Blackhawks survive with 2-1 OT victory, move on to face LA - FOX 10 News |

Blackhawks survive with 2-1 OT victory, move on to face LA

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Blackhawks continued their series with another scattered effort in Game 7, but in the end showed the necessary poise to snatch a 2-1 overtime victory. The Hawks will now move on to the Western Conference Championship series to face last year's Stanley Cup winner, the Los Angeles Kings.

It felt like a Game 7 at the United Center on Wednesday night but once the puck dropped it wasn't a typical elimination contest. The effort from both sides was high to start but it was a more wide open affair than usually occurs in crucial Game 7 encounter. Both goaltenders were performing at a high level and each team's defensemen were less than stellar.

When Patrick Sharp put the Hawks out in front in the early moments of the second period, it felt like the Red Wings may not be able to keep pace. Detroit was victimized on a slow line change and gave up an odd man break. The Chicago experience looked to be the difference as they finally capitalized on a Red Wing miscue.

After two periods the Blackhawks had only a slim one goal lead but it felt like the margin should be larger. The Wings defense was far from air tight as turnovers were a problem. The Hawks couldn't finish, either by missing the net or by shooting at Howard's chest, but in any case they just couldn't extend the lead. The Chicago defense wasn't air tight either and the power play wasn't efficient so the game stayed close and the strong play of Corey Crawford was crucial.

In this series the Blackhawks put themselves in a vulnerable position by losing three games in row. Once falling behind three games to one any bad bounce, soft goal or questionable officiating is enough to end the season. The Hawks did that to themselves by not being able to play to put forth a consistent 60 minutes of hockey for the most part throughout the series. As the hockey gods would have it the Hawks almost pushed fate too far in Game 7.

The third period started and the Red Wings were dominant. Not sure why but the Hawks played with little focus and appeared like a club without playoff experience. There is no way to know what transpired during periods but the Hawks came out with an effort they certainly should want to forget. If it wasn't for Crawford the Red Wings would have scored more than one goal in the opening five minutes.

Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya both had adventurous nights which featured more than a couple of turnovers. When the Wings scored they were both playing defense. Besides another Oduya misplay there was little support for Crawford and the Wings evened the game.

After the Red Wings scored the Blackhawks slowly were reengaged. Now it was a question if their half-hearted start to period three would be enough to send them home for the summer. The officials let a lot go all night, and now the Blackhawks had to hope they wouldn't get bitten by a questionable call and exactly that appeared to happen.

The Hawks composed themselves, got back off their heels and finally performed like the better team. To their credit the Blackhawks got back to playing aggressively and at about the 18:00 minute mark Niklas Hjalmarsson moved into the slot area and ripped a slap shot to apparently give them the lead. At about the same time Brandon Saad was knocked into the Detroit bench by Kyle Quincey. Instead of not blowing the whistle at all, or calling a penalty for roughing on Quincey, both players were given two minute roughing minors.

Saad did put his glove into Quincey' face but he wasn't the aggressor and at some point a player does have to protect himself. It was probably too much to ask from an NHL official to make a one sided call at center ice in the final two minutes of the third period in a Game 7. So what often happens ended up taking place and both players were sent to the penalty box.

The effect on the game was dramatic at the time as Hjalmarsson's goal was waived off and the United Center crowd was livid. The horn sounded to end the period and the Blackhawks skated off the ice with stunned looks on their faces. It appeared this would be the undoing of a dream season and somehow Detroit would find a way to win in overtime.

In overtime the Hawks came out focused and were aggressive. They attacked instead of being back on their heels and they were rewarded.

Dave Bolland crunched Gustav Nyquist at center ice and separated the puck and then Seabrook did the rest. The big Hawk defender looked up and saw the middle of the ice open and he skated in toward Howard. Seabrook let a wrist shot go, which appeared to be slightly deflected, and beat Howard on his glove side.

With Seabrook's goal, the Blackhawks for the first time in their history rallied back from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series.

The beauty of sports is the uncertainty and at times the irony.

The biggest whipping boy from last year's first round loss to Phoenix was Crawford. This time around he has been the most consistent Hawk player throughout rounds one and two.

Bolland has never hit his stride since returning from his latest injury. Lately Bolland looks better, but for the most part hasn't contributed to the cause. It was his hit on Nyquist that sprang Seabrook.

Seabrook was in Joel Quenneville's dog house earlier in the series. His minutes were cut drastically and even in Game 7 Seabrook looked shaky at times but at the end of the day was the hero.

The LA Kings are not like the injury riddled Wild or the Red Wings. They are a team full of Stanley Cup winners and are playing like last season's champions. The Blackhawks will need more big games from Andrew Shaw who was solid in Game 7 and Crawford will need to continue his stellar performances.

Many teams would like to say they can roll four lines but the Kings actually do. They are a big, strong opponent that can skate well and Jonathan quick is one of the best goaltenders in the game. For the Hawks to move on and compete for the Stanley Cup they will have to raise their level of play quite a bit.

The Blackhawks best players will have to equal their counterparts and the third and fourth lines will be tested as well. The Hawks defense had some good outings versus Detroit but at times turned the puck over frequently and could not pass well. In particular Johnny Oduya and Seabrook will need to stop the turnovers or the Hawks will be hard pressed to win the next series.

Bolland could be the key for the Blackhawks as he has seldom played well this entire season. Maybe he can regain his best stride and become a factor. Quenneville has a much easier job when he can rely on Bolland to play important minutes. Then the Hawks can present a match-up problem for opponents.

The good news throughout the Detroit series is the Hawks have looked like a confident group when they have faced adversity. The bad news is they put themselves in a less than advantageous position because they might have been too comfortable, maybe too confident. The stop and start efforts must stop now to have any chance to beat the Kings.

The Blackhawks have home ice versus Los Angeles and that might be their only real advantage. To succeed a good start to the series this weekend at the United Center could be crucial.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia and I will be back on Sunday.

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