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Oliver: Hockey fan not ready to ice season

Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 10:47 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 10:48 p.m. CDT

Thisclose.

That’s how close the Chicago Blackhawks were to reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

For me at least, the stinging in my heart hasn’t quite subsided, made all that much worse by watching the series go on between the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers.

So please forgive me for writing about my favorite hockey team one more time this season.

Sure, I could have stopped watching, commencing that long wait between the end of the Blackhawks season and when the Bears start playing. But as a hockey fan, I find it hard to bail out on a season before the end, however bitter.

When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, it was hard to watch them be eliminated the following year in the first round of the playoffs by their then-archrivals – the Vancouver Canucks – in seven games.

But it really wasn’t that surprising, given that the team had been gutted to deal with the league’s salary cap.

This year was different.

The core of the team that won the Cup last year was still in place, and for the most part the key players stayed healthy. Healthier than they were when they bested the Boston Bruins.

This year, the Blackhawks weren’t as dominant in the Western Conference, although they did knock off the St. Louis Blues, a higher seed in their division, in the first round.

Then they blew a 2-0 lead in the series against the Minnesota Wild in the second round before finding themselves and winning in six games.

The matchup against the Kings was a good one, and it made for some exciting hockey. Here were two fast, skilled hockey teams meeting for a rematch in the Western Conference Finals.

The Blackhawks’ having to dig out of a 3-1 series hole did fray fans’ nerves, particularly this one’s. It brought back flashbacks of that horrible series against the Detroit Red Wings last year.

As improbable as the national hockey commentators would have us all believe, the Blackhawks did manage to find a way to even the series with the Kings at 3-3, forcing a Game 7.

If your team gets behind in a best-of-7 series, you hope for that. I suppose if your team has to lose a Game 7, you want it to go to overtime, as well.

Last year, the Blackhawks hadn’t needed a Game 7 against the Kings. They took out the then-defending Stanley Cup champions in five games.

This year, the decisive goal came down to one bad bounce in overtime in Game 7.

The Blackhawks’ season was over in the blink of an eye. It happened so fast that there was no time to process it.

One bad bounce away from the Final.

“That’s hockey, baby,” as winger Patrick Kane has been known to say.

It’s also stunning and sad, particularly for a team that clearly was among the best in the league.

Eventually the sting of the loss will subside. It was a great run, albeit over too soon.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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