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Blackhawks show they can take a punch

by Todd Kimberley

"I know I enjoy that confrontation, trading it back and forth. It was neat for our guys to answer those challenges, and answer those questions, beating a heck of a team like Calgary."
-- Adam Burish

CALGARY -- The old boxing adage goes something like this: Kill the body and the head will die.

But in a playoff series that was expected to be all about body blows, not many observers expected the Calgary Flames to be the ones kissing the canvas.

The Chicago Blackhawks knew entering their Western Conference Quarterfinal series that the Flames would be hitting everything that moved. But when push came to shove, the 'Hawks pushed back. And that's one of the main reasons Chicago has its first Stanley Cup Playoff series win in 13 years, while the Flames are left to reflect on yet another first-round playoff ouster.

"This is a feisty group," said sandpapery right winger Adam Burish, who scored his first career playoff goal Monday night against the Flames. "All season, teams have thought they could challenge us physically, and we've done a good job of answering that bell.

"A lot of our guys enjoy that. I know I enjoy that confrontation, trading it back and forth. It was neat for our guys to answer those challenges, and answer those questions, beating a heck of a team like Calgary.

"It takes a toll on your body, but that's what makes it so rewarding. That's what makes it so much fun. You feel like, after that battle, you earned a day off."

One day after finishing this conference quarterfinal in six games, thanks to a 4-1 victory before Calgary's "C" of Red, the fourth-seeded Blackhawks chartered Tuesday to Vancouver, where they'll take on the conference's third-seeded Canucks in a Western semifinal.

The Flames' tactic of intimidating Chicago's young stars, such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker, didn't exactly work out the way Mike Keenan had envisioned it. In fact, going the other way, the Blackhawks had their own Monster of the Midway in NHL playoff rookie forward Dustin Byfuglien. The Flames simply had no answer for the 250-pound Minnesotan when he parked himself in front of Miikka Kiprusoff.

"You can't let someone come out and push you around," Byfuglien said. "They push you around, they're going to get momentum. They're going to have the game in their hands.

"We have some small guys, but I thought everyone did their job pushing back, and if there was a little scrum, everyone stuck together. That's what a team needs to do."

The 'Hawks on Monday night earned the first road win of their series against Calgary, and that's something they'll need to do to get past the Canucks. The Flames had boasted a gaudy 27-10-4 record during the regular season at the Pengrowth Saddledome, but the Canucks finished the season 13-1-1 at General Motors Place, a stretch that included an 11-game home win streak from Feb. 3 through March 19.

On Monday night, "we had a great start, and a timely power play, and (Nikolai) Khabibulin had one of those games you can call a goaltending win," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We learned a lesson ... a valuable lesson in a close-out game. I think our composure will be better from it."

While some 'Hawks players caught fire during the series -- Kris Versteeg scored 2 goals and 7 points in the final three games, Patrick Sharp had a four-game point streak -- the final statistical tally showed 10 Chicago forwards and three defensemen scoring at least one goal in the six-game series against Calgary.

"We have a lot of depth," forward Andrew Ladd said. "If you look at our whole year, everybody went through stretches where different guys were scoring, different lines were scoring. That's a big thing for us.

"Our 'D' really stepped up in terms of helping us out on offense. When they're skating and helping us out, it just makes things so much easier."

Added Quenneville: "We haven't counted on one group, or one line, or one individual, to produce for us. I think our balance and our overall depth are important to us having success. In the series, we did go deep in our bench. When you get a goal from a guy like Burish, it shows it can make a difference."

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