The Day After: The Heartbreaker in Dallas


Round 2. Game 7, third period. Score tied 3-3 against the juggernaut defending Stanley Cup champions. A position any team in the EHE would take in a heartbeat.

And in the next heartbeat, it was gone.

Cam Atkinson put the game-winning Hawk-killing goal past Darcy Kuemper, and the Dallas Stars survived to win a 4-3 game and take the Western Conference Semifinals in seven games.

The magic just ran out.

After the surprise defeat of regular-season powerhouse Colorado in Round 1, few gave Chicago much of a chance against the fellow regular-season powerhouse Stars, who won their second straight President's Trophy. After all, Chicago folded to basically this same team last year, swept out of the first round in four games - and was a team that didn't belong on the same ice.

These playoffs were different. Chicago marched out to a surprising 2-0 series lead. With Games 3 and 4 on United Center ice, the feelings were palpable. Was this a mirage? Could this really be happening?

Inevitably, Dallas didn't roll over. They're simply too talented. Dallas took Games 3 and 4, and then Game 5 for good measure. Chicago was back home, facing an elimination game. Most thought the fairy tale was over right then and there.

Except the Blackhawks crushed the Stars. It wasn't even close. A 7-3 victory sent the packed home crowd back to their dwellings happy and thinking it might just be possible to slay another unbeatable beast.

3-3 tie. Third period. Cam Atkinson.

It just wasn't meant to be. Season over.

The can wait, if it will ever come. The future is quite uncertain. Rumblings of management changes will now re-emerge - the precipitous gaffe from GM Thomas Gidlow way back at the start of the Colorado series seems like a distant memory but will gain new focus again.

Franchise rocks in Zach Parise and Jack Johnson, and relative newcomers in Alex Martinez and Nick Foligno, all are headed to unrestricted free agency. Reilly Smith, Nick Bonino, Logan Couture, and David Savard will be UFA's in 2022.

Is there another run in this version of the Chicago Blackhawks? Who will be at the helm?

Time, as always, will tell.

What a run, though.

(Congrats Bacon...take it to the house 2x style)