Blackhawks 1 win away from Stanley after 7-4 win
Tuesday, 06.19.2012 / 12:39 AM
Dan Rosen - NHL.com senior writer
All that was audible inside the Chicago Blackhawks' dressing room late Sunday night were soft voices and the shuffling feet of a few dozen reporters battling for position in a scrum just like the players do on the ice.
From east to west and north to south inside the cavernous room, players stood in front of their stalls and quietly talked about dominating Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Smiles were scarce.
The Blackhawks had just skated to a 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers and to a 3-2 lead in the Stanley Cup Final. They've won 67 games this season, and with one more win they can erase 49 years of misery by winning the Stanley Cup. But you could hardly tell by the mood in their room.
"I think it's a sign of reality," Hawks center John Madden said. "We haven't accomplished anything. Yeah, we're up 3-2 in the series and we've been able to hold home-ice advantage, but we know how well they play in their building. We have to get our rest, get our mind cleared on what we have to do on Wednesday. You can chalk it up to maturity, but I think guys are real focused on what they have to do."
The next two days will feel like an eternity for the Hawks. They won't get their first crack at winning the Cup until Wednesday night in Philadelphia (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS). The two full off-days are not welcome now, not after the way the Hawks played Sunday.
Showing off their brand-new lines, created in part by the breakup of their former top line (Jonathan Toews
, Patrick Kane
and Dustin Byfuglien), the Blackhawks raced out to a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes, by far their best first period of the series.
Byfuglien, who was skating with Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland
, had 2 assists in the first. Brent Seabrook
, Bolland and Versteeg all scored within a span of 5:58.
"That was the pace we've been looking for," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.
It was enough for Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to pull goalie Michael Leighton (10 saves) for Brian Boucher at the start of the second period. Boucher made only 11 saves, and Laviolette didn't have an answer when he was asked who would start Game 6.
"One thing I've learned along the way about the playoffs is one game is only one game. There's usually not a carryover effect from game to game," Laviolette said. "This is just one page of the story. Tonight it was their page."
Chicago turned the page on special teams. The Hawks were getting outplayed badly in that department through four games, but won the battle Sunday by scoring on two of four power plays and killing off all three penalties they committed.
The Blackhawks were 1-for-9 on the power play through four games while the Flyers were 5-for-16, and had scored at least one power-play goal in each game.
"We did a good job staying out of the box, better than we've done," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith
said. "We did a good job penalty killing and using our speed. Everybody was battling."
Byfuglien, previously invisible thanks to Chris Pronger, finished with four points on 2 goals and 2 assists. He was hard on the puck, physical in the corners and a force in the slot. He was the game's first star and his power-play goal off some tic-tac-toe passing with 4:15 to play in the second period proved to be the game-winner.
It put the Hawks up 5-2 going into the third period.
"He got rid of us and started performing," Kane said, offering one of the rare jokes we heard after the game. "That's all he needed."
Versteeg, who was disappointed in his effort after the two losses in Philly, had three points and was a plus-3. He was the game's second star. Kane, a minus-4 in Game 4, had a goal and an assist to earn the third star.
"Everybody wanted to make a difference tonight," Versteeg said.
Everybody did, including Quenneville, whose decision to change the lines after the forgettable experience in Philly had a lot to do with the energy and speed the Hawks played with Sunday.
Quenneville played coy about potential line changes Sunday morning, but he clearly wanted to get Toews, Kane and Byfuglien separated so Pronger wouldn't have as great an effect on three of the Blackhawks' top offensive players.
Toews, Kane and Byfuglien combined for seven points and Pronger, a plus-4 in Game 4, finished a minus-5 in Game 5, his worst performance of the playoffs by a landslide. He tried to brush it off in another comedic session with the media.
"I'm day-to-day with hurt feelings," Pronger cracked.
At least he has two days to recover.
"It's already gone," Pronger added. "I don't remember anything."
The Blackhawks better remember everything about Game 5 because they'll have to replicate the effort and performance Wednesday when they won't have 22,305 screaming fans behind them.
Philadelphia is 9-1 on its home ice in the playoffs and has shown the resiliency of a cat all season, especially this spring. Chicago is 0-for-3 in games inside Wachovia Center this season, but the Cup will be in the building and it can be theirs if they win.
Then, and only then, will the Hawks celebrate.
"We just realize nothing is won yet," Keith said. "We need one more win to do it."