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Hawks, Blues deserve to keep playing

Published: Saturday, April 26, 2014 12:22 a.m. CDT
Caption
The Blackhawks' Marian Hossa scores past St. Louis Blues goalie Ryan Miller during the first period in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series Friday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS – It’s really a shame.

The series is going to end soon. Too soon.

It’s a best-of-seven series, after all, which leaves only two options after the Blackhawks’ thrilling 3-2 overtime win Friday against the St. Louis Blues. With the win, the Hawks seized a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

Option No. 1: The Hawks win Game 6 on Sunday at the United Center, and the series is over.

Option No. 2: The Blues win Game 6 on Sunday, and the series ends Tuesday in a winner-take-all Game 7 at the Scottrade Center.

Either way, in less than 72 hours, the Blackhawks and Blues will shake hands and head their separate ways. One side will go home to ponder what could have been. The other side, strengthened by the win, will keep pushing toward the Stanley Cup.

If it were up to me, I’d have the Hawks and Blues keep playing forever.

Well, maybe not forever. That’s a long time to spend on hockey skates, and besides, the winner deserves a chance to take a shot at winning the Cup one of these months.

I’d have them play for a really long time, though. I know that for certain.

How about a best of 11? A best of 17? A best of 21?

The exact number is negotiable, as long as it’s uneven and it’s more than seven. Because, holy hockey sticks, what a series this has been.

The latest highlight came in overtime as Jonathan Toews streaked down the ice on a breakaway and buried a backhanded shot past Blues goaltender Ryan Miller. Toews, a world-class player with two Stanley Cup rings and two Olympic gold medals, was mobbed by his teammates on the side of the rink.

The mob included Duncan Keith, who had turned and whacked at the puck moments earlier. Somehow, the puck ended up right on Toews’ stick for a speedy breakaway.

Was the pass a matter of blind luck? Or was Keith really that good to know without looking that Toews would be there?

“I’m not going to give myself that much credit,” Keith said. “Maybe some guys would. But I just tried to get that [puck] out of the zone, tried to clear it and get it out. Lucky break by us.”

Toews laughed when he heard about Keith’s modest public explanation.

Not so fast, Toews said. Keith had claimed credit for knowing Toews would be there.

“He said he did. … He told me on the ice,” Toews said with a game-winning smile. “So, we’ll go with that. We’ll stick with that one.”

Can we stick with more of this series? Already, four of the first five games have gone to at least one overtime. Each game has included more ups and downs than a trampoline-jumping convention.

Hawks forward Andrew Shaw listened to the best-of-21 proposal. It’s important to note that while Shaw didn’t say yes, he also didn’t say no.

“I don’t know how the bodies would hold up in a best of 21,” Shaw said with a smile. “But I know the guys are excited. These are the series we live for.”

They’re living, all right.

We’re all living. Our hearts might be damaged and racing, but they’re still beating.

“It’s two close teams,” Keith said. “You’ve got to give the Blues a lot of credit. I think this could go either way. All of the games, both teams have had chances.”

After the game, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock credited the Hawks for their poise. Hitchcock said his players needed to do everything in their power to force a Game 7.

“I don’t see anything changing,” Hitchcock said. “I don’t see them giving us an inch. I don’t see us giving them an inch. I don’t see anything changing.”

Except for the days on the calendar and, very soon, the opponent on the schedule.

It’s really a shame.

• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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