We as Chicago Blackhawks fans have the tendency to question some of coach Joel Quenneville‘s decisions. It’s just in our nature, especially with Q’s mad scientist getup. So when Q made the call to bench Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette during the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs — first during the Nashville series, then briefly against Anaheim — skepticism was rampant.
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Luckily, the two were involved in all six games of the Final against Tampa Bay. And they had a little something to prove to their occasionally hard-headed coach in this series. Vermette would get his golden opportunity in the next entry on our countdown of most memorable Blackhawks playoff wins under Q.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 36: 2015 Stanley Cup Final, Game 5
Chicago Blackhawks 2, Tampa Bay Lightning 1
You might remember this game for another reason, and we’ll get to it very shortly. The Blackhawks were attempting to move within one win of their third Stanley Cup in six seasons while also trying to nab the opportunity to collect that win at home. Meanwhile, the Lightning had Ben Bishop back in the crease after Andrei Vasilevskiy played in Game 4. We’d later find out Bishop was dealing with a torn groin.
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The Blackhawks knew they were dealing with a sore goalie, at any rate, so they started firing pucks at him early. Andrew Shaw collected a turnover above the offensive-zone circles and had a shot turned away by Bishop less than four minutes in. Duncan Keith followed with an opportunity from the blue line that was also snuffed out.
A critical moment occurred early in this game when Corey Crawford tried to play a puck behind his net about five minutes into the contest. Crow took a lot of time deciding where to make his pass, with only Nikita Kucherov posing a threat by standing still a short ways from the goal mouth. Crow managed to fire the puck right at Kucherov, then had to sprawl back in front of the net to stop the Lightning forward’s scoring chance. The two were tangled up on the play, and Kucherov would leave with an injury. It was very likely his injury came as a result of slamming into the goal post after falling into Crow.
Not an optimal defensive setup. (Screenshot from YouTube)
Kucherov would post just 1:17 of ice time in the game as the Lightning lost a huge scoring threat. With Tyler Johnson already believed hurt (he had a broken wrist) and Bishop ailing in net, the odds were getting worse and worse for Tampa to win this series.
What they couldn’t afford to do was hurt themselves.
Oh. (Screenshot from YouTube)
About that. This is the game in which Bishop and defenseman Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay’s likely Conn Smythe winner had the Lightning taken this series, ran into one another on a miscommunication trying to play the puck. A missed pass in the defensive zone to Teuvo skittered slowly toward the circle to Bishop’s right. Patrick Sharp and Hedman were neck and neck heading for the puck, so Bishop decided he needed to make a play to prevent Sharp from getting possession. The result is what you see above.
Sharp took the loose puck and glided toward the empty net for the finish, giving the Blackhawks an early 1-0 edge.
Ondrej Palat and Johnson had Tampa’s first good bids of the second period, with Palat slapping one off Crawford’s right pad. But the Blackhawks responded with a chance of their own when Vermette picked up a turnover in the defensive zone corner and fed Kris Versteeg in front of Bishop. The goaltender turned aside that chance, but at that point, the Blackhawks led in shots 18-9.
It was a sloppy play that got things knotted up. The Blackhawks couldn’t corral the puck in their defensive zone. Anton Stralman would dance above the circles with the puck and have a backhand shot blocked, but the puck wound up on the stick of Jason Garrison along the board to Crawford’s right. Garrison spotted Valtteri Filppula all alone on Crow’s left doorstep and made a beautiful pass right to Filppula’s stick. Before Crow could get over in time, Filppula had deposited the puck in the net to tie the game midway through the second.
Brandon Saad would commit Chicago’s only penalty of the game about a minute later, resulting in a great chance for Ryan Callahan right in front of Crawford. It was turned aside, but Tampa spent much of the rest of the period pushing hard at Crawford and the Chicago defense.
So now it’s time for the story of Vermette’s Revenge, early in the third period. Let’s start with the first image:
Harmless enough. (Screenshot from YouTube)
See the two players tied up along the boards between Tampa’s No. 10, Brenden Morrow, and Teravainen down low? The Blackhawks player is Vermette, winning a board battle that would see the puck chipped to Versteeg (the Blackhawk to the left of Morrow). This gave Versteeg a semi breakaway, though he’s not as fast as he used to be and it allowed a few Lightning to catch up and disturb his shot.
But Versteeg still got something on net, and that led to this second (albeit blurry) image:
The Blackhawks are just that fast. (Screenshot from YouTube)
You can see the puck between the circles heading toward that blur of a Blackhawks player. Any guesses as to who that is? It’s Vermette, following up on the play he started to hammer home a rebound. The first player he celebrated with after the goal? Teuvo Teravainen. Hockey can be fun sometimes.
Regardless of how it happened, Chicago led 2-1 early in the third. It wouldn’t be a walk through the park to have it finish that way.
Crow had to turn aside a nasty slapper by Steven Stamkos from between the circles a few minutes after Vermette’s strike. He had to do the same to Palat a few minutes after that.
The Blackhawks’ third line wanted to prove itself even more, though. Versteeg carried the puck into the offensive zone with less than nine minutes to go and found Teuvo streaking toward the net. Matt Carle‘s backchecking prevented Teuvo from getting a great shot off, but he still forced Bishop to make a save.
Chicago’s fourth line got in on the fun, too, when Marcus Kruger tried a wraparound on Bishop, leaving the puck in the crease in the process. With Desjardins and Shaw hacking away, Kruger rugby scrummed his way back into the fray, though Bishop managed to freeze the puck.
Helpfully for the Blackhawks, Tampa would commit a too-many-men penalty very late in this one to help seal the deal, as Chicago went ahead 3-2 in the series with this win and back to the United Center with a chance to clinch the Stanley Cup on home ice.
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