CHICAGO – Who’s next?
Bring on San Jose. A bunch of hungry Sharks don’t scare me (they do).
Or bring on the Red Wings. I’d love to take some late-night strolls through Detroit (I wouldn’t).
Regardless of the next opponent, I have a feeling that the Blackhawks will be ready (I really mean it this time!).
The Hawks’ series-clinching 5-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday wasn’t so much a hockey game as it was a two-and-a-half-hour party attended by 21,597 red-clad lunatics. By winning the Western Conference quarterfinals series in five games, the Hawks earned a couple of extra days’ rest while waiting to learn whether they will play No. 6 seed San Jose or No. 7 seed Detroit.
Every good party needs a DJ and some big speakers. The Hawks came through on both counts, blasting everything from Led Zeppelin (dad approved) to the Imagine Dragons (cool kid approved).
And what’s a party without couples new and old? Look up, lovebirds. You’re on the Kiss Cam.
Was alcohol available to the partygoers? Please. These are hockey fans. It’s only a matter of time before the game takes place on a surface of frozen beer.
Oh, and parties need dancing, of course. The Hawks provided good reason to do so with five goals – two by Marian Hossa and one apiece by Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Patrick Sharp – which prompted the familiar dah-dah-dahs of “Chelsea Dagger,” which prompted lots of people to move in funny ways.
Of the goals, Hossa’s were my favorite. He took a pass from Jonathan Toews and snapped a shot from the left circle past the glove side of Wild goaltender Josh Harding in the first period, and then he went to his backhand to sweep in a rebound off of a shot by Brandon Saad in the second period.
In between, Kruger knocked in a wraparound shot off of Harding for his first playoff goal.
As everyone in the building danced and sang and waved red rally towels in happy harmony, Harding stood there like an outcast. He seemed to be in desperate need of a friend.
For a split second, I felt bad for him. But then again, what kind of guy wears a mask to a party?
Well, Corey Crawford does, but that’s different. His mask is cool.
Crawford stopped 21 of 22 shots, including several terrific saves in the first several minutes of the game, to win his first playoff series after back-to-back early exits in 2011 and 2012. He’s the equivalent of an NHL upperclassman now, and his popularity reached an all-time high as thousands of people chanted “Cor-ey! Cor-ey! Cor-ey!” at the top of their lungs to show their appreciation.
What, you thought they would chant “Toga!” instead?
Anyway, Harding – you know, the guy in the really lame mask – looked like a big loser after giving up two goals to Hossa and one to Kruger. So he left the party by himself while everyone watched, and some Canadian-German guy named Darcy Kuemper wandered in a few seconds later.
Kuemper probably should have stayed home and watched a movie or something.
Instead, he watched Shaw blast in his first goal of the playoffs from the right side of the net. Shaw lifted his arms and lost his mind, which is really saying something for Shaw, while Kuemper stood there and suddenly understood how utterly alone Harding must have felt trice before.
By the time Sharp punched in his fifth goal in five games to increase the Hawks’ lead to 5-1, nobody was paying attention to Kuemper. He was just another soon-to-be golfer in a goofy white sweater.
Soon enough, the final horn sounded, and the Hawks gathered at center ice to salute the crowd. Everyone stood and clapped and danced through one final song together.
Man, what a party.
Let's do it again next week.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.