Doom & gloom for the Blackhawks after this year? Not so fast, cynics

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The deeper the Chicago Blackhawks move into the NHL playoffs, the more I see people preparing requiems for their glory days. At the same time respect is paid to the franchise’s numerous achievements in the now decade-long salary cap era, the notion is floated that, once the cap’s constrictions begin suffocating the Hawks this summer, they’ll rapidly be downgraded from a majestic, soaring beast to a Tweety Bird in a cage, swinging around in mediocrity like so many of the league’s teams.

And maybe that’s what will happen in the coming years. Maybe. But perhaps there’s a chance the Blackhawks do what they did the last time the cap forced them into making major changes to the roster. You know – continue being a Stanley Cup frontrunner for the foreseeable future. Read more

Rejoice, hockey fans: Ducks/Hawks series gets Game 7 after Chicago’s big win

Chicago winger Andrew Shaw scores in the third period against Anaheim in Game Six of the Western Conference Final Wednesday. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

One of the most entertaining NHL playoff showdowns in recent memory would’ve lost a little something if the 2014-15 Western Conference Final between Chicago and Anaheim didn’t end in the maximum-allotted seven games. Fortunately (unless you’re a Ducks fan), hockey fans are in for one more treat Saturday night thanks to the Blackhawks’ dominant 5-2 victory over Anaheim in Game 6 Wednesday.

You didn’t have to be a Hawks supporter to hope this series was extended to a Game 7. If you’re a fan of the game played with a mastery of craft at warp speed, you wanted one more game. If you got your kicks watching hockey played with an urgency matched only by someone transporting their pregnant wife to the delivery room, you wanted at least seven games, and were prepared to petition the league to create a one-time exception and make it a best-of-nine. Read more

Hawks’ Keith having brilliant Game 6 – including this slick setup of Hossa goal

Duncan Keith (Bill Smith/Getty Images)

Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith is as solid as NHL defensemen come these days – not just in the Blackhawks’ defensive zone, but in the opposition’s end as well. And the veteran provided more evidence in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday with a brilliant pass to Hawks winger Marian Hossa for the second goal of the game.

Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad put Chicago on the scoreboard first at 8:23 of the second period, and a little more than two minutes after that, Keith took the puck from teammate Brad Richards, held it patiently, then slid a quick pass over to Hossa, who calmly scored his third of the playoffs to double the home team’s lead: Read more

Ducks’ Andersen uses foot to stop Hawks’ Saad from scoring

Chicago's Brandon Saad and Anaheim's Ryan Kesler chase the puck in front of goalie Frederik Andersen as Jonathan Toews follows behind in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final Wednesday. (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks came out of the gate strongly in Game 6 of their Western Conference Final series against Anaheim, challenging Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen a number of times early in the first period. And they came within a hair’s breadth – well, maybe a toe or two – of scoring the first goal Wednesday, only to have Andersen rob winger Brandon Saad with his foot.

The teams were nearing the halfway mark of the opening frame still looking for the first lead of the night when Saad broke in on Andersen with the puck; Andersen kicks out his left leg, barely getting enough of his foot on the puck to stop it from going in: Read more

Watch Matt Beleskey’s opening-minute overtime tally to give Ducks 3-2 series lead

Matt Beleskey (Debora Robinson/Getty Images)

When overtime of Game 5 of the Western Conference final began Monday evening, the average bet on how long overtime was going to last likely would have been in the two- to three-overtime range. After all, twice the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks had gone to at least double overtime and it appeared we were in for another marathon in Game 5.

So it was almost more surprising than Jonathan Toews‘ late-game contest-tying heroics that overtime didn’t make it out of the first minute. What started with a turnover at the Anaheim blueline by Bryan Bickell ended with Matt Beleskey sealing the deal — and the incredibly important series lead — for the Ducks. Read more

Ducks strike early, survive collapse late in regulation to beat Hawks in OT, take 3-2 series lead

Anaheim's Matt Beleskey celebrates scoring the game winning overtime goal Monday in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

In what has been a magnificent marathon of a Western Conference Final, the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks have been more or less each other’s equal. Through the first four games of the series, neither team was able to win two in a row, three contests were one-goal games, and two games led to 11 total periods of hockey. In a strange way, that was the case Monday night for Game 5 as well, with some solid and awful play from both sides – but by the time Ducks winger Matt Beleskey scored 45 seconds into the fourth period of hockey, it was clear Chicago was a little more depleted and a little less deep than Anaheim where they need to be.

And for that reason, the Ducks hold a 3-2 series lead after their 5-4 overtime victory at Honda Center. Read more

Watch Jonathan Toews tie Game 5 from an impossible angle with 38 seconds left in regulation

Jonathan Toews (Harry How/Getty Images)

Jonathan Toews’ playoff exploits need no embellishment to impress even the most casual hockey fan. And once again – this time, with just 38 seconds left in regulation time in Game 5 Monday – the Chicago Blackhawks superstar center showed he lives for this time of year by scoring twice in the final two minutes of regulation to send the game to overtime.

Game 5 looked to be a lost cause for the Hawks after Patrick Maroon scored at 14:45 of the third to make it 4-2 Anaheim, but Toews brought the visiting team to within a goal when he scored his sixth of the playoffs at 18:10. And 72 seconds later, Toews scored at a virtually impossible angle at the 19:22 mark to tie things up: Read more

Ducks jump on Hawks early in Game 5 with two goals in 32 seconds

Anaheim's Ryan Kesler celebrates his first period goal as Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford and defensemen Kyle Cumiskey and Johnny Oduya react in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. (Harry How/Getty Images)

In the first four games of the Western Conference Final between Anaheim and Chicago, neither team has been able to win two consecutive games. And after the Blackhawks’ 5-4 double-overtime win Saturday, the Ducks pushed quickly Monday to ensure that pattern would continue, scoring a pair of goals in 32 seconds early in the first period to jump out to a 2-0 lead.

Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler was first to score at Honda Center Monday, firing a wrist shot from the top of the circle past Hawks goalie Corey Crawford at the 5:10 mark of the first period for his second goal of the playoffs: Read more