|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.”
|All eyes on the ice (conditions) for Game 6||06.24.13 at 2:39 pm ET|
High humidity and temperatures in the 90s outside for a second straight day are hardly the ideal conditions for good ice for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.
But that’s what both the Bruins and Blackhawks will be dealing with Monday night in front of a loud and fired-up Garden crowd, whose energy will only add to the heat.
“Well, obviously with some fans in the building tonight, it’ll get obviously warmer,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I thought the ice this morning was in pretty good shape, and they’ve done a good job. Walking in here yesterday with 90-plus degrees it was nice and cool in the arena.
“But those doors are going to open I would imagine and some of the heat will come in. But those are conditions that you have to play with at this time of year. Everybody has been through it, and two teams are going through the same conditions. Both teams are going to tell you the same truth; keep the game simple and try and avoid those mistakes from overhandling pucks in those kind of ice conditions.”
Chris Kelly, who was outspoken about the patchy ice conditions after the Bruins won Game 3, provided the best perspective.
“It’s June, late June,” he said. “You expect it. I think even up in Canada it’d still be warm. If the ice is going to be bad, it’s going to be bad for both sides. You expect that. I think the pretty plays might not always be there because of the ice conditions.”
What’s the most important thing the Bruins can do tonight to handle the ice and the Blackhawks?
“I think managing the puck, putting it in a better situation so we can get it,” Kelly said. “Just making better plays. I think our puck management can still be a bit better.”
Sometimes the greatest motivation can be one of fear.
In this case, the Bruins want to avoid the indignity of having a visiting team skate around on Garden ice holding Lord Stanley above their collective heads.
Faced with an identical scenario two years ago on a Monday night, the Bruins came out and throttled Roberto Luongo and the Canucks, 5-2, forcing a Game 7 back in Vancouver two nights later. It’s a scenario Tyler Seguin recalled Monday morning in the Bruins morning skate at TD Garden.
“Obviously, it’s do or die,” Seguin said. “We’ve been here before. We’re excited to play here on our home ice and make sure the Cup isn’t seen out there.”
Ironically, the Blackhawks were in this similar situation three years ago in Philadelphia, needing only to win Game 6 on Flyers’ home ice to clinch the Stanley Cup title. Patrick Kane scored the most bizarre Cup-clinching goal in history, beating Michael Leighton on a goal down the left wing that no one in the crowd saw go in the goal just over five minutes into overtime.
The Bruins and Blackhawks have both proven over the years they can handle the pressure. Who prevails in Game 6 this time?
“I think a night like tonight, you just really want to be focusing on playing on your toes and not sitting back,” Seguin said. “Any nerves, you're using that as energy. We're in our own barn here and playing for a lot more than ourselves and our teammates, so we definitely want to come out strong.
“Every game has been close. I think we said from the beginning of the series that it was going to be a long one. Here we are in Game 6 and we're on the end of the stick that we didn't want to be on. Hopefully, we'll climb our way out of here and get a win tonight.”
“We have so many guys in this locker room that have been here before and in this situation, and for us it's just all about mentality and making sure that we're ready to go,” added rookie Torey Krug. “I think we got the kinks out of our game this morning. We've watched video. We understand what we're going to get out of Chicago, and now it's just about taking care of ourselves.”
Seguin is one of those who need to step up their game offensively in Game 6. He joins a list of others, including Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic who are desperate to rediscover their scoring touch in time for the Bruins to keep the series alive.
“I think I've been trying to shoot a bit smarter as of late,” Seguin said. “Not too many pointless shots. Tonight, I'm going to go out there and just try a little different tape job and go back to some junior roots and see if we can spark something there. But again, I just want to keep shooting, keep creating opportunities, and I think our lines has still done a decent job.
“You got to find the spots and eventually you're going to get one nice, little break. Whether it's a puck popping right to you in the slot or going backdoor and just being in the right spot. I think for me, when it's coming out of the corners, I have to make sure I'm getting to the net and making sure I have my stick down and try to bump one of those in.
|Claude Julien has ‘hope’ Brad Marchand will find his hot streak in time for Game 6||06.23.13 at 8:21 pm ET|
Brad Marchand has been streaky throughout his NHL career.
Never has been more evident than in these playoffs.
Marchand had three assists in the first round series against Toronto. Then he warmed up with a goal and an assist in each of the first two games against the Rangers. Marchand went on to score a pair of goals in Game 2 against Pittsburgh and an assist in each of the last two games.
Those were the last points of the playoffs for Marchand. Claude Julien said Sunday he’s not worried.
“Well, if he’s going to be a streaky player I would hope that streak starts [Monday],” Julien said. “I don’t think he’s played terrible, but certainly he knows he can play better. But a lot of our guys do, too. We all need to be better in order to get ourselves back into this series here. We feel confident that we can. You go through bumps along the way, and you fight through it. Just have to look at the other team. They have guys that haven’t produced and they started producing. If we can do the same thing, then we’re going to get ourselves back into it.”
“I mean it's tough,” Marchand said. “They are very good defensively. They've got a lot of speed and they come back very hard. They don't give up many odd man rushes. Everything you get is kind of from down low so we've got to make sure we play that way. Play down low and try to get to the net.”
The media from Canada and across the states asked Marchand Sunday if some of his recent struggles have to do with his size – or lack of it – at 5-foot-9.
‘I mean when you are down low you just have to use your assets,” he said with a good-natured smile. “A lot of guys like Looch [Milan Lucic] and Horty [Nathan Horton] they're big and strong and try to hold guys off. Guys like me, we just try to use our speed and agility down there and try to create a little bit of room for yourself.
The hit on Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews from Johnny Boychuk in the second period was substantial enough that it knocked his head to the ice and knocked him out of action for the third period of Saturday’s 3-1 Chicago win that puts the Blackhawks one win from the Stanley Cup.
It was so hard that it put Toews’ availability in question for Monday’s Game 6 immediately after the Chicago win.
But – as was the case with Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins – there was encouraging news Sunday from the Blackhawks camp that Toews will indeed be able to play Monday night.
“Johnny is doing much better today,” Quenneville said at TD Garden as the Blackhawks arrived back in Boston. “He’s progressed. We’re optimistic that he might be playing [Monday] night.
Bruins coach Claude Julien made it clear that he felt the league got it right by not deciding to discipline Boychuk for the hit. Quenneville, while supporting his player, understood the leniency shown by the league.
“There wasn’t a penalty on the play, and it was one of those hits in a tight area in front of the net,” Quenneville said. “You can be vulnerable in that area, a big hit. The first part of contact you could talk about, but I’m not going to go there.”
Toews scored his first goal of the series in Game 4, a tally that seemed to spark him as he was re-united with Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell on Chicago’s top line. Saturday night, he assisted on both of Patrick Kane‘s goals before coming out of the game after the second-period hit form Boychuk.
Toews has two goals and 10 assists in the playoffs so far for Chicago.
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Claude Julien insisted Sunday afternoon upon his return to TD Garden for media availability that he is being as forthcoming as possible when it comes to the undisclosed injury of Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins center reportedly injured his spleen in the first period of the 3-1 Game 5 loss in Chicago Saturday night.
“He’s day-to-day,” Julien began his press conference. “Isn’t that good enough? Day-to-day. [It's] a body injury.”
But Julien did show a sense of humor. Julien reported that he heard that Brad Marchand was asked about the way Bergeron looked on the plane ride home from Chicago Sunday morning.
“Was that you that asked Marchy that question?” Julien inquired.
Then Julien informed the media that he had a funny conversation with Marchand about Bergeron.
“[Marchand] said [Bergeron] looks dashing in his suit,” Julien said before getting serious again. “Guys, day-to-day is really good news to me, anyways, should be to you guys.”
Julien made one more reference to Bergeron when asked if Bergeron’s availability would factor into continued playing time for Carl Soderberg on the second line with Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr.
“What does day-to-day mean? I don’t know if he’ll skate [Monday morning],” Julien said of Bergeron. “He may, and that’s what day-to-day is. I’m trying to be as clear as I can here. At the same time, I like Soderberg’s game. Anybody who knows that this guy hadn’t played in two months and played the way he did should be impressed. I know I was. He had good jump. He had no fear.”
Julien said he may have to look for ways to shuffle his lines if Bergeron is not ready to play Monday night in Game 6.
Julien also said he fully agreed with the league’s decision not to discipline Johnny Boychuk for a hit in the second period on Blackhawks captain Jonthan Toews. Toews remained on the Chicago bench but did not play at all in the third period.
Nathan Horton was sporting five stitches above his left eye after taking a hit to the face shortly after Chicago’s first goal in the first period Saturday. Horton said he’ll be suited up and ready for Game 6.
CHICAGO — Patrice Bergeron left Saturday night’s Game 5 in Chicago with a spleen injury, according to a report from Sportnet’s Nick Kypreos. Bergeron suffered a hit during a 4-on-4 late in the first period, played two shifts and did not return. He was spotted leaving the United Center in an ambulance, sitting up and conscious. Kypreos said a source indicated to him that Bergeron was dealing with a possible spleen injury.
A source told me #Bruins Bergeron may have suffered a spleen injury. Team reported he was taken by ambulance for observation at nearby hosp
— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) June 23, 2013
Bergeron leads the Bruins with four goals in the Stanley Cup finals series and has nine goals and six assists in 21 games in the playoffs.
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