Troy Brouwer threw his right arm up in celebration as he skated into the corner. He almost was immediately wrapped in a tight bear hug by Patrick Sharp
. Then the rest of the Blackhawks on the ice -- Duncan Keith
, Marian Hossa
and Brent Sopel -- raced over to join the celebration.
It was the first goal of Game 6 at GM Place and the first goal in 26 career postseason games for Brouwer. It meant a lot to him, but the true value of that goal was felt roughly 45 minutes away inside Laurel Place, a residential-care rehabilitation facility in Surrey, B.C.
That's where Don Brouwer, Troy's father, is laid up in bed recovering from brain surgery he needed due to a blood clot that burst roughly five weeks ago.
"Everyone says that when you're in the hospital anything that can give you a little lift may help," Troy Brouwer told NHL.com after the Blackhawks' 5-1 series-clinching victory that he started with his goal two minutes into the second period. "Hopefully that's going to bring him a little bit of a lift and put him in a good mood. No one likes to be in the hospital, but this might make the next couple of days better for him."
Brouwer had been unable to perform his job, at least at a reasonable standard, over the past month. His father's health and care were weighing on his mind so much that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville saw fit to scratch him for Games 3, 4 and 5 against the Canucks.
Brouwer was virtually a non-factor, with no points and a minus-5 rating through the Hawks' first eight playoff games. He missed the last four games of the regular season when his father was in serious danger.
"I struggled a lot real early in the playoffs and you could relate it to my play," Brouwer said.
But because Chicago was facing Vancouver in the Western Conference Semifinal, Brouwer was able to see his father when the Hawks were in town for Games 3 and 4. He visited with him last Tuesday after the Hawks arrived in town and again for a long time Thursday after he sat out Game 3 the night before.
"I was able to see how well he's doing, see the progress that he's made and it really gave me a real big boost of confidence just to see him doing so well," Brouwer said. "I didn't really have to worry about him so much and it's easier to play when you have nothing on your mind."
Since Chicago played so well in Games 3 and 4, Quenneville couldn't put Brouwer back in the lineup for Game 5, even though he was mentally prepared to play. But the Hawks blew a chance to clinch the series with their worst effort against the Canucks Sunday, so Brouwer was back in play for Game 6 Tuesday.
His teammates used him as their inspiration.
"We wanted to win the game and that's where our focus was at, but when you see 22 (Brouwer) get back in the lineup, it's a big lift for us," Sharp told NHL.com. "We knew he was going to play inspired hockey and we followed."
Sharp said he was aware the moment Brouwer chipped his pass into the top right corner of the net that it was arguably the most emotional goal his linemate ever had scored.
"When I made the pass and saw the puck get deflected in, I was happy to get the lead, 1-0, but then you realize that it's Brouwer that got it, what he's been through and how much his family has needed him and it meant a lot," Sharp said. "That's a huge goal at a huge time by a guy that needed it."
Brouwer, whose mother was in the building to witness his first playoff goal, said his father started out in Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C. That's where he had surgery and was unconscious for nearly a week. Today, Brouwer said his father is, "coherent, knows what is going on, and is aware of everything. He just needs to progress a little bit more. He just needs to get his speech back and his strength back and he'll be out of the hospital.
"They told him once he could walk up and down stairs he could go home. He's got a goal and that's good for him. He's got something to work toward."
Tuesday night, Don Brouwer had something to cheer for, something to celebrate. His boy gave it to him the only way he knows how.
"He's a strong kid and he's really been fighting," Sharp said of Brouwer. "Coming back into the lineup, we all knew he was going to do something special. He scored 22 goals (in the regular season) not by accident, and when he scored that one his game took off. He played great."Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer