May 23, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Antoine Vermette (80) celebrates after scoring the game winning goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the second overtime period in game four of the Western Conference Final of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks won 5-4 in two overtimes. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks are all tied up at 2-2 in the series after a thrilling double overtime victory by the Blackhawks last night. Antoine Vermette got the game winner, and the final score was 5-4. Each team has won one at home and lost one at home. This is turning out to be quite the series, with 7 games looking more and more likely. Here are some observations from last night’s game.
The Stars came out to play. All the usual suspects marked the score sheet for Game 4. Everyone that you would expect to contribute did.
Brandon Saad pulled another power forward move and scored a shorthanded goal to get things started. If you recall, he also scored a similar unassisted goal in Game 3 of the Nashville series. And he broke free and muscled his way to the net in Game 1 of the Minnesota series for a goal as well. As I watched the play unfold last night, I said to myself, there he goes again. It was his first goal of this series. Feel free to give it a look see here.
Brent Seabrook came next, with assists from Saad and Toews. Hey, this was his first goal of the series too. It’s a theme! Everybody just had to get warmed up.
On to overtime we go…and then a second overtime. And who comes up with the win but Antoine Vermette (his first goal of the series as well), assisted by his linemates Patrick Sharp and Teuvo Teravainen. This seems highly appropriate, as Vermette and Teravainen were unexpected healthy scratches in Game 3’s loss. I’m pretty sure that overtime score will keep that third line intact going forward.
That’s 5 goals and 8 assists, with contributions from 10 different players. It was a group effort, and what we have come to expect from the Chicago Blackhawks.
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Face offs. Don’t look now, but Jonathan Toews is doing an excellent job in the faceoff circle. He won 65% of his 32 faceoffs last night. He must be figuring something out, because he went 78% in Game 3, versus 45% in Game 2 and 48% in Game 1. Keep up the good work.
Marcus Kruger was back on the dot after not taking a single faceoff in Game 3. He did alright, winning 5 and losing 5 for a 50%. Rumor had it that he hurt his wrist after a nasty hit in Game 2, so it’s good to see Krugs out there being able to contribute at center.
Brad Richards was 59% on faceoffs in Game 1, and 57% in Game 2. But in Game 3 he was 25%, and in Game 4, 33%. Hmm. Maybe he doesn’t like the circles at the United Center or something.
By the way, Andrew Shaw was 56% on the dot in Game 2, whereas Antoine Vermette was 40%. This might have had something to do with putting Shaw at center for Game 3 and scratching Vermette. Vermette’s numbers for this last game? 14 wins and 6 losses, for 70%. I think he wants to stay in the lineup.
Hits. The Hawks are playing their game in that they are using their speed and possessing the puck, but they are realizing that they have to push back a little more against this Anaheim team. In last night’s game, the Ducks were credited with 60 hits, but the Hawks were credited with 52. Even in a double overtime game, that’s a lot of hits! For comparison, during Game 2’s triple overtime affair, the Hawks had 44 hits.
As my meathead hockey co-worker said before this game, “They’ve got to finish their checks!” Well I think he might be on to something. Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw both had 9 hits. Hossa had 5 hits. For those of you that are wondering, Bryan Bickell was credited with 4 hits. He better get hitting. Or scoring. Or we might be seeing Kris Versteeg back in the lineup after all.
One final note. Kyle Cumiskey has played in 2 games now, logging 8:51 minutes in Game 3, and 13:27 minutes last night. He hasn’t stood out, which is a good thing. He seems to be quietly getting the job done as a fill in to give the top 4 defensemen a break. He even had a nifty wraparound attempt last night. Let’s hope he can continue to contribute in a positive way.
The Chicago Blackhawks return to California on Monday night for Game 5 against the Anaheim Ducks. Will the Hawks be able to keep up this scoring trend and come away with another road win? Maybe they can do it in regulation time for once. If Game 5 is anything like Games 1-4, it should be highly entertaining to watch.
FOR THE CUP!!!
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