Now it’s up to the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings to make sure the NHL final four is dominated by clubs from the Original Six era. The Chicago Blackhawks took care of their end of the bargain last night, as Patrick Kane’s first career playoff hat trick powered them to a 7-5 win in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal series with Vancouver. Chicago won the series, 4-2.
Led by the 20-year-old Kane, the ‘Hawks are now in the conference finals for the first time since 1995. Kane has not only come of age in this postseason but he’s also given a glimpse of the future that might prevail in the Windy City. Let this Chicago team be a lesson to the next coach that uses youth as an excuse for playoff failure.
As Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune wrote for today:
“Again, we’re watching a team grow up in front of our eyes. Jonathan Toews, who is 21, had two goals. Kris Versteeg, 22, scored one. Toews’ third-period goal made it 6-5.
With an average age of 25.5, the Hawks were the youngest team in the league this season. There’s no getting around that fact, but in a strange way, it might have helped them. Some of these guys don’t realize how big the moment is. Youthful oblivion can be a good thing.”
Here’s my shameless boast: I picked the ‘Hawks to win in six for exactly that reason. Their brand of hockey and youthful enthusiasm looked like a sure bet to me to at least get to the next round. But that’s where they might meet Detroit and to get past the Red Wings will require a lot more than just speed, skill and youth.
The Wings go for the kill at Anaheim tonight in Game 6, and it’s likely they’ll put the final nail in the Ducks’ coffin. Detroit has won the last eight times it had a chance to finish a series. After falling behind in the series, the Wings have been playing with the physicality that’s usually the Ducks’ hallmark — and Detroit’s been beating Anaheim at its own game. So unless the Ducks can counter that, we’ll be looking at an all-Original Six, all-Central Division, Western Conference final. What happens in the East could at least half match that.