Trying to capture the spirit of the thing after the Blackhawks’ 4-3 win in Los Angeles that created an improbable Game 7 on Sunday:
1. Patrick Kane struggled in last year’s Western Conference finals, and then found himself skating with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell, and then the series was over as Kane completed a hat trick in overtime.
Kane had one assist in the first four games of this year’s conference finals, and then found himself skating with Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw, both of whom are known as Not Michal Handzus. In two games, the line has three goals and 14 points. With two goals and an assist in Game 6, Kane has jumped into a tie for second in goal-scoring and a tie for third in points this postseason.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville started that line, then threw it out there every other shift -- the Jonathan Toews line, the Kane line, the Michal Handzus line, the Kane line, the Brandon Bollig line. (Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)
That kind of rotation allowed Quenneville to get his hottest line against defense pairings that didn’t include all-world blue-liner Drew Doughty, and if Doughty was out there, then the Toews line would have the chance to go next with Doughty on the bench.
On the tying and winning goals, Kane made plays against Doughty’s defensive pairing and Willie Mitchell’s, respectively. So, it doesn’t matter who you are at this point in any series involving Kane.
In his career, Kane has 24 goals and 52 points in Games 4-7 (45 games) compared with 13 goals and 37 points in Games 1-3 (48 games). And as good as his two goals were, Kane’s sweet backhand lead pass in traffic that Duncan Keith turned into the tying goal was better. Showtime, indeed.
2. By setting up the tying goal and scoring the winner, Kane saved his pal Toews a lot of misery. About four minutes before Kane destroyed the Kings, Toews hooked Anze Kopitar and put the Kings on a power play that would produce Alec Martinez’s go-ahead goal 2:06 after the Kings had tied it in the third period.
As it was, the captain had a lousy game if you’re looking at the Corsi For percentage, a metric that measures puck possession and impact on offense. Toews had a 34.5, while linemates Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa were worse at 33.3 and 29.0, respectively. Toews won half his faceoffs and his line kept the Kopitar line scoreless.
3. You might want to sit down for this: Brent Seabrook led the Hawks in Corsi For percentage with a 60.7. He was the only Hawks defensemen over 50 percent.
4. Doughty said Game 6 was a must-win because the Kings didn’t want to go back to Chicago for a Game 7. But yet, the Kings have won two Game 7s on the road already this postseason. Sounds like the Hawks are in the Kings’ heads the way they were in the Blues’ thick skulls. Alrighty then, if you want to act beaten before you even get to Chicago, fine by the Hawks.
5. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was run over by Andrew Shaw at the end of the second period, which didn’t make him happy. He took a poke at Brent Seabrook, which prompted Hawks goalie Corey Crawford to wait for Quick to cross his path to the dressing room, and the goalies mask-butted. The NBC talking heads discussed Quick’s apparent loss of poise and how the Hawks had to love it. And then Quick gave up two goals on three shots in the third period to blow the Kings’ chance to go the Stanley Cup Final. Can you imagine if Quick was Jay Cutler?
6. A stunning graphic of Crawford’s work in Games 5-7 in his career, according to Comcast SportNet's Hawks postgame show: 16-2 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.
7. Quenneville got it partly right by scratching Kris Versteeg, but for Sheldon Brookbank? I’d lobby for scratching Bollig in favor of Peter Regin, but then the Hawks would have to live without Bollig’s Relative Corsi For of minus-35.9, meaning the team is better by more than one-third without him on the ice. And he managed that in a little more than five minute of ice time.
8. Marcus Kruger broke his stick on a one-timer while staring at a half-open net midway through the third period of a game the Hawks trailed by one. Next shift, he missed a great scoring chance from the slot with the Hawks still trailing by one. Plus he was losing faceoffs all night. Why is he out there when you need goals? I’ll hang up and listen for Kruger’s next shift.
9. Patrick Sharp’s five shots tied Kane for the team lead. Sharp looked faster than he has all series, but he still looked hurt. Still handsome. But hurt.
10. The Kings’ first goal was a hot mess. Crawford looked as if he would come out of the crease to play the puck behind the net, so Seabrook slowed down, but no, Crawford didn’t play it, then Jarret Stoll jumped past Seabrook to win the puck and centered it to Dwight King alone in front as Michal Handzus flew past King to the backboards. All of a sudden Handzus is so fast he can skate right by the guy in the most dangerous spot on the ice?
10a. Some of the history the Hawks are trying to overcome: Miraculous comebacks seem to be all the rage the last few postseasons, but in earlier rounds. NBC Sports’ pregame show said only one team in 66 has won a conference final or semifinal after trailing three games to one.
10b. Some of the history the Hawks are making: 13-0 in Games 5-7 in the last two postseasons, 5-0 when facing elimination.
10c. For all the damage Jeff Carter’s “That 70s Line’’ has done to the Hawks this series, it was a minus-6 in Game 6.
10d. In Hollywood, they say celebrities die in threes, so the Kings in Game 5, the Kings in Game 6, and the Kings in . . .?