The Chicago Blackhawks just won a playoff series in which they often benched talented players, made multiple goaltender changes and were ultimately outscored. If you combed minute-to-minute over the six games against the Nashville Predators and completely ignored the results, you'd be reasonable in believing the other team won.
This wasn't the Blackhawks' best series, or even a particularly good one. It was a winning series, though, because one constant over the past few years continues to ring true. Chicago, for all its warts on the ice and on the bench, is talented enough to overcome most hurdles.
Four different players scored goals for the Blackhawks in Game 6, and it's fair to consider each of those players an All-Star. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith are some of the best in the world, and they put it on full display when it mattered.
Most teams wouldn't have been able to weather what's plagued this team not just in the series, but all season. The lineups still haven't really been settled after nearly 90 games, and off-ice issues never got in the way even when they started popping up in the headlines. This hasn't been seven months of flowers and rainbows. Yet the Blackhawks keep punching with their backs against the ropes, and few teams look as dangerous when they're desperate.
The Blackhawks finally found that urgency in the late stages Saturday night, and the result was an onslaught the Predators couldn't fight off. Before Keith scored the game-winning goal, there were several wild skirmishes around the net as Nashville frantically tried to clear the puck, but the Hawks kept swarming and connecting with passes. Eventually, Keith got his opening, and like we've seen countless times before, he didn't miss.
One of those previous times came just days ago, when the Blackhawks rallied from a 3-0 deficit in Game 1. That was the first of several impressive runs from the team, and it was concluded by Keith slapping in an overtime game-winner. The team would get run over in the next game, 6-2, but respond with back-to-back wins to put the series on the brink.
That's because the team's best players kept stepping up over and over, even though the power play couldn't do anything and the defense occasionally left the goalie hanging. Toews finished the series with eight points in six games. Keith, Kane and Sharp each finished with seven points. Everyone is playing huge minutes.
Now Chicago is headed for a second-round matchup against the Minnesota Wild or St. Louis Blues, and there's no shortage of issues to consider. Who will be the goaltender, Corey Crawford or Scott Darling? Will Teuvo Teravainen really spend the rest of the spring in the press box? Can the team win with four good defensemen?
And yet, even while acknowledging the various things that could hold the Blackhawks back, the team's best players are so freaking good. Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith and others have shown that they're talented enough to overcome some head-scratching lineup decisions and sketchy blue line depth. That was proven again in Game 6 as the team completed another come-from-behind victory, the likes of which we've become accustomed to seeing over the past few years.
The Blackhawks may not make it easy on themselves or us, but damn it, they keep winning. In a bracket full of flawed teams, I wouldn't dismiss one with stars like Chicago's. If this is the final run for this core as currently constructed, they're doing their best to go out in style.