The Blackhawks did exactly what they needed to do tonight to grab the series lead and take the driver seat in this series. They face a daunting task in Boston on Monday night, but they do it with control over the ice between these 2 mammoths. This game, although something of what I would call a "safe" game by the Hawks had its fair share of scary moments and huge plays. Taking a 2-0 lead into the 3rd period off of 2 Patrick Kane goals, the Hawks fought to grind out the final 20 in textbook fashion, and they did it without their captain.
It wasn't the best start in the world for Chicago, as a lapse in defensive positioning, and the loss of some early battles had the Hawks on their heels through the first 10 minutes of the game. By the time Kane grabbed his first goal on the night though, the Hawks were rolling with a confidence not seen in this series until tonight.
Let's get right to the bullets shall we:
- Faceoffs. Not the biggest reason the Hawks won a convincing game 5, but it sure helped. Before having to sit and watch from the bench, Toews was %75 at the dot, forcing Bergeron (who also left the game very early) to be less than %50 for the first time this series. With both aces out of the mix by the 3rd period, Shaw, Bolland, and Handzus kept the Hawks rolling in this category, and it helped establish a calm and confident game plan.
- Defensive positioning. There is a ton to talk about here, as this factor was by far the best element of the Hawks game tonight. Question, how many odd-man rushes did you see against the Hawks? None, that's right. After the lapses in judgement early, the Hawks closed up their game, and played maybe their most simplified effort of the playoffs. They always had skaters back, and in instances when 3 forwards were caught deep, the D had them covered, and those forwards made extreme efforts to back-check with authority. One such instance saw a hustling Bolland get back into the defensive zone in perfect position and break-up a big Boston rush. The result was a rush for the Hawks in the other direction. I can't talk enough about these aspects of the Hawks game tonight.
- Crawford's life was made pretty easy tonight because of the Hawks back-check and defensive positioning. You know, sometimes I think the Hawks are a better team when they are doubting their goaltender. Blocking shots, being in the lanes, active sticks, and a composed defense helped earn Crow the win tonight. Not the shooting fest from the other night by any means.
- Winning the neutral zone. We have talked about how crucial the neutral zone is for this Hawks team that relies so heavily on a strong transition game. When the Hawks control the middle of the ice, it translates to them controlling the entire flow of the game. A lot of this success is due to the above mentioned defense as a team ,but also give a lot of credit to the defensemen themselves. they played a very poised game and were willing to pay the price tonight for the right play. This is the fuel for a Blackhawks team in full throttle, and it looked like just a little too much for Boston. Also, hard work, and keeping those feet moving with the wingers within the play as the D started moving the puck added to the neutral zone success. All capped off with a wicked back-check and full on forecheck. Keep those feet moving guys.
- They also did whatever was necessary to get the puck deep while avoiding icing. One such play saw Saad fight hard through 3 Bruins at their blue-line, just to get the puck in the attacking zone. The significance of these plays cannot go without huge praise. They can be just as important as scoring a goal.
- In fact, the only goal scored against them came at a point when the Hawks feet were not moving at all. Long and doubled shifts played a part there.
- Before we get to the goal scorer, it need be mentioned that the other Patrick was once again the best Hawk on the ice shift for shift. Not only is Sharp playing with a very obviously injured and slow Hossa, he already had a less than speedy center to work with. That did not stop Sharp from creating space and great scoring chances once again. He should have 20+ goals based on the way he is playing, and that goes for both ends of the ice. He is playing smart, and with a lot of heart. I personally feel like that is translating to the rest of his line, and entire team right now.
- Kane is scoring goals by going to the hard areas of the ice. He is working hard for these goals, not that it hurts having Bickell and Toews with him. With that grit and effort, his skills are lifting him above the Bruins defense and boy is he deadly right now. I would use that last sentence to speak for the entire team as well.
- While we are talking about great performances it would be a crime not to mention that 3rd line of Bolland, Frolik, and Kruger. Now, Fro has been maybe the most consistent player on the ice for the Hawks, giving far and away some of the best efforts and heads up plays. These performances have been a common acknowledgement on this blog. Kruger has also been at the receiving end of praise. Putting those 2 defensively strong, and hard working wingers on each end of Bolland has been a winning recipe, and revived Dave "fucking" Bolland from the grave. About time huh. I was so happy and maybe even a little shocked to see Q go to this line so much in the 3rd. That was the right move, I shouted that out to the television, and it was rewarded with an empty-net clinching goal when Boston was in desperation mode.
- By the way, even with Toews out of the mix, and Boston in huge need of a goal, the Hawks continued to shut them down. Great job Hawks!
- Toews. I am obviously aware that Bergeron left the game early, and in an ambulance no less, but that doesn't change the fact that the Hawks without their captain in the 3rd is a scary truth to deal with. Bergeron's injury is a complete mystery at this point, but we all know why Toews was kept out of the 3rd. While giving an amazing performance on the ice with one-man efforts to get the Hawks in control of this game, Toews was targeted heavily. No, Toews was abused heavily. We already know how targeted of a player he is, but as Toews took control of this game, and was pivotal in generating the possession for both Kane goals, the Bruins crossed the line. There were 3 blatant penalties that went uncalled when Bruins players stepped over the line of acceptable hockey to try and stop this freight train of a player from ending their Cup dreams. The worst of which was the very high, elbows high, head targeted hit that Boychuck landed on Toews in the high slot. This is without a doubt the hit that ended the game for Toews, and I fear the worst that this might be a head trauma kind of injury. I would expect that Boychuck find himself with a suspension by Monday night's game, but I am not holding my breath either. Bruins fans will find excuses in the fact the Toews was already low and leaning towards the ice, but that does not change the rules about point of contact or of the intent of that hit. BTW, that was at least the 4th high hit or elbow to a head that went uncalled in this game at that point.
By the end, the Hawks had executed a near perfect effort, full of offensive pressure, puck possession, and shut-down defense. This effort should put some fear into Boston, and I anticipate a hell of a ride in game 6. Boston is going to come out hard and physical, giving everything they have. In their heads, they just need 1 win right now. On the other side, the Hawks just need 1 win to win it all. I have stuck by the 7 game series prediction, and I am still not convinced that we wont see that, but I sure hope the Hawks can silence all that noise.
My only comfort in the Toews situation is that he was on the bench. If it was a head injury, I don't think he would have been within public viewing. Still, that doesn't make for a great situation going into game 6. It could be that both teams are without their star centers. One has to wonder what Q will do without his prized stallion. Mayers might be a likely candidate, or maybe Kruger finds himself as a center again with Bollig or Smith added to the mix. Obviously, my hope is that Q doesn't have this problem come Monday night.
Only 1 more win! Go and get it Hawks!
We Want The CUP!!!!
Filed under: Game Recap