Chicago's top line comes up big again in Game 5

Sunday, 06.23.2013 / 10:34 AM
Corey Masisak  - NHL.com staff writer

CHICAGO -- As the coach of the home team, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had the advantage of choosing which players to put on the ice after Boston declared its intentions throughout Game 5 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

So when Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien delivered his starting lineup and it included defensive dynamos Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, Quenneville had the option of keeping his top line away from that group.

He didn't, and the Chicago Blackhawks' trio of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell continued to win the battle against Boston's top defenders in a 3-1 victory that moves his team one win away from claiming the Stanley Cup for the second time in 36 months.

"They have had two good games in a row, and the way the goals were scored, they were scored close around the net," Julien said. "Kane scored three goals in the last two games, and he's very good at kind of finding those quiet areas and sliding into the right spot. That's why he's a good player and scores a lot of goals. We just maybe have to have a little bit more awareness around our net because both goals were scored the same way."

While Julien had the ability to pit Chara and Seidenberg against Chicago's top trio before faceoffs at TD Garden in Game 4, Quenneville didn't try to avoid the matchup in Game 5. He was fine with the two teams going best against best, and his guys won -- again.

Kane scored the game's first two goals, and Chicago's top trio has helped produce five goals in the past two games.

"I think I was in the right spot at the right time tonight on both goals," Kane said. "I thought I had some other chances, too, I could have scored. But I think playing with Johnny and [Bickell], they create a lot of space, and I've been taking advantage of the space they do make. I think everyone wants to be that guy in big-time games, and I've been lucky enough in a couple to step up."

Quenneville put Bickell, Toews and Kane together midway through Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings, and they found instant chemistry. Kane and Bickell each had a goal in that contest, and Kane had a hat trick in the series-clinching Game 5 victory.

They were broken up at the start of this series, but Quenneville put them together again for Games 4 and 5. That's nine goals from the trio in 3 1/2 games. Plus, they were on the ice for Brent Seabrook's overtime winner in Game 4.

"I think [Kane] gets excited playing with Bickell and Toews, two games in the last series, two games, just seemed to be a little chemistry there," Quenneville said. "They get excited about that togetherness, and they seem to read off each other. Everybody brings a little bit something different to the party, and they scored two huge goals for us tonight."

They have been doing most of their damage in the past two games against Boston's top pairing of Chara and Seidenberg. Kane's first goal of the game was a bit of a fortunate break -- Seidenberg blocked a shot that broke his stick, and instead of the puck hitting an in-position Tuukka Rask, it trickled toward the side of the net to Kane, who was able to collect the puck and shovel it into the net.

The second goal was a result of Kane driving the net and Chara losing him. Bickell took the puck behind the net and put a wraparound try off the base of the cage. Bickell got the puck in front to Kane, who was there to backhand it past Rask while Chara was late to react.

Toews and Seabrook both made comments between Games 4 and 5 about wanting to go at Chara, and Bickell talked about wearing down the 6-foot-9 defenseman. Those comments might have been interpreted as a slight toward Chara by some, but not by the guys in the Chicago dressing room.

"There's certainly respect there, no question we respect Chara and the way that he plays the game and the quality of player that he is," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "But we've got some good players on our team, too. At the end of the day, that's how things are going to be settled. There's no disrespect from Seabs or Johnny in what they said, they were more concerned with themselves and how they can play. And, obviously, that line did a great job tonight."

Chara and Seidenberg have played together during this entire postseason -- just as they did for the majority of the Bruins' 2011 Cup run. They were not together much in the final period of Game 5 -- Julien started mixing and matching his defense pairs.

He has done that in other games when he only wanted to play five of the defensemen, so guys were double-shifting, but this was a more traditional switch. Chara was paired with Johnny Boychuk and Seidenberg with Andrew Ference.

"No reason, because we split them every once in a while," Julien said. "There was no real specific reason. Johnny was playing well, and every once in a while depending on who is on the other team's lines, and as you know with Toews not out and stuff like that, they had some different looks at times. We just put the pairs together, pairs that have played together before."

Neither Bergeron nor Toews were around at the end. Bergeron left in the second period with an undisclosed injury and was taken to a hospital. Toews didn't play in the third period because of what Quenneville called an upper-body injury, so the Blackhawks' top line was broken up. The Blackhawks figure to have a problem on their hands if he is unable to dress for Game 6 on Monday at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

If Toews can play, then the Bruins -- with or without Bergeron -- have to figure out a way to slow his line down or Chicago is going to claim the Cup.

"Just be aware of where they are," Boychuk said. "They're pretty sneaky. [Kane] is one of the best players in the world obviously and you have to be aware of where he is on the ice, where they are on the ice, and take away their time and space."

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