So screamed the Detroit Free Press on May 24, the morning after the Red Wings defeated the Blackhawks a third straight time. The headline was bold and beautiful for fans in Hockeytown, but evidently it touched a nerve in Chicago.
“I remember seeing something like that,” Bryan Bickell recalled. “It was put up over there on the wall, here in our locker room.”
Athletes shouldn’t need newspapers for motivation—if indeed athletes even read newspapers anymore. But that bulletin board material did register in the bowels of the United Center, and those same Blackhawks who were 60 minutes from elimination are now perhaps within 120 minutes of the Stanley Cup Final.
Sunday night, they registered their fifth consecutive victory, a 4-2 dismissal of the Los Angeles Kings, a complete game by any measure. The Blackhawks built a 4-0 bulge by the middle of the second period, at which point Jonathan Quick was mercifully removed. He was not himself, but his offensively-challenged teammates were, habitually leaving him little margin for error.
The Kings were a shade livelier than in the Western Conference Final opener, and still they absorbed a seventh road playoff loss in eight starts. Once again, the defending champions appeared to be hugging the right side of the road while the Blackhawks chose the passing lane. The Kings were thought to have a size and weight advantage in this series, but when a rare outburst of acrimony occurred Sunday night, the Blackhawks did not recoil one bit. A tag-team match broke out, and who decides to become the fifth man in? Corey Crawford, who trundled into the hissing match to help protect his captain from Kyle Clifford.
“Should be the other way around,” chuckled Jonathan Toews. “But that’s him showing his true colors.”
Indeed, Crawford was just fine again, buoyed by an early first period goal from Andrew Shaw, and a late one by Brent Seabrook. When Bickell and Michal Handzus beat Quick in the middle session, the Kings’ all-world masked man took a seat, and 21,824 loudly volunteered to usher him there. But when Crawford decided to wrestle, fans lost it. “COR-EY!! COR-EY!!” How’s that Blackhawks goalkeeping controversy going?
Adam Creighton, who wore the Indian Head, is in town scouting for the Boston Bruins. He’s still huge — what else would a Bruins scout be? — and he probably can still throw ‘em with the best. If only one could have peeked over his shoulder at the report he’s filing. “Chicago’s pretty fast, aren’t they?” allowed Creighton.
During the elaborate pregame video presentation, so briefly as to be subliminal, a “7” popped up. The white digit stood for the number of victories the Blackhawks required to earn another Stanley Cup. Now, it is 10 down, six to go.
Caution: the Kings, 7-0 at home, fell behind St. Louis 2-0 then swept. And Quick has been through worse than Sunday night’s comeuppance. A Connecticut native, Quick was driving near home before last Christmas when he flipped on the radio.
“Sandy Hook Elementary,” he recalled. “My daughter’s sleeping in the back of the car. I looked at my wife, Jaclyn, who’s crying. I had to turn it off.”