|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.”
|Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane bury pucks at last as Hawks score six||06.20.13 at 1:31 am ET|
Of the Blackhawks’ seven highest scorers this postseason, just one — Patrick Sharp — had a goal in the first three games of the Stanley Cup finals. That changed significantly on Wednesday in Game 4, when the Hawks battered Tuukka Rask with 47 shots and two of the ones that went in came, finally, from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Possibly the most notable name on the scoresheet Wednesday was Toews, who hadn’t put the puck in the net since May 25 against Detroit in the conference semifinals. Toews gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead in the second period when he tipped a Michal Rozsival shot past Rask, breaking a 10-game drought.
“The last couple of days, [Brent] Seabrook has been coming up to me, asking me what I’m thinking about. You know, I have to give him the right answer,” Toews said, cracking a smile. “I’m thinking about scoring a goal. He’s been trying to help me out, make me think a little bit better, have those positive thoughts. You work hard, eventually you’re going to find a way.”
Toews was reunited with Kane and Bryan Bickell, with whom he’s had success this spring, in Game 4 after starting Game 3 between Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger. In addition to Toews’ goal, Kane put away a backhander in the second period and set up Seabrook’s overtime game-winner, and Bickell assisted on both Kane’s and Seabrook’s goals. The three of them combined for 11 shots.
“I like that line,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of the trio. “Big picture, getting reunited, they seem to have some chemistry. Scoring certainly helps. But, you know, got a little bit of difference – everybody in that line brings something different to the party. [Bickell] off the rush can shoot. Kaner has possession. Jonny gets through. It’s a nice combination. So it was nice to see them back and productive, too.”
Having Marian Hossa, who was tied for the team lead in playoff points entering Game 4, back in the lineup didn’t hurt. With Toews, Kane and Bickell back together, Hossa skated with Michal Handzus and Sharp, giving the Hawks two lines with a significant scoring punch. Handzus and Sharp each chipped in a goal, and Sharp had a game-high eight shots.
|Matchups, smatchups: Claude Julien not worried about Blackhawks lines||06.12.13 at 2:14 pm ET|
CHICAGO — Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville appears set to keep Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane separated to begin the Stanley Cup finals, but the Bruins are confident they’ll be able to deal with the spread-out star power.
As Kane said Tuesday, the Blackhawks have a strong top six regardless of whether Toews and Kane are together. If they’re on different lines, that means Toews is playing with Marian Hossa, so the Bruins will have their hands full either way. Claude Julien is confident the B’s can match up with the Blackhawks no matter what Quenneville throws at them.
“It doesn’t,” Julien said when asked about how Quenneville’s new lines impacts their preparations. “We just have to react to it in a way whoever is on the ice. Whoever is on the ice has to be aware of the other team’s players on the ice.
“In our system, everybody knows our game without the puck is important. I think that’s what has gotten us this far, we’ve respected that, back'checked. Our numbers coming back have continued. Whether I have my fourth line out,you can talk about like [Chris] Kelly and [Daniel] Paille, I don’t think anybody is worried about their game defensively, and Shawn Thornton who has done a great job on that line as well. There’s a lot of trust in our coaching staff when those guys are out there, even when they put a top line on.”
The guess here is that Julien will counter the Sharp-Toews-Hossa line with the Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg pairing and the David Krejci line, while putting the Patrice Bergeron line and Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk pairing against the Bickell-Handzus-Kane line. Of course, look for Julien to find ways to get Chara out there against both lines whenever he can. Julien matches lines as well as anybody in the business, but at the end of the day it’s Chara who makes the biggest impact in matchups.
“That’s why I talk about the matchups up front. Not the end of the world,” Julien said. “You’ll probably see, as every other series, our back end matches up a little more aggressively than our front end.
“Joel already knows that, too, by the way.”
|Don’t text your bro: Tyler Seguin, Patrick Kane saving talk for handshake line||06.11.13 at 7:42 pm ET|
CHICAGO — When Tyler Seguin was in Switzerland for EHC Biel during the lockout, he tweeted a screenshot of his phone, showing a text message from a girl named “Don’t Text Her Bro” in his phone. Now, it’s only of his lockout teammates he isn’t texting.
Seguin played with Blackhawks star wing and 2007 first overall pick Patrick Kane for EHC Biel in Switzerland, and in addition to both having success (both players had more than a point per game, with Seguin racking up 40 points in 29 contests), the two became friends. They lived in the same building, where Kane’s mom — who was staying with the occasional troublemaker — was rumored to do Seguin’s laundry. For the record, Kane denied that. He did have high praise for his former Biel teammate, though.
“Just watching him in Switzerland, at first I thought for sure this kid’s one day going to lead the NHL in goals or maybe in scoring because of the skill he has and his shot, his speed and his smarts for the game, too,” Kane said. “I think you’ll see some special things from him in the future.”
Yet right now, anything that’s said will be about one another, and not to one another. With the Stanley Cup on the line, the two youngsters — who were teammates in a different league months ago — are now opponents on the biggest stage.
After the Bruins and Blackhawks clinched their berths in the Stanley Cup finals, Seguin got text a couple mass texts from Biel teammates. He saw that they were sent to Kane, too.
“He didn’t say anything and I didn’t say anything,” Seguin said. “We’re keeping the friendship to the side now.” Read the rest of this entry »
CHICAGO — Though the Bruins aren’t here yet, the Blackhawks kicked off Media Day by giving the media plenty to work with. Coach Joel Quenneville shuffled his lines in practice, most notably splitting up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
The two were put together with Bryan Bickell in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, but the lines in Tuesday’s practice were as follows:
Sharp – Toews – Hossa
Bickell – Handzus – Kane
Saad – Boland – Shaw
Bollig – Kruger – Frolik
Keith – Seabrook
Oduya – Hjalmarsson
Leddy – Rozsival
In Games 4 and 5 against Los Angeles, Chicago’s top-six looked like this:
Bickell – Toews – Kane
Sharp – Handzus – Hossa
The Bruins are expected to be at the United Center sometime around 2:30 CST.
|Adam McQuaid has moved beyond joy of Game 4 against Pittsburgh||06.10.13 at 2:46 pm ET|
Friday was quite the night for Adam McQuaid.
He fulfilled Milan Lucic‘s prophecy of scoring a goal, a tally that sent the Bruins onto their second Stanley Cup finals appearance in three seasons. He savored the moment, talked to friends who texted him congratulations and got his rest.
Now, all of that is in the distant past.
'That night was pretty fun but turn the page and [get] focused for the next round here,” McQuaid said Monday as the Bruins began to prep for the Blackhawks on the ice. 'I had a few more messages than normal. It was nice. Just turn the page now and get re-focused.”
The Bruins skated on Sunday but Monday had more a regular feel as the Bruins staff had a day to break down film and get their team ready.
'Yeah, we need to make sure that we're ready to go,” McQuaid said. “We're facing a real tough challenge. We have to make sure we're focused and at our best here.”
McQuaid and the Bruins defensive corps will have their hands full with the likes of Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell, Jonthan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus. McQuaid was watching all of them Saturday night when the Hawks won Game 5 in double-overtime on a Kane hat trick.
'They're a well-balanced team,” McQuaid said. “They come hard with a lot of talent. And again, they're another team that can generate offense and is strong on the puck. It's going to be a good challenge.'
Both the Bruins and Blackhawks came perilously close to not making this date in the finals. The Bruins had their epic comeback from 4-1 down in the last 11 minutes of Game 7 against Toronto in the opening round. The Hawks were down 3-1 to the Red Wings before winning three straight in the second round.
'To get that point and to be able to come through it, maybe we were able to relax a little bit and go out and play the way we're capable of playing, where at times before, maybe we weren't,” McQuaid said of being down in Game 7. “Maybe we were a little too worried about the result instead of going out and playing our game and giving ourselves the best chance.
'I think you see for our teams to get this point usually they go through something like that. Chicago came back from that 3-1 [deficit] against Detroit. I guess we've learned nothing is over until it's over. So, something to learn from, I guess.'
This is not the first trip to the finals for McQuaid, who of course was part of the 2011 Bruins team. He said that might help at first but then, it will come down to execution on the ice.
'Having been there before, everything won't be totally new,” he said. “But at the same time, it's a new year. We have to be sure we're approaching it the right way, that we're not thinking that just because we've been there before that we're going to have the same result if we just go out and play. We have to make sure we're approaching this as a new situation, a new year and being ready to go.'
NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to preview the Stanley Cup finals between the Bruins and Blackhawks.
The B’s and Blackhawks have a number of similarities, but McGuire said no other team has someone who can compare to Zdeno Chara.
“They’re similar in a lot of different respects,” McGuire said. “They’re similar in terms of their star power through the middle. They’re similar in terms of their size and their speed on the wings. They’re similar in terms of veteran experience in goal — or lack thereof. They’re similar in terms of their depth on defense. Chicago’s left defense [Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya and Nick Leddy] is much faster than Boston’s left defense. That’s a key part of the Chicago team. But nobody outside of Boston has Chara. That is mammoth in a series like this.”
Added McGuire: “Chara’s made a huge impact on these playoffs, as he usually does, and he’s made a huge impact especially in the last series.”
Another similarity is the fact that both teams have an agitator who has some talent: Brad Marchand and Andrew Shaw. Of Shaw, McGuire joked that Bruins fans “are going to learn to love him quick.”
“Like Marchand, Shaw has tremendous offensive skill. '¦ He’s not a guy that’s just a super pest. He’s a player. He’s a real player,” McGuire said. “He’s very similar to Marchand. I don’t know if his top-end skill is as good as Marchand; in fact, I would say it’s not. But his pest factor is as high if not higher. He’s fearless, absolutely fearless. Tremendous player. There’s not a team in the league that wouldn’t want this player.”
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