Who knows what the future will bring for the Chicago Blackhawks. They have some serious cap concerns going into the summer that will force them to make hard choices, albeit not for the first time in recent memory, and who knows how many more times 36-year-old Marian Hossa can rise to the occasion in the playoffs. Perhaps this will prove to be the final days of an era for Chicago, but thanks to their 5-3 victory tonight, it’s certainly not over yet.
WATCH: Full replay of Game 7
The story of the Blackhawks’ glory years is still being written and they’re making it hard to find ways to oversell them. At a time in the NHL where the salary cap has ended the likelihood of us ever seeing another dynasty in the traditional sense, Chicago will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in six years.
It’s the usual suspects getting them there. Captain Jonathan Toews set the tone of this game with his two early goals. Patrick Kane registered three assists, giving him 111 points in 110 games. Kane is just one of 20 players to average at least a point-per-game in a minimum of 100 postseason contests, per Sportsnet.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford came up big as well. His shaky start to the playoffs now a distant memory, Crawford was arguably the difference in the second period as Anaheim launched 18 shots and Crawford turned aside all but one.
The winner though came from Hossa, which will likely be a sore point for Anaheim as the fact that the puck went off his skate made the marker controversial. Still, Anaheim didn’t lose by just one goal.
For the Ducks, this is the third year in a row that they’ve fallen in Game 7, but it was still a year of progress for them. They made it to the Western Conference Final after storming past Winnipeg and Calgary. They have the potential to come back next year and finally go the distance.
This year though belongs to the Blackhawks and Lightning. Both needed seven games to get past difficult opponents. Their battle will start on Wednesday.
The team that scores first has won 73.8% of Game 7s in the NHL. Jonathan Toews wasted no time putting Chicago on the right side of history.
The Blackhawks captain parked himself in front of Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen and was quick to capitalize on a rebound opportunity from Niklas Hjalmarsson’s shot as you can see below:
Not that its out of the ordinary for him, but Toews has been very effective in this series. He came into tonight’s action with three goals and five points in the 2015 Western Conference Final. That includes his two late markers in Game 5, which dramatically forced overtime in what was ultimately still a missed opportunity for Chicago.
Patrick Kane also assisted on the goal, giving him 109 playoff points in 110 career games.
It just seems appropriate.
In a Western Conference Final where the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks have each had their moments to shine, where neither squad has been able to keep the other down for long, it would have been almost anticlimactic if we were given anything less than the full seven games. Chicago guaranteed that we’ll get that deciding contest by earning a 5-2 victory tonight.
After losing Game 5 in no small part due to their terrible start, the Blackhawks came out strong tonight. They were initially dominant on the draw and had some great scoring chances, but Anaheim held on to maintain the scoreless tie through 20 minutes.
It wasn’t until midway through the second period that Chicago’s efforts were finally rewarded with Brandon Saad’s breakaway goal. Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane followed that up with a pair of goals, giving Chicago three markers in the span of less than four minutes. Duncan Keith assisted on all of those goals to tie his career-high, per the NHL’s Communications Department.
As both sides should be well aware at this point though, a 3-0 lead isn’t safe. While the final score was ultimately one-sided, Anaheim nearly came back as Patrick Maroon netted a power-play goal at 14:13 of the second period and Clayton Stoner added a controversial marker early in the third period.
The final frame was largely dominated by the Ducks, but the Blackhawks managed to hold on until Andrew Shaw provided them with some much needed insurance.
Shaw also collected an empty netter to bury this game.
That marks the first time Anaheim has lost in regulation since the playoffs began. Chicago needed to go to triple and double overtime to beat them in Games 2 and 4 respectively.
Game 7 will be played in Anaheim on Saturday. For Chicago to win this series, it will have to become the first team to earn back-to-back victories in the 2015 Western Conference Final.