I’ve waited until now to write about Game 5 in order to come down from the euphoria I experienced Saturday at the United Center. I wanted to be more objective about Game 6, wait for the ruling on Marian Hossa and analyze rather than simply continue a wild celebration of one of the greatest games in Blackhawks history. We’ll see if I succeed.
After all the nipple twisting done by myself, the rest of the blogsphere and media during this series, the Blackhawks gave us a game of epic proportions and a giant shove toward accomplishing their One Goal. It wasn’t ideal and I almost had heart failure in my seat, but the Blackhawks are heading to Nashville up 3-2 and in control of the series.
The Hossa subplot is almost surreal. His invisibility in the series had people talking Hossa Curse again. He didn’t exactly make a great impression with his five-minute boarding penalty after the hit on Dan Hamhuis, forcing the ‘Hawks to go short-handed the rest of regulation. Patrick Kane saved Hossa for the time being by scoring the tying goal with an armpit hair left in the third period. Despite the temporary relief, the Blackhawks still had to kill the remaining 3:56 on Hossa’s penalty to start OT. By that point, everyone with a keyboard began pondering their Hossa Bashing if the Blackhawks lost.
It’s amazing how quickly emotions turn. Hossa scored the winner 10 seconds after he left the penalty box and saved himself an endless supply of badgering from puckheads. Forget how well Hossa played all season long after returning from injury, the fans would give him $62.8 million just for that goal. When Sarah Kustok attempted the on-ice, post-game interview with Hossa, the place erupted. It was so loud, the interview was canceled. It’s pretty evident all is forgiven — for now.
The NHL announced Hossa will avoid suspension for the hit drawing comparisons to Alexander Ovechkin’s check on Brian Campbell back in March. If Kane didn’t score and Hossa didn’t pot the winner, Chicago would’ve welcomed a suspension. Now the fans are talking as if the ‘Hawks can’t live without him. Again, it’s amazing how our feelings can flip so quickly.
Now, the Blackhawks have to figure out how to top that game. It’s simple, really — win Game 6 and start preparing for Vancouver. But despite the Blackhawks’ jubilation and the Predators’ dejection following Hossa’s goal, both teams have positives to take from Game 5 and bring them over to Game 6. The cynic in me realizes this series isn’t over just because the Blackhawks won in dramatic fashion.
Barry Trotz can tell his Predators that despite being dominated overall in the first two periods, they made the right plays when they had to — the short-handed goal at the end of the second, for one — and showed a tremendous amount of heart to come out in the third period and take the lead. Nashville has proved throughout this series, including Game 5, it can play right on par with the Blackhawks simply by executing its gameplan. The Predators are going to figure out what went wrong in the first two periods and not worry about the crazy endings of regulation and overtime. Those two goals came off mad scrambles and had nothing to do with a breakdown in their plan. Sometimes bounces go the other way. Live with it and move on.
On the flip side, the Blackhawks will be carrying a tremendous amount of emotion into Game 6 and use it as motivation to close out this series on the road. QStache will make sure the ‘Hawks replicate the first two periods of Game 5 while the ‘Hawks combine that plan with the adrenaline rush carry over. The penalty kill is beyond ridiculous by going 21-for-21 so far in the series, including the Biggest Kill of the Season in overtime. Antti Niemi made huge stops in the third period and overtime. It’s nearly hilarious the entire hockey loving world deemed goaltending the biggest question mark for the Blackhawks coming into the playoffs, yet Niemi has been one of the most solid ‘Hawks in this series.
The Blackhawks didn’t lose in last year’s playoffs when they had an opportunity to close the series. They’ll make sure that trend continues.
Puck drop is 8 p.m. from Whatever The Hell They’re Calling It Now Arena Center Stadium in Nashville. LET’S GO ‘HAWKS!