|Blackhawks’ top line breaks down Bruins defense at crucial moments||06.25.13 at 2:18 am ET|
With less than two minutes remaining in Game 6 and the Bruins protecting a 2-1 lead, the time had come for both Boston and Chicago to do what they’d been known for this postseason: For the former, play airtight defense. For the latter, cut to the net and find a way to make something happen on offense.
In the end, it was the unstoppable force of Chicago’s scorers that budged the once-immovable Bruins defense, scoring a goal against each of the Bruins’ top two defensive pairs in the game’s final 90 seconds to secure the Stanley Cup victory.
Patrick Kane lifted the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP, earning it with nine goals and 10 assists (second only to David Krejci in points). But it was his whole line, with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell, that exploited the crack they saw in the B’s defensive zone coverage as regulation slipped away.
After Kane took a shot from the left faceoff dot, Toews grabbed the puck when it came out of a scrum low in the Bruins’ zone and found Bickell in front of the net. Zdeno Chara was between Toews and Bickell, but couldn’t react fast enough to pick off the pass or tie up Bickell. He was still turning to face Bickell as the winger fired over Tuukka Rask to tie the game with 1:16 remaining.
Much was made of Toews’ low point totals throughout the playoffs, but his puck possession numbers in the postseason were impressive. His on-ice Corsi number, which measures the number of shots the Hawks generated compared to their opponents when he was on the ice, was 28.15 per 60 minutes, best in the playoffs, entering Game 6.
Whenever Joel Quenneville played Toews with Kane and Bickell — in Detroit and Los Angeles, as well as in Boston — the results came for the line, if not always for the captain. In the Finals, once the line was reunited in Game 4, it combined for six goals in three games.
“He had a monster game,” Quenneville said of Toews, whose health had been in question after Game 5. “He was fine. He looked ready to go at the end of the last game, and I thought he looked very good yesterday and was ready to go last night and today. The bigger the game, the bigger the setting, you know what you’re going to get from Jonathan Toews. He just knows how to play hockey. Whether he’s productive or not, absorbs a lot of big minutes from their match-up guys and he never gets outscored. His production sometimes gets criticized. The one thing is he plays the way you want a hockey player to play, and our captain, as well.”
|Is this series headed for seven?||06.22.13 at 3:15 pm ET|
CHICAGO — As the teams approach Game 5, it’s hard not to think about Game 7.
The most lopsided game in the series was Game 3, when the Bruins picked up a 2-0 win. Every other game has been decided in overtime, and with how close this series has been, Bryan Bickell admits the mindset has to be that the Stanley Cup finals will go the distance.
“Yeah,” the Blackhawks left wing said. “With three games [going to] OT and both of the games that we won [coming] in overtime, I can’t say it’s not going to be OT tonight. You never know. This is a tough, grueling series. Both teams are battling for the same goal and there’s a lot of passion out there. There’s a lot of grueling battles in front or goalies doing whatever it takes. It’s fun and it’s a great time to be part of this.”
Rich Peverley and Dennis Seidenberg say they aren’t taking that mindset, as neither claim to be in the business of either predicting the future or looking past each individual game. They just want to take Game 5 and go from there.
It will be interesting to see what the fifth game as the series holds, as Game 4 was certainly a departure from the tight-checking play that was seen in the first three games. Neither team want to see a game like Game 4, as both teams swapped chances up and down the ice. One would think that the Blackhawks would prefer that type of game given that their speed would be a bigger advantage, but with how much the Bruins exposed Corey Crawford in Game 4, they actually should be worried about getting themselves into a track meet.
There’s no telling whether the series will revert back to its old self or remain high-scoring, but Claude Julien expects one thing to stay the same: the close score.
“I expect a real good game,” Julien said. “[The series is] obviously 2-2. Do we know how it’s going to go? I don’t think either coach could have told you before last game it was going to be a high scoring game. I think we were surprised.
“Will that continue? I really don’t know. Again, it’s how well the teams play, how good the goaltenders are, and everything else. It depends on a lot of things. Is it going to be penalty filled, it is going to be five-on-five? I think it’s really hard to predict this time of year. The only thing I’m capable of saying here is based on the first four games, they’re all tight and they’re all close and they’re all exciting.”