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Blackhawks take three straight to force game seven

Marian Hossa scores a goal in Game 5 in the Hawks win

Charlie Morrissey, Sports Manager

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When the 2010-2011 NHL season began, it seemed to be a given that the defending champion Blackhawks would definitely contend for the Stanley Cup for the third year in a row. They were just coming off a championship season, and though role players like Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg were gone, the Blackhawks still had the core of Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane. Sports Illustrated picked them to finish third in the conference, easily making the playoffs.

 The regular season started off slowly with the Blackhawks losing three of their first four games. No worry, said most Blackhawks fans, this slow start was just a small championship hangover that would obviously be cured with the Blackhawks’ skill. As the season progressed, it became evident that not only were the Blackhawks not the same team as last year, but that they would need to fight to make the playoffs. Going into the last game of the season, they still hadn’t secured a spot in the playoffs. It took a loss by the Dallas Stars on the final night of the regular season to push the Hawks into the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

In the playoffs, the eighth seeded Blackhawks had to face the top-seeded and President’s Trophy winner (most points) Vancouver Canucks. These Canucks were not the same team that the Blackhawks had beaten the last two years in the playoffs, and the Blackhawks did not come into the series with momentum like they had the past two years. The Canucks showed this by taking the first three games in the series. Led by goalie Roberto Luongo and an aggressive defense, the Canucks shut down the Blackhawks offense and held Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews to just four assists combined with no goals scored.

But Games Four and Five brought hope to all Blackhawks supporters. They not only beat the Canucks in both games to bring the series to 3-2, but they won in blowout fashion. The Hawks took Game Four by a score of 7-2 and then shutout the Canucks by a score of 5-0 in game 5. In both games, the Canucks had to pull Luongo because of the onslaught of goals by the Blackhawks, but backup goalie for Cory Schneider did not fare much better. Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith provided most of the damage in Game 5 with two goals apiece.

In Game 6, the Canucks decided to bench Luongo and go with Schneider. But after Michael Frolik scored a penalty shot goal, Schneider cramped up and Luongo had to enter the game to the Hawks fans yelling “Lu” mockingly. Ben Smith scored the biggest goal of his career in overtime on a rebound and the Hawks guarenteed a Game 7 and showed that the Blackhawks are the team that most fans believed they would be from the start.  

Now the series goes to Vancouver for Game 7 tonight at 9:00 Chicago time and the Blackhawks definitely have the momentum. But they do have history working against them. In the NHL playoffs, only three times in the playoffs (1942, 1975 and 2010) has a team come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the series. If the Blackhawks continue to play like the defending champs, they could become the fourth team to achieve this feat.

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Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs
Blackhawks take three straight to force game seven