CHICAGO | It was 39 years ago, before Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, that Philadelphia coach Fred Shero scribbled this on the blackboard in the Flyers’ locker room:
“Win today, and we walk together forever.”
The Flyers won that game 1-0, cementing a bond for everyone on that team.
The Blackhawks, for the second time in four seasons, have the same opportunity tonight in Boston. Once again, it’s Game 6 of the Final, as it was for that Flyers’ team, as it was for the Hawks in Philadelphia four years ago, when Patrick Kane’s sudden-death overtime goal brought the Cup into Chicago hands for the first time in 49 years.
If the Bruins win tonight in the TD Garden, everyone flies back to Chicago for a Game 7 showdown Wednesday at the United Center.
If the Hawks win, there’s a parade in the Loop in a few days.
Each team has been worn down by the grinding nature of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In Saturday night’s 3-1 win over the Bruins, the Hawks lost ace center Jonathan Toews to what the team called an upper-body injury. Toews watched from the bench in the third period but didn’t play, feeling the effects of a thunderous hit by Boston’s Johnny Boychuk in the late stages of the second period.
He appeared to favor his left shoulder as he skated back to the bench. He was chatting with family in the bowels of the United Center after the game, so a concussion can be ruled out.
Toews was more fortunate than Boston center Patrice Bergeron. He went to the hospital with a possible injury to his spleen — walking to the ambulance without assistance — after playing two shifts in the second period. Released Sunday morning, he flew back to Boston on the team charter, but his status for tonight’s game is questionable.
“He’s day-to-day,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said Sunday. “Day-to-day is really good news to me, anyways.”
If Bergeron can’t play, the Bruins will be without their center.
The same is true of the Hawks and Toews.
“We’re in a situation where we’re this close,” Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said. “It’s the reason we’ve had success all season. We can’t dwell on the fact that we have one of our players missing.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville pronounced himself “optimistic” Toews might play Game 6. Quenneville doesn’t expect it to be difficult to keep his players focused.
“We've got some guys that have been there,” Quenneville said. “They know the experience. They know the thinking going into a day like today and going into (game) day, as well. There's some guys that they're so excited. You dream about this moment, but at the same time we've got to keep everything in perspective.
“We want to make sure that we're confident playing the game and putting yourself in the now position as opposed to ahead of yourself.”
A few words from Quenneville during the Western Conference Final against Los Angeles helped rouse Kane from a slumber. Including his hat trick against the Kings in the clincher, he has seven goals in the last seven games.
“That's the type of player he is,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “When it comes down to the wire and tight games, big games, that's when he wants the puck. That's when he wants to score the goals, the big goals. It's huge to have those kind of players in your team when you go far in the playoffs. It's not a coincidence that he has a lot of big goals so far in his career.”
When Kane’s seeing-eye goal clinched the Cup for the Hawks three years ago, only he knew it at first. The delayed-reaction celebration was one of the oddest in the 120-year history of the Stanley Cup.
Tonight, the Hawks who were on that team have a chance at a second take, and a second taste of hockey immortality, just three years after their first.