As it turns out, having the Chicago Blackhawks down is a long way from having them out. The Detroit Red Wings surprised many in the hockey world by taking a 3-1 series lead, but they failed to put the top-seeded team in the West away twice going into Wednesday night and an emotional Game 7 in the Windy City.
The Hawks had to pass some more gut checks, including the emotional turmoil of another questionable disallowed goal and the wringer that is a Game 7 overtime. But Brent Seabrook was able to finally put away the Red Wings by scoring 3:35 into the extra period and sending Chicago into the Western Conference finals, where they will face the Los Angeles Kings.
No doubt most Backhawks fans will feel they had to score the game-winner twice. With the game tied a 1-1 coming down the stretch, defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson found himself unguarded trailing the play to rip a hard shot past Jimmy Howard with only 1:47 left in the third period.
Yet the officials quickly waived the goal off, and after a brief conference, it was revealed that matching minors on Kyle Quincey and Brandon Saad for roughing well behind the play were the cause. It was an unfortunate break for the hosts, and the call was widely panned by both the fans at the United Center and (with less profanity) by the announcers and analysts on TV.
The Red Wings got the best of the scoring chances during the ensuing four-on-four, which bled into overtime by just a few seconds. But the finish came at even strength a few minutes later, when a big hit along the boards dislodged the puck and left it for Seabrook to pick up. He skated into the Detroit zone and unleashed a snap shot that changed direction off the skate of Niklas Kronwall and flew over the glove of Howard.
It would have been hard to blame the Detroit netminder even if there had been no deflection, as he made 33 saves and kept the Red Wings in the game after the Blackhawks took the lead early in the second period. A three-on-one ended with an excellent pass from Marian Hossa to Patrick Sharp, who gave Howard no chance in scoring his seventh of the postseason.
As they had in almost every game of the series, Howard and opposite number Corey Crawford took turns denying every chance for the rest of the middle frame. But the Red Wings came out of the second intermission with plenty of momentum, and they cashed in quickly as Gustav Nyquist faked shooting before passing across the crease for an easy conversion by Henrik Zetterberg at the 0:26 mark of the third period.
That was all the scoring there would be until the false and real game-winners. In the end, the Blackhawks proved why they were the best regular season team in the NHL, dealing with the only adversity they faced in 2013 with the hearts of champions.
As for the Red Wings, though losing in overtime of Game 7 always stings, it will be important to remember that just a few weeks ago, they were scrambling just to make the playoffs. No one would have given them much of a chance to beat Anaheim and take Chicago to the limit, so the near future of this squad has to look a bit brighter than it did in April.
The game was over when…
Seabrook scored and there were no penalties behind the play. It was a shock to see that shot beat Howard glove side, one made more understandable (though no less depressing) when the slow motion replay highlighted the accidental deflection. See kids? Always put the puck on net, as you never know what might happen.
The unsung Red Wings hero was…
Quincey, and not only for taking the most timely penalty in recent memory. He’s rightfully reviled for his screw-ups, but he couldn’t be faulted for his effort in Game 7, dishing out five hits and blocking several shots.