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Talented Blackhawks have versatility to win in many ways

Marian Hoss(81) didn’t get much sleep after Blackhawks’ exhausting Game 1 victory. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP

Marian Hossa (81) didn’t get much sleep after the Blackhawks’ exhausting Game 1 victory. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP

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Updated: June 14, 2013 4:24PM



The Stanley Cup Final is far from over, but Game 1 provided an
insight into the beauty of the Blackhawks. Considered (along with the Pittsburgh Penguins) the fastest, most skilled team in the NHL, their trump card is their ability to morph into whatever they need to be and do whatever they have to do to win.

Like every team in hockey, the Hawks want to ‘‘play their game.’’ They want to use their speed, dominate the neutral zone, get into every
high-scoring game they can and let their stars be stars. But when the nature of playoff hockey — and good coaching — takes that away, they have an uncanny ability to fight through the muck and find a way. No matter how long it takes.

They can hit. They can grind. They can instigate. They can score ‘‘greasy’’ goals at opportune times. Goalie Corey Crawford can turn into Jonathan Quick or Tuukka Rask in an instant. And the Hawks still have that uncanny knack for responding to adversity, whether it be a 3-1
series deficit to the Detroit Red Wings or a 3-1 third-period deficit to the Boston Bruins in Game 1.

And on the NHL’s biggest stage, where your stars have to be stars, the Hawks’ goal-scorers against the Bruins were Brandon Saad, Dave Bolland, Johnny Oduya and Andrew Shaw. Marian Hossa, Shaw, Marcus Kruger, Michael Frolik, Bolland and Michal Rozsival had assists. Nine of the Hawks’ 10 points (all but the assist by Hossa) came from players who make up less than 20 percent of the salary cap.

That’s another thing that distinguishes the Hawks: They never run out of unsung heroes. Saad, a 20-year-old rookie, and Bolland each scored his first goal of the postseason when the Hawks badly needed it — Saad when the Hawks were down 2-0 and Bolland when they trailed 3-1. Oduya tied the score with 7:46 left in regulation on a shot that
deflected off Bruins defenseman
Andrew Ference’s skate. And Shaw won it in the third overtime with a goal on a deflection in front of the net.

It was Shaw’s performance that best exemplified the Hawks’ ability to adjust to their surroundings and make their own breaks. The 5-10, 180-pounder from Belleville,
Ontario battled Bruins 6-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara throughout the night, never stopped hitting, never stopped skating and — what do you know? — found himself in the right place at the right time.

Even the Hawks’ greasy goals are a work of art. Rozsival’s shot from inside the blue line was deflected by Bolland and went off Shaw’s leg, zigzagging like a bullet in a cartoon past Rask.

Some would call it ‘‘[bleeping] unbelievable,’’ as Shaw put it in his on-ice interview with NBC’s Pierre McGuire after the game. But at this point, it’s very believable. The Bruins should have won the game four times in overtime and didn’t. Their luck should turn, but don’t count on it. The Hawks got more than their share of breaks, but they usually do because they earn every one of them. In this series, their resilience is as valuable as their speed and skill.

Leading up to Game 1, captain Jonathan Toews expected a close series that would be determined by ‘‘which team wanted it more.’’ On Wednesday, it was clear each team wanted it as much as the other. The difference likely will be even more intangible than Toews expected. But however undefinable that is, it looks like the Hawks have it — or will find it if they don’t.



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