If you need extra time to recover after Wednesday's marathon Game 1, don't worry, so did we. One day removed from the Blackhawks' 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins in triple overtime, and there's still plenty to talk about, including Chicago's depth once again coming through as Brandon Saad and Dave Bolland tallied their first goals of the playoffs (and not a moment too soon!), as well as the home team's domination in the shot attempt department, with just about everybody getting pucks through on Tuukka Rask. Bonus: Jaromir Jagr's longevity on display.
The Blackhawks and Bruins have both enjoyed recent success in the postseason, but have never met in a Stanley Cup Final until now. Chicago and Boston didn't cross paths during the regular season, but the two teams have forged similar paths to get to this point: The Bruins weathered a seven-game bout in the first round against Toronto, coming within 3 minutes of blowing a 3-1 series lead to their heated rivals, while the Blackhawks had to claw back from a 3-1 deficit of their own against Detroit in the second round. The squads also share potent offenses, stifling defenses, and two starting goalies playing at the top of their game. Below, the Blackhawks Blog takes a look at how Chicago and Boston match up in other areas.
There were several clutch performances that led to Thursday night's 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Worthy of mention: Bryan Bickell netting his eighth goal of the playoffs, Patrick Kane getting on the scoresheet for the first time in the series (with Bickell contributing an assist), and the Slovak connection coming through on the game-winner, with Michal Handzus finding Marian Hossa for a one-timer. But a crucial part of the Blackhawks' success in Game 4 was the team's depth—and strength—on defense, as Head Coach Joel Quenneville needed big games from his blueliners to make up for the one-game absence of Duncan Keith due to suspension. In came Sheldon Brookbank, who logged 6:20 in his first action since the end of the regular season, but it was Niklas Hjalmarsson, Michal Rozsival and Johnny Oduya who faced down the Kings' toughest customers all night. Below, the Blackhawks Blog compared the trio's ice time from the last two games:
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The play, as it happened...
Scrum behind the play near the Blackhawks crease. The Kings' gruff winger, Kyle Clifford, gets tangled up with Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, and the scuffle escalates quickly. In Crawford's own words: "Their guy grabbed him and got a couple of free shots. I figured it was enough, decided to go in there and grab his head."
Six goals, two statement games and one pulled goalie later, the Blackhawks are two wins closer to reaching the Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks won their first two games of the Western Conference Final against Los Angeles by a combined score of 6-3, including a four-goal outburst in Game 2 that sent Jonathan Quick, reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, to the visitors bench in the second period. Meanwhile, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa continued to lead Chicago offensively, combining for two goals and three assists in two nights, while Michal Handzus established a career-long postseason point streak. The Blackhawks Blog's newest infograph highlights the spread of point contributions over the course of the playoffs and Quick's atypical night, as well as the team's big-game performers.
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The dramatic roller-coaster ride of the Western Conference Semifinals has come to an end, and the Blackhawks were the team left standing. Not content to be dumped from the postseason by their oldest and fiercest rivals, Chicago recovered from a 3-1 series deficit to Detroit by winning Games 5, 6 and 7, despite the best efforts of Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings. The Blackhawks Blog created an overview of the series that takes a look at who controlled play, who scored and when, and which players made NHL history.
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|Blackhawks prospect Mac Carruth makes a save during the Memorial Cup Final against Halifax. (Derek Elvin)|
When three league champions and a hungry host team clash, anything can happen. Elite talent can expose even the most leak-proof defenses, and so went the Memorial Cup, where three of the nine contests reached double digits in combined goals. The WHL-champion Portland Winterhawks, with Blackhawks prospect Mac Carruth between the pipes, were the victims of two such results, losing to Halifax 7-4 in round-robin play and then falling 6-4 in the final rematch.
To get to the final game, the Winterhawks needed to shut down the high-powered London Knights, who had scored 14 goals over their first four games. The semifinal game produced plenty of scoring opportunities for both teams, but Carruth turned in his best performance of the tournament, allowing just one goal on 35 shots. The 2-1 result was the lowest-scoring game of the Memorial Cup, leaving no room for 2011 seventh-round draft pick Alex Broadhurst to add to his point totals. The New Lenox native finished the tournament with four points (1G, 3A) in five games, sharing third on the team.
If the Winterhawks wanted to reprise their shutdown performance in the title game, the QMJHL champions had other ideas. The Mooseheads put the puck past Carruth five times, then resisted Portland’s comeback attempt that made it 5-4 late in the third, adding a sixth goal with 23 seconds left and the Winterhawks net empty. Carruth finished the tournament with a 3-2 record, a 3.61 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage.
The Blackhawks' 4-3 victory in Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena made up their series deficit against Detroit to set up a Game 7 showdown tomorrow night at the United Center, but it wasn't easy. Down 2-1 after two periods, Chicago turned their fortunes around in a span of 8:52 to begin the third period, beginning with Michal Handzus' first tally of the playoffs and ending with Michael Frolik's second career penalty shot conversion, one that set an NHL record and stood as the eventual game-winner. Elsewhere in the lineup, the coaching battles continued, as Head Coach Joel Quenneville utilized quick line changes after faceoffs to gain a more favorable matchup for his top center.
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With their backs against the wall against a tenacious Detroit team, the Blackhawks hit the ice with renewed purpose in Game 5, dominating the Red Wings from puck drop to the final horn. The 4-1 victory reaffirmed Chicago's goal-scoring depth, with Bryan Bickell picking up the first tally of the game and Andrew Shaw chipping in with the first two-goal playoff game of his career. An even better sign was the contribution of team captain Jonathan Toews and the reawakening of the power play, which broke an 0-for-13 drought with two consecutive conversions in the second period. The team's complete performance was reminiscent of Game 1, but featured new configurations on both the forward and defensive lines. Here's the Blackhawks Blog's take on the changes that sparked the Game 5 resurgence:
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|Alex Broadhurst logged two points in London's 6-3 loss to Portland on Monday night. (Terry Wilson/OHL)|
After four games at the Memorial Cup, no clear frontrunners have emerged yet, as all four teams have won one and lost one. The London Knights opened the tournament with a 3-2 victory over the host team Saskatoon Blades, while the Portland Winterhawks lost their opener to Halifax in a wild 7-4 game. The two teams then met on Monday evening, pitting two Blackhawks prospects against one another. Portland emerged with a 6-3 victory, though London forward Alex Broadhurst and Winterhawks goaltender Mac Carruth both made the highlight reel for their individual efforts.
Broadhurst assisted on London’s first goal of the game and later tallied his first goal of the Memorial Cup early in the third period, which tied the contest at 3-3. Last night’s points were the first of the tournament for the 2011 draft pick, who shares third on the team with two points and a +1 plus/minus rating through two games.
Carruth, the Blackhawks' seventh-round selection in 2010, made 25 stops on 28 shots for Portland last night, including a toe save at the post while his back was turned to the play. Through two games, Carruth has allowed 10 goals on 63 shots faced.
London’s next game will take place tonight against the Halifax Mooseheads, champions of the QMJHL, while Portland will face Saskatoon tomorrow evening to finish the round robin phase of the tournament.