That's more like it, huh?
Since the final horn sounded in the Hawks 4-1 Game 5 win over the Detroit Red Wings, fans and media have been welcoming back the Hawks they all knew and loved.
It's amazing what a competent powerplay can do, isn't it?
Most of Saturday's game looked like Games 1,3 and 4. Both teams were getting chances, and both goalies were playing well. Bryan Bickell scored to make it 1-0 Hawks, then the Wings tied it on an impossible shot from Dan Cleary.
Then, the Hawks got a powerplay. They controlled the puck for nearly the entire sequence. They put the puck on net, and kept the cycle moving. Andrew Shaw got in front, and perfectly deflected a Duncan Keith point shot.
A minute later, the Hawks got another powerplay. Jonathan Toews decided not to attempt the Blackhawks patented "back door pass" (even though it was there) and shot the puck over Jimmy Howard's left shoulder. 3-1.
There's the difference between a 4-1 win and a 1-0 loss.
An effective powerplay is so essential to playoff success. Even if the puck isn't going in the net, sustaining pressure maintains or builds momentum while tiring out the opponent's defense. The Hawks' powerplay hadn't even been competent, let alone effective, until Saturday night, when it produced 2 (!) goals.
Brent Seabrook played his best game of the playoffs, and maybe even the season in Game 5. He tied for the team lead with 7 shots on goal (he attempted 9) and played the best D he's played in a calendar year. Why the sudden change? Joel Quenneville paired him with his security blanket, his life partner, his BFF, Duncan Keith. Seabrook looked as steady and confident as ever. This pair should not be separated again this playoff.
While I was critical of Quenneville for tinkering with the lines, I did like the fact that he put the Sharp-Toews-Kane line back together. That line combined for 13 of the Hawks' 45 shots on goal.
Line matchups were such a huge part of this victory. Quenneville was able to keep Toews away from the relentless checking of Henrik Zetterberg, all while slowing Zetterberg's offense with Dave Bolland. Q will have to find a way to win a game without the last change Monday. Getting an early lead in Game 6 will be crucial, as it will force the Wings to score, as opposed to protect a lead.
When Monday's Game 6 ends, make sure to tune in to 670AM or 670thescore.com. I'll be on the air with Matt Rodewald, hopefully reacting to a win, and previewing Game 7.
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