By Sidney Brown, WARR contributor
If you like reinforcement of old sayings, then you were probably happy by the end of Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings.
“Big time players show up in big time games,” so the old saying goes, and so the the big time players for the Hawks went and handled their business in beating the Kings 3-2 in a double overtime thriller, Chicago sending the defending Stanley Cup Champions out in dramatic fashion and boosting itself into its second finals series in four years.
The Hawks started Game 5 with a blast, scoring first period goals from Duncan Keith — back for his first game after his Game 4 suspension — (3:42, 1st) and Patrick Kane (5:59, 1st) as the home team grabbed an early 2-0 lead. The Kings may have been down for the count, but they were far from done. An L.A. penalty on Dustin Penner for interference (7:50, 2nd) gave the Hawks an opportunity to put this contest away on the power play but it turned out to be an opportunity lost and soured as Kings winger Dwight King scored a short handed goal at 9:28 to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Kings suddenly had momentum and they carried it into the 3rd period as Kings top point scorer Anze Kopitar was finally heard from in this series, netting his third goal of the playoffs and first of the series on the power play to tie the game at 2-2. With the Kings controlling the pace, the Hawks snatched control back as Hawks winger Patrick Kane scored his second goal of the game off a sweet pass from Bryan Bickell at 16:08 in the third period to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead.
The sold out crowd of 22,237 at the United Center were anticipating a celebration of the Western Conference Title and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals at this point but NOT SO FAST! said the Kings.
With ten seconds left in the period and potentially left in their season, the Kings still had enough juice as Mike Richards, who returned to game action for the first time since Game 1, nailed home the game tying goal — his third of the playoffs and first of the series — to send the game into overtime. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there’s nothing like overtime playoff hockey and the Kings and Hawks provided another clear example of that expectation.
At the start of the first overtime, both teams traded scoring chances and the Kings out-shot the Hawks 11-6 but nothing came about for them or the home team. As the second overtime began, the Hawks had a little more jump in their step it seemed, shaking off some likely fatigue from the first extra period and they would end this classic game in a worthy fashion as Kane delivered finished his second career hat trick (Game 6 versus Vancouver in 2009 was the first) off a sweet pass from captain Jonathan Toews to give the Hawks the Western Conference title and a the ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Neither goalie had a great game but both stood tall when they had to. Hawks goalie Corey Crawford did a little bit more to give the Hawks a chance to win, collecting 33 saves while tallying a save percentage of .917%. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick made 31 saves off of 35 shots with a save percentage of .886%.
My Game Puck for Game 5 goes to Patrick Kane for his series-clinching goal to knock out the Kings. Is that a repeat of 2010 I smell? Stay tuned.
First, to Hawks winger Bickell for tallying two assists in Game 5. Bickell is and also tied for second place in the league in goals scored in the playoffs.
Second, to Kings defensemen Drew Doughty for showing up by delivering six hits and controlling the puck, setting his team up for great scoring chances.
Third, to the L.A. Kings for playing 38 playoff games in the last two seasons, an unprecedented run for that franchise.
Last but not least, to Hawks captain Jonathan Toews for NOT touching the Campbell Bowl, which is given to the Western Conference champions after clinching that title. Instead, the entire team huddled around center ice to take a team picture posing behind the trophy.
First, the Hawks power play unit went 0-2 with their man advantage, closing out another sorry series for Chicago special teams. Can this unit get it together against Boston in the Stanley Cup Finals?
Second, Kings captain Dustin Brown went scoreless AGAIN and totaled just two shots on goal Saturday.
Last but not least, the LA Kings finished with an 1-8 road record in this year’s playoffs, a total opposite from a year ago when they won the cup and were close to unbeatable no matter where they played. That road record is a main reason why they’re going fishing for the summer.
From the historic streak to start the regular season, to overcoming their 3-1 series deficit against Detroit and to now knocking out the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks up to this point have met the high expectations put forth by them.
What awaits the Hawks as they head into their final matchup with the Boston Bruins — Will Kaner’s hot scoring streak continue? Will the power play ever catch fire? Can the Hawks outwork the Bruins’ defense? And will Crawford stand tall one more time and prove that he’s a championship caliber goalie?
We’ll find out answers to these questions and more as Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals begin on Wednesday night in Chicago on NBC at 7 pm central. The final series means that Hawks fans, and hockey fans in general, will be treated with the number one announcing team in the sport with Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, Eddie Olcyk and Pierre McGuire.
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