Winning a Stanley Cup is the highest achievement for any NHL team. Coming back from a 0-3 deficit in the playoffs is a historic act as only three teams have done so. Tonight The Blackhawks could become part of NHL history.
My take was the Hawks were going to lose Game 4. But once they gained a single victory Vancouver regressed and the Hawks became the more complete team. But the good Canucks did resurface in the third period of Game 6. If not for some great saves by Corey Crawford during the third frame and in overtime the Canucks would be already heading to the second round.
Game 7’s are great theater but it often seems the final score isn’t close. There is no telling who has the edge this evening, although home ice is an advantage. But who knows…Maybe the Hawks can perform better on actual ice rather than the slow, uneven playing surface of the United Center. The ice at the UC for Game 6 appeared to be really bad. In any event the beleaguered Alain Vigneault will have the last line change which could matter.
This is not a potential loser’s lament, but in many ways the Blackhawks have already won.
After backing into the playoffs the season would have ended with a thud if the Hawks were swept. Probably the same could have been said if the Canucks won in five games. Now the Blackhawk Cup winning image has been somewhat restored and there are great benefits to this extended playoff stint.
This is a young team with many players with little or no playoff experience. Playing in three elimination games is a priceless. This series has also served as a valuable audition for players which might be in the Hawks’ future plans.
The Blackhawks needed a pleasant surprise and they got one named Ben Smith. I’m not sure why Smith wasn’t called up sooner…It’s probably best to just feel fortunate he was here for the playoffs
Smith is a smart player who plays both sides of the puck well. He has the guts and brains to get into position to score goals. Smith plays bigger than his size and has some nice hands.
Michael Frolik looks like a keeper, especially if he is playing wing. Frolik has made a commitment to play good defense. He blocked four shots on Sunday which led all forwards.
It’s been a nice trend lately as the Hawks have had many more blocks than the Canucks. In Game 6 the Hawks recorded 31 blocks compared to 12 for Vancouver.
Viktor Stalberg has tried to adapt his game and is still a work in progress. If Stalberg knew how to find goal scoring areas as well as Smith he could become a productive player.
Nick Leddy keeps my blood pressure elevated. But there is no denying Leddy has kept mistakes at a minimum although playing more minutes.
Leddy could muscle up in the next five months and be much stronger next season. He could begin the season in Rockford playing 25 minutes a game, but my guess is that path won’t be followed. Leddy can skate and has what can’t be taught….Very good vision and instinct.
For one of the few times Leddy looked a bit frantic in Sunday’s overtime but he didn’t make a costly mistake. Leddy was a steal in the Barker deal and should have a long, successful NHL career.
I’m not sure about Marcus Kruger, although I have nothing negative to say. If anyone is still wondering….A great way to look foolish is to become too opinionated on a young player too quickly.
Kruger shows good hockey sense and for now that’s enough. He has been put in a tough spot and for the most part doesn’t appear overwhelmed.
Chris Campoli has been a great addition and seems to be improving with every game. Look for the Hawks to make re-signing Campoli a priority.
This series has shown Crawford can play on the big stage. Crawford has been consistent all season and has saved the day when needed. He has outplayed a few other big name goalies during the post season.
If Crawford plays as well as he did in Game 6 the Hawks have a great opportunity to make history.
For Luongo to shed his demons he has to beat the Hawks and help his team advance through the playoffs. There wasn’t much doubt in my mind Luongo would start tonight.
Bobby Lu is signed through the 2021-2022 campaign and was paid $10 million this past season. Because of the size and term of his contract Luongo can’t be traded. He has to be the main tender for the Canucks.
The Hawks must commit to getting to the Vancouver net. The Canuck defensemen played shorthanded in the last game and they must be pressured tonight. The Hawks need to continue to exploit the area between the face off circles and capitalize on scoring chances.
My key for a Blackhawk win is Jonathan Toews.
I’m thinking Joel Quenneville will play Toews with Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp for a good portion of the game. That line will probably have to produce at even strength for the Hawks to advance.
As important as scoring is how well Toews and company perform defensively.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Toews is often matched against the Sedins. Vigneault had Ryan Kesler’s line playing against Dave Bolland on Sunday in the late going. AV has the last line change and he may look to keep Kesler on Bolland and free up the Sedins.
The Hawk Captain has been hasn’t been able to light the lamp and is a minus four in the series. His crew will need to provide some offense and be defensively responsible as well.
With this surge the Blackhawks have made up for a less than sparkling regular season. We will find out soon whether it’s a historic comeback or just a nice story.
As reported by XM Home Ice yesterday and later confirmed by the Blackhawk Media Department…
Bryan Bickell underwent surgery to repair a tendon which was severed in Game 2.
Bickell will be out of action for six to eight weeks and is expected to make a complete recovery. The surgery was done by the Hawks’ hand surgeon and was anticipated since the injury occurred.
Bickell wanted to play as long as possible and yesterday was when the surgery needed to be performed. Bickell’s loss will be felt as he was playing well with Bolland and Frolik. Those three formed the most consistent line for the Blackhawks.
Who will Coach Q. play in Bickell’s place?
Tomas Kopecky made the trip to BC and might be ready to return to action.
One thing for sure….
Quenneville needs to ice the best team which shouldn’t include 59 seconds of John Scott. In Game 6, Scott played only three shifts. His lone appearance in the third period was for eight seconds.
A couple of years ago assistant coach Mike Haviland made a comment about Bolland which caught my attention.
Haviland called Bolland the life-blood of the team.
Bolland is a hockey players hockey player…. Not a lot of flash. But Bolland has a high degree of skill. He plays with an edge and is an intelligent player.
Bolland will be part of the Hawks in the future. The only negative on Bolland is he has had back problems and has trouble winning faceoffs. Those issues could be related.
No matter if Bolland is the second or third line center he could add to the offense.
It’s hard to quantify what the Marian Hossa keep in, prior to the Smith game winner, meant in terms of dollars to Rocky Wirtz.
Hossa showed his elite status and his supreme effort could lead to another playoff series. If so Hossa will have paid for a good chunk of his $8 million salary.
The Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis was upset by the Bickell check to the jaw of Kevin Bieksa.
Maybe Gillis should direct his frustration at himself and every other GM, who decided a killing zone behind the net would make sense.
It seems the last place a hit to the head should be permitted is in the area behind each net. Defensemen especially are most vulnerable there.
Let’s hope for another good game… One decided by the players not the officials.
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