Another game down in this fantastic Stanley Cup Final between the Blackhawks and the Bruins. The drama continues to unfold as the Bruins lose Patrice Bergeron and the Hawks lose Jonathan Toews to undisclosed injuries. Rumor has pointed to a spleen injury for Bergeron and a possible a concussion for Toews. What we do know is that the Hawks backed up their claims, the same claims that angered Bruins coach Julian. The Hawks said they would play as if Chara didn’t matter, and that’s exactly what they did. In a game that the Hawks needed to win for a strangle hold on the series, they did not disappoint. There were a number of positives coming out of this game, and I could go on all day, but I’ll focus on the most important.
- Crow Soared: Crow had the pleasure of every single reporter that covers hockey asking him questions about his difficulties with game four. His reply was perfect. “Im not doing anything different.” That’s exactly what you want your top goalie to be doing when he needs to bounce back. Stephane Waite worked with Crawford on the basics, and didn’t work the glove any more than normal. He didn’t show doubt in Crow, and Crow showed no doubt in his game. He ended that game with a .960 save percentage; needless to say, that is rather impressive. Crow had most of the rebounds controlled and most importantly, he wasn’t losing his net. Hawks needed Crow to play big, and he did exactly that. You can point out that the goal was glove side, but a Chara slapper from hash marks isn’t something that you would call stoppable. That goal was not Crawford’s fault, and he deserved the second star of the game.
- Stars Dominated: Kane had two goals, Hjalmarasson was a +3 in +/-, and Toews had two helpers. Crow made 24 saves on 25 shots in an integral game for himself and his team. Sharp had four shots and no points, but he had three amazingly close calls. The Bruins can’t put all their focus on Kane and Toews, and they can’t put all their focus on Sharp and Hossa. They split up Chara and Seidenberg which shows that the Hawks offense is too deep and too skilled. They claimed that they would take it to Chara, and they did just that. Chara was on the ice for the first two goals, which forced the breaking up of the Bruins first pairing. Maybe Julian was right, maybe the Hawks aren’t in Chara’s head. Maybe the Hawks are in Julian’s head. The Hawks once again got what they needed from who they needed it from.
- Two-Way Depth: Both teams are fairly balanced teams, but the Hawks are showing their two-way play in this series. Kruger and Frolik have been spectacular in their defensive roles on the PK, but they have had some solid offensive zone play as well. In game four, Kruger got a goal and Frolik had the assist on the play. Their confidence carried over into game five. While Kruger was held off the score sheet, he showed some aggression in the attacking zone. He has become a greater presence as this series has progressed, and I really hope that the Hawks can resign him. Frolik was aggressive as well and his energetic two-way play helped get him an assist on the Bolland empty net goal. Empty net goals and assists may not command much offensive respect, but they do show you who the coach trusts defensively. Their work ethic and talent are not overlooked by Q.
- Hawk Hockey: The Hawks are back to playing their calm, confident hockey. They stopped avoiding Chara, and they were much more responsible in their own end. When there wasn’t an easy out, they simply hoisted the puck out and chased it down. They were transitioning well, especially Kane and Sharp. They weren’t overthinking their game, and Q wasn’t overthinking his lines. Even after the loss of Toews, the team kept doing what they do. I find this to be incredibly important heading into Boston. If the lines are stable and the team knows what they need to do, then the Hawks are primed for success. If Bergeron is out and Toews is able to play, face-offs are starting to favor the Hawks again. The match-ups will be in Boston’s favor, but they will be missing one of their most clutch pieces. The Hawks found their balance against a formidable opponent; they just need to stay focused and be prepared for a relentless push from Boston.
- No Whistling While They Work: The refs have made it clear that they aren’t calling much. It has to be a call that gives them no choice. The no call on the empty net goal is a perfect example of that, and this time it benefitted the Hawks. Despite the general consensus that this type of hockey favors the Bruins style of play, I slightly disagree. While it’s true that the physical nature of the Bruins’ play benefits from this, the Hawks get to avoid being on the PP more. The PP played it safe and tried to force the play down low to avoid any shorthanded opportunities, but I believe they only had 1 or 2 shots on goal on their power play due to that fact. The Hawks have done a great job in game five controlling the game, and they need to continue their strong five-on-five play heading into Boston.