Finally, the Blackhawks and Ducks can settle things on the ice
ANAHEIM – This is the moment that has been a year in the making.
Since that puck off the stick of Alec Martinez got past Corey Crawford in overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals on June 2nd of last year.
The hope for redemption has existed for a proud veteran Blackhawks team since that loss to the Kings and it has been stewing for nearly a week-and-a-half after their earned the right to play for a conference crown again.
Nearly 350 days compared to ten. The waits might have seemed just as long but at last the Western Conference Finals have arrived.
The surging Blackhawks will face the conference’s best team-the Anaheim Ducks-at the Honda Center at 2 PM on Sunday. Both teams blew through their first two opening series with a few challenges along the way but mostly dominant hockey.
It’s the first meeting for the teams in a playoff series between the teams who have combined to win three of the last eight Stanley Cups.
“It will be fun,” said Patrick Kane of the Anaheim match-up. “We all love playing the game, we all love playing hockey. It’s a great opportunity for us to go up against a great team. I think it’s a new challenge for us, we’ve never faced this team in the playoffs so that’s exciting for us too.
“After these ten days or whatever it’s been, it’s just gonna be exciting to go out there and just play a game.”
The Blackhawks have won the last five they've played dating back to their first round series with the Predators and through a second round sweep of the Wild. Such a streak triggered the common "Loss of Momentum" debate amongst fans and pundits but it's worth noting the Blackhawks won four-straight in the second round after a six-day layoff following the Nashville series.
But there is no doubt that a break has the team excited-even the guy standing on the bench.
"I always get excited getting into a series, especially being out as long as we were. Can't wait to start again," said Blackhawks head coach Joel Qunneville. "I look forward to it."
Whether some typical nerves or jitters could exist there should be little of the unexpected when it comes to this round of the playoffs. This is the fifth time in the last seven years that the Blackhawks have advanced to the Western Conference Finals and they've won two of them the past five seasons.
But with the result of last year along with the veteran presence in the locker room will keep this team from being complacent as they hope to complete the third of four steps toward their 6th Stanley Cup.
"A lot of things have to go right for you to have that kind of success," said captain Jonathan Toews. "At the end of the day I think the guys in the locker room, the guys that have been around for those seven years understand that every chance, every opportunity you get and no one wants to waste it."
Especially when it comes to time, which there is finally very little of before the Blackhawks start playing hockey again.