With their backs up against the wall, in what was perhaps the only actually predictable thing about these NHL playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks forced a Game 7 against the Anaheim Ducks with their 5-2 win at the United Center. Now they'll get a chance to make up for a Game 7 loss last season against a California team, when they meet to decide the Western Conference Finals on Saturday night in Anaheim.
There's a lot to be excited about in relation to the win Wednesday. Despite playing a largely defensive game in the third period, which leads to the collective blood pressure of those in and around the city of Chicago shooting up through the roof, they played a sound game that allowed them to extend the series.
And, perhaps just as predictably as the Hawks taking that Game 6 win, Patrick Kane was right in the middle of it all.
Kane came into the Western Conference Final off a brilliant playoff series in which he scored in all four games against the Minnesota Wild, going for five goals total in the series, and six points overall. Two of those games featured game-winning goals against the Wild as his level of play was through the roof and something that the Wild simply could not contest with.
Against the Ducks, however, Kane hasn't had quite that level of domination going on, at least at a consistent basis. He went through the first two contests of the series without a goal before scoring in back-to-back tilts. Game 5 featured sound possession numbers, but on one of the Ducks' goals, Kane drew criticism for being in a different area code on the tally.
Obviously, the point here isn't to belittle Kane in any way. That's the inexplicable and essentially impossible job of opposing fans and writers. Because when Kane needed to step up in a big moment, he did it. With their backs up against the wall, Kane finished Wednesday night's win with a goal that went on to serve as the game-winner, and an assist.
The assist wasn't anything particularly flashy. Kane deflected the puck off a Duncan Keith pass just enough for Brandon Saad to run away with it and score on the breakaway. But it was his goal in the second period that demonstrated just how easy it is for Kane to take over a game.
After a series of brilliant plays by Keith (I'll talk more at length about him on Friday), the Blackhawks' defenseman was able to keep the puck in the zone and get it to Kane. Kane then took said puck and danced around playoff hero, and probable earner of the next Bryan Bickell contract, Matt Beleskey, leaving Beleskey's pads lying around all over the ice en route to scoring on Frederik Andersen.
It was a demonstration not only of Kane's pure ability and absurdly good hands, but a continued demonstration of the fact that he can take over a game at any moment. And, more often than not, that moment is going to be when the Hawks are in need of it. Up 2-0, they weren't in dire straits, but down 3-2 in the series, they needed their biggest names to step up.
With Kane's goal going down as the GWG in the fashion that it did, you can easily declare that they did.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.