Chicago – The Blackhawks showed the will of a winner in Phoenix Saturday night and defeated the Coyotes 2-1 in overtime. With the victory, the two clubs will square off for Game 6 on Monday at the United Center. The Hawks weren’t perfect but they did play their best game of the series.
When everything is on the line Jonathan Toews doesn’t blink. The Hawks captain won a faceoff in overtime, captured the puck and headed to the net. Toews didn’t hesitate and ripped a high shot just inside the post and over Mike Smith’s right shoulder. It was a true goal scorer’s type of goal as there was only the smallest part of net open, but for Toews it wasn’t a problem.
The Blackhawks came out and played a very good opening period but couldn’t sustain the same type of effort in the middle frame. The Hawks defensemen were trying to get involved in the offense and were being aggressive to join the rush. That’s a fine strategy as long as the Hawk defenders use their best judgment when to commit to a play in the offensive zone.
Unfortunately, with the play in front of him, Niklas Hjalmarsson moved in along the board as all three Hawks forwards were below the faceoff circles. The Coyotes got the puck before Sami Lepisto could gain control and they had a three on one scoring attempt. Phoenix forward Gilbert Brulet made no mistake and beat Corey Crawford with a slap shot from the faceoff circle to give the Coyotes an early second period 1-0 lead.
After getting the lead the Coyotes had the Hawks on the ropes and if not for some strong play from Crawford the series could have ended in the desert. The defensive zone coverage was spotty and players were standing still watching the puck, but the Hawks regained their poise. Both goaltenders played very good games, but it was Crawford who had more to prove and he did.
Joel Quenneville is in all out desperation mode, as he should be, and is looking for any edge possible. The Hawks bench boss used line combinations that were seldom if ever seen in the regular season.
Quenneville was looking to key off of players who have been doing well. So Bryan Bickell skated with Toews and Viktor Stalberg. The line generated scoring chances but Stalberg had a careless game and was whistled four times for minor penalties. Fortunately the Chicago penalty killers, led by Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik who both had strong games, didn’t allow a Coyote goal in four power play attempts. Brendan Morrison stayed in the Hawks lineup and skated on the checking line with Bolland and Stalberg.
Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp were teamed with rookie Brandon Saad but the trio didn’t do much in the way of generating offense. Sharp has not been the offensive force the Hawks have needed. Kane had another poor game, following a subpar performance in Game 4. Kane doesn’t usually follow one bad game with another but he did on Saturday.
Give the Coyotes credit as they have frustrated the Hawks best players, especially Kane, and have made them work hard for scoring chances. The Hawks still haven’t been able to generate many rebounds on Smith although they did have more traffic around the net.
To continue reading click here.
To follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia
Next article will be out on Monday.
About the Author: