Here's the "5 Things" blog off the Hawks' Game 7 road win behind the Orange Curtain that earned them a trip to their third Stanley Cup Final in six years:
Then Toews’ line came back in a couple shifts. So did Kesler’s. Toews’ line left the ice again. So did Kesler’s again.
Finally, Quenneville got the Toews line out there against Ryan Getzlaf’s unit, the target all along.
You know why he wanted that matchup? Because Getzlaf can’t check like Kesler and Getzlaf’s line was a combined minus-9 the previous game.
And bingo, after Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked a Getzlaf shot, the Hawks were going the other way and Toews was making it 1-0.
Quenneville didn’t have the last line change, but he was dictating like he did.
The Ducks were reacting to the Hawks, not acting on their own ice.
It’s one thing to work to get matchups. It’s another to have your players execute it in fire-drill fashion, starting with winning 11 of 17 faceoffs in the first period to buy time to make those constant changes.
Full marks to the coach and the players for their discipline, smarts and ability amid the chaos.
That’s no small thing, especially for these Hawks. If ever there was a gimme to bet on the Hawks’ getting one of their many too-many-men penalties, then all those line changes seemed like easy money.
But no. Didn’t happen. The Hawks junked up Anaheim’s emotion and focus.
If Boudreau expected something like this from Quenneville, his players didn’t look comfortable handling it. They couldn’t be aggressive because they were too busy figuring out whether it was their shift.
Eventually, Boudreau gave up and just tried to let his players find a rhythm. By then, his team was down two goals. Coincidentally, that was the difference in the game.
Before the series started, Boudreau sounded like a guy who expected to get outcoached. In the biggest game, the Ducks coach endured a self-fulfilling pantsing on home ice.
It’s why one coach has won two Stanley Cups and the other was talking about his team’s losing composure.
It’s why one coach is leading his team to its third championship round in six years and the other has lost three straight Game 7s.
2. By the time the Hawks scored their third goal, Getzlaf had made his third costly mistake that ended up in his net.
After losing Toews on the first goal, Getzlaf fell down while killing a penalty, and Toews was wide open to snap that rising shot over a clueless Frederik Andersen.
Early in the second period, Getzlaf couldn’t beat Johnny Oduya to the puck along the left boards. Patrick Kane gathered the skittering disk and shoveled it to a wide-open Saad at the right post.
For those of you scoring at home, that’s the captain of the visiting team with the first two goals of a Game 7 and the captain of the home team with a minus-2 that doesn’t fully show his part in the awful start and eventual 3-0 lead that helped the Ducks bleed out.
Toews finished the series with five goals in the last four games. He became the first player in NHL history to bang home two or more goals in Games 5 and 7 on the road.
Toews scored his team’s last two goals in regulation in Game 5 to send it to overtime and scored the first two goals in Game 7, which gave him four straight Hawks goals on Ducks ice in about 15 minutes of playing time.
There is no leader in Chicago sports who comes close to Toews these days. He has won more at a younger age than Michael Jordan. Toews might not finish with more titles than Jordan, but he has won two and now has a shot at a third at an age when Jordan had just won his first.
3. If it’s an elimination game, Kane is going nuts.
After setting up three of the Hawks’ five goals in Game 7, Kane now has multiple points in each of the last five elimination games, according to Elias Sports.
Going back to Games 5, 6 and 7 against the Kings last year and counting Games 6 and 7 against the Ducks, Kane has three goals and 11 assists in elimination games.
This postseason, Kane has 10 goals and 10 assists, second to Stanley Cup Final opponent and even more diminutive Tyler Johnson, who has 12 goals and 21 points and is pretty much Kane with training wheels.
4. It’s amazing what happens when you play a first period with urgency and effort.
The Hawks were absent for the first period of Game 5, costing them three goals in a contest they would lose in overtime. Any kind of effort there, and the Hawks wouldn’t have needed Game 7.
But they needed it, and they owned it from the start. That’s what champions do.
Losing Game 7s, meanwhile, has become the house special in Anaheim. That’s three straight years in which they’ve blown a three-games-to-two lead in the series, each capped by a Game 7 loss at home.
“I don’t know if we went in the other direction,’’ Boudreau said, “but I do believe the Blackhawks got better.’’
The Hawks always get better as a series progresses. They raised their record to 28-7 in Games 5, 6 and 7 since 2009, 16-3 the last three years.
The Ducks, meanwhile, have delivered only playoff failures the last three years after big regular seasons. This seems to make them the new Sharks.
By the way, the general managers of both the Ducks and Sharks are former Hawks players. Go where you want with that.
5. You know which Duck got worse as the series proceeded?
Besides Getzlaf, I mean.
Andersen, that’s who.
The second-year goalie who was the subject of a lot of nice talk coming into the series cracked, and cracked repeatedly the way a lot of so-called hot goalies do when they face the Hawks.
Andersen allowed that awful goal to Toews at the end of regulation in Game 5 and would’ve lost in overtime if the Hawks had managed even one shot at him. That’s the way it seemed, anyway, what with Andersen’s shaky movements, tracking of plays and puck control.
Get a load of his death spiral of save percentages in the last five games: .964, .875, .857, .818, .808.
a. Andrew Shaw didn’t get an assist on Toews’ power-play goal, but he absorbed a big hit, got up, absorbed some stickwork, and still darted to the front of the net, planting himself in front of Andersen, screening the Ducks goalie as Toews’ shot sailed high glove side.
Same deal in the tough traffic in front of the net on Brent Seabrook’s power-play goal that sealed things in the third period.
It’s the kind of tough, selfless play we’ve come to expect from a kid who accepted the Stanley Cup with blood streaming down his face.
The Hawks forked over their second-round pick in this year’s draft just to acquire the 40-year-old defenseman who hadn’t played all season because of issues with blood clots.
Bowman also gave up a conditional pick in 2016 that became -- are you sitting down? -- a second-rounder when the Hawks reached the Stanley Cup Final.
To recap, the Hawks’ investment became costlier in a game in which they couldn’t afford to let Timonen play, lest they end up on the wrong end of the score the way Timonen usually ends up on the wrong side of a play.
I’m guessing Bowman believes he can get back at least one of the picks when he looks to deal a core player this summer as the salary-cap reaper comes calling.
Patrick Sharp’s $5.9 million salary each of the next two seasons makes him a trade suspect. It would help if Sharp would break this drought of nine straight playoff games without a goal.
c. As is superstitious custom, the Hawks refused to touch the Clarence Campbell Bowl awarded to the Western Conference champion. They did, however, take a picture around it, but suggesting how little that piece of silver meant, about half the Hawks didn’t bother smiling. The next trophy is for touching and smiling.