By Sidney Brown, WARR contributor
Power play goals and survival were the themes in Game 5 of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Western Conference semifinal with the Detroit Red Wings.
The Hawks scored twice with its man advantage — a big time breakthrough for an element of the team’s game that has done little to add to its success throughout this year — to hold off elimination as they dominated the Detroit 4-1 Saturday night and now trail the best of seven series 3-2.
The Hawks set the tempo in front of a sold-out crowd at the United Center from the outset. Classic playoff hockey was on display as the Hawks out hit, out-shot and overall outplayed the Red Wings, an effort which helped re-energize the Hawks’ high powered offense.
Chicago’s scoring outburst began with Bryan Bickell, who netted home his fourth goal of the playoffs of a pass from Patrick Kane at 14:08 in the first period. Later, second year phenom Andrew Shaw scored the first of his two goals on the power play, followed by captain Jonathan Toews who scored his first goal of the playoffs, also on the power play. The evening wrapped up when Shaw tallied his second goal of the night at 6:58 in the third.
Hawks goalie Corey Crawford was stellar once again, collecting 25 saves on 26 shots with a save percentage of .962%. Crawford made big saves, including one on Detroit’s man advantage early in the first period and he didn’t give up many rebounds, which was a problem for his opponent, who couldn’t block a rebound attempt by Bickell, which wound up opening up the Hawks’ scoring.
On the other side, Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard made 41 saves and that may have been too many attempts for him to handle. Howard had major trouble handling Chicago’s offensive surge especially on the Hawks’ man advantage.
Red Wings winger Daniel Cleary tallied home the only goal for Detroit at 9:37 in the second, but it wasn’t nearly enough as their offense had trouble getting started comparing to Games 3 and 4. The Hawks dominated puck possession and didn’t give up any turnovers in their own zone which led to their out-shooting the Red Wings by 21 (45-26) for the game. The Hawks live to fight another day and play in Game 6 in Detroit on Monday night (7 pm central, NBC Sports Network).
First, to the Hawks’ penalty kill — once again outstanding as it blanked Detroit in their man advantage (0-4).
Second, and FINALLY!, to the Blackhawks power play, who finally generated movement and created traffic in front of Jimmy Howard which produced results, two goals in three advantage chances to be exact.
Third, to Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville in utilizing last change, getting matchups that he wanted and changing lines just before the start of Game 5, including teaming up Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the first defensive pair. Also, his pairing up of Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp on the top scoring line. Defenseman Seabrook, who was been a no-show throughout these playoffs, responded with one assist and two hits, helping to set the tempo at the start of the game. Hawks second line center Michal Handzus, who has struggled winning faceoffs during the playoffs, had no problem Saturday in winning eight of 12 faceoffs.
To NBC Sports, for finally showing the national anthem at the UC before the opening faceoff. After the mishap during the Game 2 coverage, I guess I wasn’t the only one who was complaning!
Last but not least, to the Chicago Blackhawks Charities, who donated their portion of the Split the Pot money from Game 5 to the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund to benefit the victims of the recent deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma.
My Game Puck for Game 5 goes to the Hawks power play unit for going 2 for 3 in their man advantage.
First, the Detroit Red Wings penalty kill — what a difference a game makes for that unit. After blanking the Hawks in Game 4, Saturday was a major letdown as they gave two power play which led to their demise.
Second, the Red Wings power play who’s 0-4 outing won’t cut it. That needs to improve if they’re going to finish off the Hawks.
Finally, to a fan who threw an octopus onto the ice in the late stages of Game 5. That is a tradition in DETROIT which goes back many years, but to whoever decided to do that in Chicago is a complete JERK! We keep our water monsters in the Chicago River, thank you.
Game 6 is set for Monday night at Joe Louis Arena. As the Hawks fight on, will they manage to keep up the momentum that helped them win Game 5 or will the Red Wings live up to the increased pressure of defending home ice in an elimination game and do away with their rival.
With a 1-3 record on the road in this year’s playoffs, the Hawks must continue to play strong defense and set the tempo for its high powered offense especially from the start of the game if they’re going to any chance of playing in Game 7 on Wednesday. Detroit’s power play must improve and superstars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk must step up scoring-wise because if they don’t, enormous pressure will be placed on them and this team for a seventh game in Chicago and blowing a 3-1 series lead would be a huge collapse for the Red Wings franchise, despite being the supposed underdog heading into this one.
It seems to me that the Hawks respond better under pressure and if they can do what they did in Game 5, I expect them to finish off the Red Wings in seven. Is it possible for the Hawks to make history? I believe so. Only time will tell and Game 6 will reveal all the answers we need.
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