By Brad Vandenberk
All the traditional jerseys were worn and all the superstitions acted upon as the Chicago Blackhawks tried to stave off elimination in the 2012 NHL playoffs. Captain Jonathan Toews took his team aside after the morning skate on Saturday with no coaches involved. The message was quite clear, they needed the win from this road game and needed the stars to pick up their game and get a win, preferably in regulation.
The last four games have gone to overtime with Mikkel Boedker winning the last 2 in Chicago with two weak goals getting by Corey Crawford. Whispers were in the air of veteran Ray Emery possibly getting the start for game five. Coach Q made the announcement that they were sticking with Crawford. Mike Smith was automatically in for the Coyotes.
Earlier in the afternoon it was decided that Raffi Torres would sit in a suit for 25 games. He was suspended for his hit on Marian Hossa during the first period in Game 3. Both teams had their say in regards to the suspension, but the Hawks were just happy the league was able to send a message and the Coyotes just wanted to continue to concentrate on getting through their first playoff round since being in Phoenix.
Brendan Morrison remained in the line up for Jamal Mayers and Jimmy Hayes saw his name on the final roster as well. Sami Lepisto came in on defense with both Sean O’Donnell and Dylan Olsen out. Andrew Shaw was serving his last of his 3-game suspension for hitting Mike Smith in game 2.
Coach Q tried to play the role of magician not revealing his trickery early during warm-ups. His opening line to start the period saw Toews centering Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell. Patrick Kane was back at center with Patrick Sharp and 19 year old Brandon Saad. Dave Bolland still played with Michael Frolik but Morrison found his way on the third line after scoring a timely goal last game. Finally Marcus Kruger centered the fourth line with Andrew Brunette and Hayes.
The first period opened with Michael Frolik showing the Hawks he needs to be playing more. He was hustling all over the ice, chasing icings and controlling the puck well. Duncan Keith also had a great opportunity to open the scoring; however Smith was there with a big save. Viktor Stalberg gets a great chance as he tries to slap it past Smith. Sharp was physical hitting everyone that was in his path. Hayes became noticeable with his puck control and time holding the puck in the offensive zone. It didn’t take long for the first penalty to be called. Just 13:39 into the first, Stalberg retaliates after a scrum in front of the net. He takes that last hit on Adrian Aucoin and is shown the penalty box for two minutes. The Hawks were able to stifle the Coyotes power play opportunity and kept the score at goose eggs. Crawford was up for the pressure filled game as he stops Ray Whitney in close. Finally the Hawks get a chance at the power play. Although most of the fans are aware that the Hawks power play has been atrocious, this game would be a good time to get it in order. Aucoin heads to the box for tripping Morrison as he was heading up the boards. Brunette gets a great chance as he walks in but Smith is there to shut the door. During the power play Derek Morris gets his stick up on Brunette giving the Hawks a two man advantage for 15 seconds. Keith and Bolland both have a few chances to get the Hawks on the board, but are uneventful. Phoenix did a great job blocking shots and allowing Smith to see everything else. Toews tries to wrap the puck around the net, but Smith uses his post to post speed and denies him. Coach Q starts to load up and change his line up reuniting Kane and Toews. The period ends with the Hawks and Coyotes scoreless and the Hawks outshooting the Yotes 12-4.
Keith opened the second on his back sliding across the ice allowing Lauri Korpikoski to break in on a 2 on 1. The Coyotes forward returned after missing both game 3 and 4 due to injury. Crawford came up with a big save on Phoenix’s fifth shot on net. At the 17:14 mark of the middle frame, Gilbert Brule and company, break in on a 4 on 1. He elects to keep the puck and wires it over Crawford electrifying the crowd and giving the Yotes a 1-0 lead. The line juggling act continued Saad found his way onto Bolland’s line with Frolik. The Hawks D men must have been instructed to play a little more offensively tonight because both Keith and Brent Seabrook weren’t shy to jump up in the play. Keith walked right through the middle getting a hot shot on Smith. Hawks continued to pour it on. Stalberg continues to turn up his pace. He breaks in hard to the net trying to solve Smith. Sharp continues his physical play. He finishes a perfect check on Boyd Gordon sending him crashing awkwardly into the boards. Crawford continues to keep the Hawks close making another good save on Marc-Antoine Pouliot. Coach Q throws out his best card hand of the game. He puts the straight flush line out with Marcus Kruger centering Andrew Brunette and Morrison. This line caused the Hawks to scramble in their zone. Michal Rozsival gets a wide open puck and fires hard on net. Crawford comes out and flashes the leather robbing the Coyotes D man. Stalberg gets himself in penalty trouble once again. He is called for slashing a Yotes forward. The Hawks killed a big penalty. Just as the period is about to end Stalberg again gets called for a two minute minor. This time it was a trip. Coach Q was burning a hole in Stalberg’s jersey as he sat in the box once again. The Hawks end the period down 1-0 with Phoenix tying the shots on net with 10 a piece.
The Hawks opened the third with Toews and Kruger on the penalty kill. They had a great chance early to tie the game shorthanded, but Smith was there to keep the desert dogs up one. The Hawks kill the penalty once again. Kane and Sharp begin to heat up as they both get a scoring chance. In order for this Hawks team to advance, these two players need to catch fire. Keith again knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup as he again, as a great chance to tie the game. Just 3:10 into the final frame, the ref’s arms flies up and calls another Hawks penalty. Could it be? Stalberg gets called for his fourth penalty of the game. That’s right odd makers, not only was it his fourth penalty, he now had all of the Hawks penalties for the game and continued to get shifts. The Coyotes were literally, licking their chops, to put the final nail in the Hawks coffin. Crawford stood tall and the Hawks killed another man advantage keeping hope alive. Now it was the Hawks turn to enjoy some power play time. Antoine Vermette could not keep up with Nick Leddy and was called for slashing. The dreaded PP, continued to make the fans cringe as they had trouble keeping it in the zone. As the penalty expires, the Hawks get some great board work from youngster Saad. He battles for the puck fighting off two Coyotes. He finally gets the puck over to Frolik who finds a streaking Leddy. He rips a shot that tips over Smith putting the Hawks on the board with 10:45 left in the game. Saad gets his first NHL point with the assist and hard work. Vermette was trying to catch Stalberg in penalty minutes as he gets called again for a huge cross check on Bickell. Leddy had Smith down and gloveless and he snaps it high over the net. The Hawks were all over Smith on this opportunity. Shane Doan had a shorthanded chance at the other end. He had Crawford beat but ran out of real estate and couldn’t tuck it home. Sharp is wide open in front of the net and Smith robs him point blank. Coyotes captain Doan, again has a chance to bring the Coyotes to the second round. Crawford is there to keep the score tied. For the fifth time in this series and for the seventh time in a row for the Hawks, the game heads into overtime.
With dreams of the two letters O and T haunting Crawford for the last 2 weeks, the pressure was on the Hawks number one to be better and get his team the win. The Coyotes got the first shot on net right off the faceoff. Stalberg continued to be on the ice. He gets a great chance to end it early. Sharp also wants to be a playoff hero, but both stars are denied by Smith. At the 17:16 mark of the extra period, Toews wins and offence faceoff. Stalberg battles hard on the boards getting the puck to the captain. Toews has nothing but a bowling alley in front of him. He walks in toward Smith a puts a laser over Smith’s blocker winning the game and forcing a game 6 at the UC on Monday night. The Hawks live to see another game! The home crowd will be pumping on Monday night, momentum Hawks!
-Hawks outshot the Coyotes 38-19.
-Both teams went 0 for 4 on the power play.
-Duncan Keith led all Hawks with 29:32 of TOI.
-Nick Leddy led the team with 5 shots on net.
-Toews was an absolute monster in the faceoff circle winning 14 of 18.
-Coach Q juggling the lines all game trying to find some chemistry.
-Andrew Shaw returns Monday night at the UC. With Shaw returning, the coaching staff will have to make some important line changes. Who will get to fill Hossa’s shoes?
-Game 6 is scheduled for Monday 8 pm
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