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Columnist
For Hawks on this night, offense the best defense
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 5/12/2009 6:34 AM

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It wasn't pretty.

But it did have a good personality and was extremely entertaining.

"Ugly," said captain Jonathan Toews. "Not what you'd expect in a game like this. It felt like a Game 7. I think both teams played like it was Game 7."

Getting into a track meet was about the last thing in the world Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wanted to see, but in this case he'll settle for the result, which is a heart-thumping, series victory over Vancouver.

Welcome to roller-coaster playoff hockey, Blackhawks style.

"We didn't play the defensive game we wanted to play," Toews said. "This game is what it is. Ugly. But it worked out for us."

Both goalies were terrible and both defenses nonexistent as the two teams traded goals in one of the wildest third periods of playoff hockey you can ever hope to see.

And when all was said and done, done was Vancouver. When the dirt was thrown on top and the departed wished well, the Hawks had somehow finished off the Canucks with an improbable 7-5 win in Game 6 at the UC Monday night.

"It's hard on the system," chuckled Quenneville, of seeing the Hawks blow a 3-1 lead, and then having to tie the score twice in the third period before finally winning it. "It's fun for everyone at the end, but going through it you have some interesting thoughts in your mind."

Like, for example, what happened to the defense the Hawks played the last two games, when they only allowed 3 goals total?

"We had a lot of solid games in this series, but this wasn't one of them," said a smiling Toews, who had 2 goals, including the game-winner amid a 6-goal, third-period outburst by both clubs. "We did some good things in this series where we checked well and were responsible. We had some games where we kept their best players away from the net. Tonight we didn't, but we'll regroup."

The Hawks' stellar back-line play suddenly turned to defensive indifference Monday night, but the Canucks had no answer for Toews (3 points) and Patrick Kane (hat trick).

"The crowd has been behind us all season. They came prepared tonight, and so did we!" Kane yelled over a memorable roar. "We're going to give you a show in the next round!"

The "Detroit (bleeps)" chant with 2:50 remaining, after Kane had made it 7-5 with his third goal, pretty much said it all for the Canucks.

When it was over, Hawks fans got to see their club shake hands with an opposing team at home after a winning playoff series for the first time since the Hawks defeated Toronto in 1995.

That's also the last time they reached the conference finals, and now even those who jumped overboard when the Hawks struggled in March are searching for a spot on a very crowded bandwagon.

"We got ourselves in a tough situation and it was a test of our character," Toews said. "We'll need to be better. We know that."

The club returned to a run-and-gun style Monday, but the Hawks proved in this series that when they want to - the key is when they want to - the Hawks can play some defense, and they'll need to against Detroit.

"We all welcome excitement in our game, and our team plays an exciting, fast-paced game," Quenneville said. "But there's a fine line there. We're better when we want to check, and tonight might not be that game we want to play.

"But we kept making plays and scoring. Enjoy it tonight, but we can't rely on that kind of thing and think you're gonna get through it."

Quenneville pointed to his gray hair as evidence that the third period was rough on him and concluded, "There's a lot of work to be done."

But not today. Today is to enjoy.

And rest.

brozner@dailyherald.com