Rozsival handles increased workload flawlessly
The move into the top four, necessitated by Duncan Keith's one-game suspension for high-sticking Jeff Carter in Game 3, meant Rozsival would likely play more minutes than he's used to and have more responsibility in the Blackhawks' special teams.
He passed every test Thursday night and helped lift Chicago to a 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 and can advance to the Stanley Cup Final with a victory in Game 5 at United Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
Rozsival, a 34-year-old signed as a free agent last summer, is a reliable veteran presence on the blue line. But with Keith out, the Blackhawks needed a lot more from him.
"Definitely, it is a challenge," Rozsival told NHL.com. "Duncs is our best offensive guy out there and he plays a lot of minutes, power play and PK, so when I found out I was going to play power play -- obviously I knew I was going to play PK -- that is a challenge and I take it as a challenge to make sure I'm playing well. I know I'm going to be matched up against their top lines. You have to be ready."
Rozsival played 32 shifts totaling 25:28 of ice time, the most he's played in a 60-minute game all season -- and almost 10 more minutes that he played in Game 3 on Tuesday. He was averaging 17:43 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs heading into Game 5, but that included less than 15 minutes per game in the first three games against Los Angeles.
"That's a huge difference from what he's used to," forward Marian Hossa, who scored the game-winner, told NHL.com when he was asked about Rozsival's ice time and his performance. "He did an unbelievable job, not only on 5-on-5 but on the power play, too, moving the puck. Somebody had to step up from the defensemen, and he did a great job."
Rozsival said he wasn't sure how much ice time he logged in Game 4, but he knew that it was more than 20 minutes.
"Any time you get over 20 minutes, you know you played more than 20 minutes," he said with a smile. "I was feeling tired, obviously, because I wasn't used to playing that much, but the excitement of the game and everything that surrounds it gives you an extra energy boost, definitely."
Asked if he felt tired, Rozsival laughed and said, "I never feel tired after a win. After a loss I feel tired. I don't care how much I play; if we win I feel great."
Rozsival was particularly amped up about the opportunity to play on the power play. He logged more than five minutes on the power play, more than doubling the total ice time he had with that unit in the first 15 games of the playoffs.
Chicago, though, went 0-for-4 with three shots on goal on the power play. It couldn't connect on a 5-on-3 for 53 seconds in the second period, but Rozsival was not on the ice during the two-man advantage.
"Right before the game I found out I'd have some time on the power play -- I was really excited," Rozsival said. "The more ice time you have the better you feel out there, as long as it's not too much ice. I did not play that much in the previous games, so my mindset was keep the shifts short and try to fill the big shoes for Duncs."
Rozsival wasn't the only one who stepped up in Keith's absence.
Niklas Hjalmarsson logged a playoff-high 24:57 of ice time and contributed with assists on goals by Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane. Brent Seabrook, Keith's usual partner, played a team-high 26:20, the most ice time he's seen in a playoff game this spring. He was plus-1 with three blocked shots, including one on a penalty kill late in the third period. Johnny Oduya played 22:54 and had the secondary assist on Hossa's winner.
Those four, including Rozsival, combined for most of the ice time in the third period when Chicago held the Kings to two shots on goal after Hossa broke a 2-2 tie with 18:50 to play.
"That was probably one of the best third periods I think we've played," goalie Corey Crawford said. "Solid defense, kept them to the outside. I don't think there was one good scoring chance where they had the puck for a good shot in the slot or in front of the net. It was great for us to shut it down."