CHICAGO – Everyone who had gathered around Brent Seabrook nodded in agreement.
Seven hours remained until the puck dropped on a winner-take-all Game 7 between the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, and Seabrook was holding court with a few reporters. Usually, he said, games of this magnitude came down to goals of the unsightly variety.
“It’s probably going to be an ugly goal that wins it tonight,” Seabrook said.
Uh, yeah, no.
That game-winning goal in overtime was beautiful, Brent.
Can I call you Brent?
I don’t care. I’m calling you Brent.
And I’m calling the Hawks the on-again Stanley Cup favorites after Wednesday’s wild 2-1 win against the Red Wings to advance to the Western Conference finals.
Bring on the defending champion Los Angeles Kings. Bring on back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday at the United Center to start the series. And bring on a chair and a glass of water, because I might need to take a minute to regain my bearings after stressing through more than 63 minutes of “Tension On Ice.”
Somehow, the Hawks regrouped from the worst possible call at the worst possible moment.
Somehow, Seabrook carried the puck across the blue line and saw an opening for a wrist shot from 32 feet.
Somehow, this crazy season feels as if it’s just getting started.
Everything could have collapsed on the Hawks after referee Stephen Walkom ruled he had blown his whistle to stop play a moment before Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson blasted a slap shot past Wings’ goaltender Jimmy Howard with 1:49 remaining in regulation. The ruling infuriated a sellout crowd of 22,103 fans, not to mention 20 players in Hawks sweaters who thought that they had seized a 2-1 lead.
But in the Hawks’ locker room, captain Jonathan Toews had a message for his teammates before overtime.
“Tazer said, ‘Stick with it. It’s our time,’ ” goaltender Corey Crawford said.
Well, Toews said that and more. He was angry about Hjalmarsson’s nongoal and told his teammates to add to a Hawks lead he thought rightfully existed.
“I said, ‘We’ll beat them, 3-1,” Toews said with a grin. “ ‘Hammer’ was the unsung hero. He scored a big goal. We were obviously pretty [ticked off] that the whistle blew right before that one went in, but we weren’t going to go away that way.”
Not this team.
Perhaps nobody needed the intermission more than Hjalmarsson, who used the break to catch his breath and corral his emotions after Walkom waved off his goal.
“I almost threw my stick up in the crowd,” said Hjalmarsson, a typically mild-mannered Swede. “I got pretty mad. … Kind of a roller-coaster there.”
For what it’s worth, teammates enjoyed the show.
“It was actually pretty funny seeing [Hjalmarsson] hopping around like that,” center Dave Bolland said with his trademark Wry Canada grin. “When we came in the room, we were calm. We were confident that when we went out there for OT that we were going to come through.
“We’ve got a confident team. With the depth that we have, we can do damage out there.”
Damage despite a 3-1 series deficit. Damage despite a hot-and-very-cold power play. Damage despite a determined opponent, a horribly timed call and its possible big-picture consequences.
The Hawks stuck with it.
It’s their time.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.