Saturday brings another Stanley Cup Final game to Chicago after a thrilling overtime Blackhawks victory in Boston on Wednesday night to even the series up at 2 games a piece. If the Hawks want to take a 3 – 2 series lead at the Madhouse in Game 5, they’ll need to repeat some of what they did in Game 4.
Number One: win the small battles.
Faceoffs have been a struggle in this series for Chicago, even if the scorecard may not indicate it. At key points in the games, Chicago has lost faceoffs in streaks, especially in the first 20 minutes. The numbers usually even out by the time the game finishes, but the Blackhawks must come out on top in this regard. In the first period of Game 4, Chicago had a faceoff advantage and they battled hard, allowing Michal Handzus to score a shorthanded goal from a great effort from Brandon Saad.
Chicago must continue to be hungry and energized because it benefits them most. Boston plays best when it can slow the game down and dictate what happens on the ice. For the Hawks: the faster the better. And Game 5 showed that high energy from the whole team, which contributed to 6 different Blackhawks scoring in the victory. To put that in perspective, Boston only has 6 goal-scorers in this series to the Hawks 10.
One of those goal scorers is not David Krecji. He was one of the most lethal scorers in the postseason coming into this series, leading the league with 9 goals. Since then, he has scored no goals and recorded only 3 assists against Chicago. He has been effectively shut down in all areas of the ice, including going 5 – 11 at the faceoff circle in Game 4 on Wednesday.
Patrick Sharp was giving Krecji a run for his money throughout the postseason, chasing him chiefly in the goals category in the first 3 series. As the hungriest player on the ice, Sharp was able to take advantage of the Krejci shutdown and score the goal he’s been looking for all series to take the league lead in goals scored this postseason. And rightfully so.
Sharp has put 25 shots on net in this series, including 8 in Game 4. He is consistently the hardest skater on the ice and may have had an effect on the big names that have been performing at a less-than-enthusiastic level.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were put on a line together in Game 4 and it paid off for Joel Quenneville as they each scored a goal in the contest. These two worked magic in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, scoring nearly 50 points together in the postseason. Finally reunited, they both found the back of the net and could continue to skate together in Game 5.
Not surprisingly, Duncan Keith led all skaters in ice time with nearly 33 minutes in Game 4. Not only was his presence felt everywhere, but he’s likely been in the nightmares of the Boston Bruins. Keith was on the ice for 4 for Chicago’s 6 goals in Game 4, including Seabrook’s overtime winner. With Keith performing at this level, Chicago needs to take advantage of his hockey sense and skills like they have been all season if they want to hoist the Cup for the second time in 4 years.
Marian Hossa did not skate at practice on Friday with the team, causing concern over the injury that sidelined him for Game 3 but more importantly, whether or not he will play in Game 5. Said Quenneville at Chicago’s Morning Skate Live on Saturday, “Yeah, he’s playing.”