Well this sucks.
When I woke up Sunday morning, I can safely say that for just a split second, I genuinely believed last night was just a nightmare and game seven had not yet happened. Then, as it always does, reality deflates that rosy-colored bubble of a day dream lie.
So, here we are again. I remember last season having to write this handshake line for the Kings after that heartbreaking and conclusive loss in game seven. Now, yet again, pride must be swallowed (along with all those other sickening feelings), and now I tip my hat to the Chicago Blackhawks on a series well played.
I tip my hat to the top four defensemen in Chicago sweaters. Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook, and Johnny Oduya each shouldered over 20 minutes of ice time leaving the other two defenders less than 10 minutes in each game that ended in regulation. That is absurd, but somehow, it worked. That foursome managed to stick with the Ducks, shut them down, and consistently collapse around goaltender Corey Crawford to minimize highly dangerous shots and second chances off rebounds.
I tip my hat to Corey Crawford. For a netminder who was pulled in the first round against Nashville, Crawford managed to show up when his team needed it most. How Anaheim's Frederik Andersen stood on his head in the first few games of the series is how Corey Crawford played in game seven when it counted the most. He not only gave his team a chance to win, he was a central piece to their eventual victory to close out the series.
I tip my hat to Joel Quenneville. When push came to shove in this series, when his team was not generating a ton of offensive chances, coach Joel Quenneville was very reluctant to switch up the line combinations or the personnel he chose to dress every night. Pretty much it was a direct contrast to what Anaheim's coach, Bruce Boudreau, was doing. Quenneville saw the weaknesses in the Ducks' game and took advantage of it as much as he could, and when that produced results, he stuck to his guns and kept pushing, eventually getting rewarded in that game seven win.
I tip my hat to their leaders. We already touched on alternate captain, Duncan Keith, above, but I'll just reiterate that this man is an automaton freak of unlimited energy. That's all on him. Then there's the top two leaders in points, Patrick Kane, and captain, Jonathan Toews. This duo, who are two of the highest paid players in the league, were two forces that, on most nights, Anaheim simply could not counter. Toews was consistently dominant in the faceoff circle no matter who he faced, and Kane proved his goal-scoring abilities are second to none. Admittedly, I cannot stand any of these three players, however they all made Anaheim's journey a complete uphill battle, which deserves acknowledgment.
Excuse me now while I throw this damn hat on the ground, stomp on it a few times, cut it into pieces, and burn it. (No, this isn't a Ducks hat, it's just a metaphorical hat, which in my imagination I shall make a fedora so I don't feel guilty for destroying it.)