VANCOUVER -- Don’t ask why the Chicago Blackhawks needed a rallying cry; it’s too hard to figure out this team's psyche. But one thing is for sure: When they are motivated, the Blackhawks are as good as any team in the league.
That much we’ve learned over the past two games in their best-of-seven series against the Vancouver Canucks. The latest -- a near-perfect 5-0 win in Game 5 -- drew them within one of tying the series at 3. That can happen Sunday at the United Center.
As for the rallying cry? It was simple: Defenseman Brent Seabrook was sent to the sidelines with what the Blackhawks considered a dirty hit and the NHL did nothing about it, so the Hawks took things into their own hands, skates and sticks. They dominated the Canucks -- again.
“We were frustrated enough when we went down three games in the series but that was one of those things that just reminded us we’re being too easy on this team,” Jonathan Toews said. “For a second maybe we forgot about the hatred with these two teams. That sparked it again. I’m not going to deny that that didn’t light a fire under our butts, I guess. And here we are. We’re fighting and clawing our way back into this one.”
And no one is stepping up more in Seabrook’s absence than his best friend, Duncan Keith. With Seabrook’s jersey hanging in Keith’s stall, the Hawks defenseman went out and had his best game of the season with four points while helping the Hawks to a shutout.
“Sometimes when one of your key players goes down, other players have to step up,” Keith said. “That’s part of it. At the same time, we’re facing elimination. We’re not out of the woods yet.”
No, they’re not out of the woods, but they can see light. Momentum within a game is one thing, but if ever a team trailing 3-2 in a series has it, it’s these Hawks.
“Let’s put it this way: We’re headed in the right direction,” Marian Hossa said succinctly.
If Raffi Torres had never nailed Seabrook or the league had suspended him, who knows whether the Hawks would still be playing hockey. Maybe they did so much winning last season they needed that little extra motivation this time. If the hit woke a sleeping giant, winning the series in historic fashion might be the final piece to the motivation puzzle.
“We feel we’ve gotten better every game but we like the momentum,” Joel Quenneville said. “We look back at what Philly did, and that gives us a little motivation as well.”
And playing for a fallen teammate doesn’t hurt, either.