Golden Knights Eliminate Blackhawks with 4-3 Win in Game 5

The Vegas Golden Knights officially eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks with a 4-3 win in Game 5 on Thursday. The 4-1 series loss marked the second consecutive time in which the Hawks failed to advance past the First Round in the playoffs. Check out BetQL for the most updated NHL odds for every game and every bet type.

Chicago began the game well-enough — even jumping to a 2-0 lead, as they did in Game 4 — before Vegas would rally for the series victory.

Jonathan Toews kicked off the scoring for Chicago, scoring his first goal of the series after chipping a rebound past Robin Lehner midway through the first period. Alex Debrincat would add a 2-0 lead with less than two minutes left in the period, finishing a beautiful tic-tac-toe play started by defenseman Connor Murphy.

As they did in Game 4 after being down 2-0, Vegas would immediately answer with just 31 seconds left in the period. After a strong fore-check in the Hawks’ zone, Brayden McNabb’s shot from the point ricocheted directly to Max Pacioretty, who capitalized on the fluky bounce for his first point in the series. Vegas would carry the momentum from their late first period goal into the second, when Mark Stone tied the game in the opening minute of the middle frame.

Like Toews, Patrick Kane would score his first goal of the series on a nifty stick-handling move, sliding the puck through Lehner’s five-hole for a vintage “showtime” goal.

The 3-2 Hawks lead was broken three minutes later, as Hawk killer Alec Martinez rifled a cross-ice one-timer past Corey Crawford, tying the game on the power play. While with the Los Angeles Kings, it was Martinez who scored the series clinching goal in the 2014 Western Conference Finals, eliminating the Blackhawks en route to the Kings’ second Stanley Cup in 3 seasons (2012).

In the opening minutes of the third period, Alex Tuch would score the series-clinching goal, completing Vegas’ comeback and eliminating the Blackhawks. Rookie defenseman Adam Boqvist drifted too far from his side of the ice while in the neutral zone, allowing Tuch to gain easy access into the Hawks’ zone. Tuch easily breezed past Boqvist and eventually poked a rebound off his own shot past Crawford.

Overall, it was tough night for Boqvist — not only did he fail to neutralize Tuch on the game-winning goal, but he was also serving a penalty for holding when Martinez tied the game on Vegas’ lone power play. In the rookie’s defense, it was questionable why Coach Jeremy Colliton would reunite Boqvist with Keith. At times — particularly in Chicago’s Game 4 win — Keith had been paired with veteran Connor Murphy with great results. The decision to reunite Keith with Boqvist was suspect enough, let alone the timing: in the third period of a critical elimination game.

After being quiet the majority of the series, the Blackhawks’ stars finally appeared, with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Alex Debrincat all scoring in Game 5. Unfortunately it was too little too late, as the Knights’ depth and transition game was simply too much for the Hawks.

In addition to Boqvist, the Blackhawks had a plethora of rookies and early-career players who had yet to play in the playoffs until this year, including: Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik, Matthew Highmore, Alex Nylander, John Quenneville, Dylan Strome, Alex Debrincat, and David Kampf. Hopefully, their gained experience will be worth the disappointing finish, assuming many will still be Blackhawks next season.

As the Blackhawks experience their second First Round elimination in three years (2017), the team is still searching for direction. General Manager Stan Bowman’s “rebuild on the fly” strategy — predominantly mixing youth with core players and occasional veteran-acquisitions — has only compounded the Hawks’ woes. With Corey Crawford as an unrestricted free agent, defenseman Brent Seabrook at a crossroads, and restricted free agent Calder finalist Dominik Kubalik in need of a new contract, it will be interesting to see if Bowman stays his current course.

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith are all in their early to late 30’s. Although Bowman has been hesitant to move any of the three up to this point, he may have to do so, if a complete rebuild is on the horizon next season. In order for players like Kirby Dach, Adam Boqvist, Alex Debrincat, and perhaps Dominik Kubalik to realize their true potential, the Hawks’ once-great Cup-era past may finally have to be shed.

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