Puck Daddy - NHL

Before their regular season home opener against the Nashville Predators last October, the Chicago Blackhawks walked the red carpet like Hollywood celebrities, prompting this very blog to comment:

[The red carpet treatment] would seem to be a showing of incredible hubris if not for the fact that most model/actresses have accomplished exactly what Rocky Wirtz's Blackhawks have, which is absolutely nothing.

After Monday's chaotic 7-5 victory to eliminate the Vancouver Canucks, the Blackhawks could walk a scarlet rug the length of the Magnificent Mile without a single critical sneer.

And with eight more victories, I'd happily stand at the end of it to kiss their rings in deference.

Maybe a team whose average age is under 25  -- when you don't factor in the goalies -- can be considered ahead of schedule as a final four participant in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But the Hawks are the embodiment of that youthful energy: Blazing faster, working harder and ignoring the shackles of playoff pressure in letting their natural gifts take over.

And when all else fails, cool Uncle Nikolai is back there between the pipes to bail the kids out of trouble.

Patrick Kane(notes) had a hat trick and Jonathan Toews(notes) had two goals and a helper in the Game 6 win, which pretty much says it all: Two players whose ages don't add up to one Claude Lemieux(notes), taking over in the most important win for the franchise in roughly 14 years. One with a baby face, the other with playoff sideburns that make him look vaguely like a Victorian-age vampire; both of them further destroying the notion of the sophomore jinx.

So as die-hard puckheads wait to see of we'll have the Scotty Bowman Invitational between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks in Round 3, we take a moment to remember the Vancouver Canucks. Or at least what they were before this game.

Because now the Vancouver media is already asking if the seven-goal elimination loss will affect Roberto Luongo's(notes) "aura, and the way his perceived around the league." And soon will come the questions about the dozen or so free agents on the roster, including four Swedes whose futures with the team are in question. (And two of the four who, let's face it, are getting a gift basket from Brian Burke as soon as it's within NHL regulations to send one.)

It was a hell of a ride for the 'Nucks, even if Canada's Cup drought rolls to 16 years.

For Chicago, the ride's just getting interesting. And no offense to the Ducks, but the Norris Division called ... and it wants to see Blackhawks/Wings.

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