With their 7-5 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night, the Blackhawks are headed to their first Western Conference Finals appearance since 1995. To put that in context, Patrick Kane, whose hat trick in Game 6 put the Hawks over the top, was just six years old in ’95 and had never even played a pee-wee hockey game.
“I remember doing an [NHL] spot this summer saying that the last time the Hawks even made the playoffs I was 13,” Kane said. “It’s pretty unbelievable. But we’ve got a great, young team in here. It was a great night overall.”
As their two series wins have proven, other teams may have more experience but the Hawks have shown poise well beyond their years. As one of the youngest teams in the league and by far the youngest in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no one knew just how the Hawks would perform in their first postseason appearance since 2002. But after mounting come-from-behind wins in all four of their victories this series and two in the quarterfinals, the Hawks have proven they can stay in games even when trailing.
"For us, it doesn’t have to be pretty, and it was that way again tonight,” said Jonathan Toews
, who contributed two goals to the win. “Going into a game like that, you don’t expect it to be that high-scoring, but we kept coming back. We found a way and that’s what counts.”
Head coach Joel Quenneville, who called the game one of the most amazing that he’s been a part of in his professional hockey career, said that the Hawks will use the time off to rest for the series ahead. The series between Anaheim and Detroit, whose winner will play the Hawks in the conference finals, resumes tomorrow, and the extra days off that the Blackhawks can now take may be the difference in a long, grinding series.
“We’re not complaining about not taking that flight west tomorrow,” Quenneville said, alluding to the Game 7 in Vancouver that they avoided with Monday's win. “We’ll watch tomorrow’s game and see what happens.”
"It’s an interesting game, and interesting business,” he added about the series yet to come. “I think our guys have a lot of enthusiasm in their approach. They believe in each other, but there’s still work to be done.”