
Chicago’s Game 7 history is so-so at 1-2 with all three games going into extra time. That means a lucky couple of bounces in the ’Hawks’ favor could have that statistic at 3-0.
But we’re not going to worry about that, because there are far more reasons why the ’Hawks are likely to win this game at the Honda Center than reasons they won’t. Here are five things to take heart in heading into what’s sure to be a fantastic and stressful Game 7:
May 27, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) celebrates with teammates Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) , Duncan Keith (2) , Jonathan Toews (19) and Brandon Saad (20) after scoring a goal against the Anaheim Ducks in the second period in game six of the Western Conference Final of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Duncan Keith’s got the mojo going. Plenty is being said about Keith’s seemingly superhuman abilities on the ice following his three-assist performance in Game 6. For some time, the Chicago offense has gone as Keith has gone, and Keith is locked in right now. When he’s pushing play up the ice and setting up offensive possessions for the ’Hawks, good things tend to happen. That was on display in Wednesday’s second period.
For the first ’Hawks’ goal, he fired the puck to near center ice to Patrick Kane, who tipped it along to Brandon Saad (aka Mini Hossa). Saad’s burst of speed and quick shot got the puck behind Frederik Andersen, but that play starts with Keith’s great vision leaving the defensive zone. On the second goal, his delay on taking a shot right above the circles seemed to last an eternity. But he was again using his amazing vision on the ice to seek out Marian Hossa, who got himself wide open for a feed from Keith and a quick blast past Andersen. And then, on the third goal, Keith reached above his head and snagged an Anaheim clearing attempt out of the air. He then fed it along to Kane, who did Kane things, and it was 3-0 ’Hawks after a four-minute stretch. And, even though we’re discussing Keith’s contributions to Chicago’s offense, we shouldn’t overlook his quick stick to save a goal from sliding past Corey Crawford early in the third.
Without Keith, none of these goals happen. And now that he’s on, don’t expect him to turn off, especially with a Game 7 on the road and a chance to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals in reach. The ’Hawks will rely on him heavily, not only as the strong defensive player he is, but also to help the ’Hawks break out of the zone and start successful offensive possessions. If the ’Hawks are to win Game 7 in Anaheim, they’ll need Keith at his best. And it looks like he’s officially at that level following Game 6.
Da Windy City