Though five games, I was ready to say that this was the best playoff series I had ever seen. The most important part, the ending, Games 6 and 7, failed to clear the bar that the first five games had set, with Chicago jumping out to a 3-0 lead in both affairs. Because of that, the Blackhawks arguably deserve an even bigger congratulation: they took an epic battle and turned it into a mismatch. Specifically, I'd like to call out:
Duncan Keith might be the Hawks' Conn Smythe Trophy favorite right now. His virtuoso performance in Game 6 turned the tide in this series. That play he made right before Marian Hossa scored is a perfect microcosm of his game: observe everything that is happening and make the best possible decision, even if it means passing up an opportunity that most players would have jumped all over.
Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook, and Johnny Oduya: Minutes, minutes, minutes. No championship-caliber team has leaned this heavily on so few defensemen since 2007. Keith is the standard-bearer of the group, but the other three deserve almost as much praise for playing as long and as well as they have.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane: Obviously.
Joel Quenneville: Turns out loading up the top line isn't such a bad idea after all. Toews, Kane, and that third guy were pretty darn good at the end of this series. Speaking of which:
I haven't played close enough attention to know if Brandon Saad has ever played better over the course of a series that he did in this one. Maybe he has, in which case he is an even more impressive player than I thought. Which is saying something.
Teuvo Teravainen: I don't think he'd go 18th again if the NHL re-did the 2012 entry draft.
Everyone who played in Game 2: That was one of the best hockey games I've ever seen. Maybe the best.
Stan Bowman: Quite simply the best GM in the game today. Did he give up too much for Antoine Vermette? Maybe, but I don't think anyone will care if they win another Cup. This summer is supposed to be a disaster for Bowman, but didn't they say the same thing in 2010?