By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Like a bell, it rang.
It was the repeated audible failure that foreshadowed the doom of the Ducks as they shot and shot in vain during three overtimes against the Chicago Blackhawks on a Tuesday night that bled into Wednesday morning around these parts. Unfortunately for them, the Ducks knew not at the time for whom that bell was ringing.
A significant number of stops were made during those extra hockey sessions, and credit is due to the responsible party, one that for almost as long as the Blackhawks have been a return-to-force in the NHL hasn’t received the proper respect for contributions made.
So here’s a big shout-out to the posts and crossbar for all that crucial work in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final that helped make it the longest playoff game in Blackhawks history and an eventual 3-2 win. Three times during extra skating, the Ducks fired shots that were so very close to ending the game. Yet each time, they drew iron instead.
Chicago goalie Corey Crawford stopped a career-high 60 shots. He also let up two goals.
“But no man is an island entire of itself,” wrote poet John Donne. “Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
To heap praise upon one man like Crawford who wasn’t perfect in Game 2 runs the risk of adding hubris to that already delicate mind of his.
Anyway, it was no man who played the part of the real hero. It took three herculean efforts by the posts and crossbar to ensure Game 3 in Chicago didn’t have the dreaded “must-win” pall cast over the United Center. Over and over and over the ping of the goal that cloaked Crawford like a child’s favorite blanky on a chilly spring night tolled for the Ducks, who knew not they were up against more than man alone.
Following the win, Crawford was presented with the championship belt that teammates give to each game’s MVP. The goalie, not one to draw attention to himself (which has to raise questions about his leadership), pushed the belt onto Marcus Kruger, who had scored the winning goal. The silence from the goalposts after being passed by for the award rang as clear as a not-quite-true Corey Perry slapper.
“(Crawford) stood on his head,” Andrew Shaw said about all the twisting and gyrating that needed doing.
But the goalposts stood tall. They didn’t need to flop like a fish to stop shots. Courage is stiff and unwavering.
“I thought he battled,” Quenneville said of his goalie.
“Battled” is a word used for athletes who have to find ways to win beyond any natural gifts, who have to scramble and hope for luck to prevail over talent.
“He was outstanding,” Quenneville said of Crawford. “A couple huge, gigantic saves.”
Just “a couple,” though. The frame of the goal that had Crawford’s back had more huge, gigantic saves than “a couple.”
It was clear the metal framework had built scaffolding around the brains of Ducks players after the game.
“There were a few posts, a few crossbars,” Perry said. “You get right back at it, put it behind you and get ready for the next one.”
Posts. Crossbars. That’s what gets a mention from the opponent after an epic contest. It’s as though an iron virus has infected the psyche of the opponent.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow right now,” said Anaheim’s Andrew Cogliano, who had one of the two shots Crawford succumbed to for goals. “But you’ve just got to get over it. We’ve got to recover.”
It’s an even harder pill to swallow knowing that the metal framework behind Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen couldn’t augment his 53 saves in Game 2 the way the sturdy, blue-collar Chicago steel did on the other end.
The Ducks might be able to melt the will of Crawford and use it to water the arid hellscape of California. But try as they might, the icy reserve of the posts and crossbar stares them down at a temperature beyond the Ducks’ comprehension.
And when the Anaheim Ducks land in Chicago, attempting to run far away from the bell of puck-on-bar ringing over and over in their heads, they will soon see there’s no escape.
Three bars staring beyond their collective souls. The metallic pinging ringing like a bell louder than any packed stadium’s din.
For as Donne once wrote, presumably about hockey, “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.