CHICAGO -- History will be made.
It’s the NHL’s marketing slogan for the playoffs and it might just become the Chicago Blackhawks' as well. They are on the brink of it, having won the last three games of their quarterfinal series against the Vancouver Canucks after dropping the first three. Sunday’s thrilling 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 was the most dramatic one yet.
Two unlikely players helped put the Hawks in this position. Michael Frolik scored the tying goal on a penalty shot, knocking out Canucks goalie Cory Schneider in the process. Then 22-year-old Ben Smith scored the overtime winner.
“Hossa made a great play holding onto the puck,” Smith said. He got it to Niklas Hjalmarsson and he shot it and I got a little piece of that one and the rebound was just laying for me and I just turned and got it up and it went over [Roberto] Luongo’s back.”
Luongo, benched by the Canucks to start the game, was only playing because Schneider left after suffering an injury on Frolik’s penalty shot.
“I’ve never seen that,” Frolik said. “I had a longer shift before that so I was a little gassed. I tried to calm down and have a good breathe and try not to listen to the crowd. I tried this move and hopefully it works.”
It worked just fine. Frolik and Smith are newcomers to the excitement that is the Blackhawks. Both arrived midseason and a year ago couldn’t have been farther from an NHL playoff series.
Frolik was in Florida, playing relatively unnoticed by the rest of the hockey world. Smith was at Boston College, winning an NCAA championship. It’s probably where he learned his poise.
“Just trying to take a deep breath every once in a while and try and sit back and realize what’s going on,” he said of the overwhelming moments he’s experienced.
The Hawks were stuck in their own zone for most of overtime and plenty of the third period, but when the chance came, Smith knew what to do.
“He seems to know the place to go to get rewarded and he anticipated the loose puck,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He didn’t play around with it.”
Frolik, meanwhile, is becoming a complete player. He’s thrived since moving back to wing on the third line with Dave Bolland. His defensive game has been a huge factor in the series.
“He had a special night today and he’s been special in the series,” Quenneville said. “Offensively, defensively, we like what he brings to our team. He’s playing his best hockey right now.”
And then there was the pressure-filled penalty shot which will go down in Blackhawks history.
“It was a good move,” Quenneville said. “We’ve seen him do it a lot in practice but the timing and the pressure of the situation made it even more exciting and important.”
None in the series were bigger than the ones they scored in Game 6. Then again, there’s always Game 7 Tuesday.