June 23, 2013

Chicago wins Game 5, has chance to hoist Cup in Boston

By Jesse Connolly

Patrick Kane scored two goals to lead Chicago to victory in Game 6. (Getty Images)

Final: Chicago 3, Boston 1

Recap: Despite holding an 11-8 edge in shots in the opening 20 minutes, the Bruins were at a decided disadvantage when it came to puck possession in the first period. Tuukka Rask came up with a few big stops, one of which saw him rob Patrick Sharp, but Chicago's other Patrick found twine with 2:33 to go.

A shot from Johnny Oduya died after breaking Dennis Seidenberg's stick en route to the net. Patrick Kane backhanded the loose puck past Rask to open the scoring. With 5:13 gone in the second, Kane made it 2-0, cashing in a 3-on-2 opportunity. 

Boston made it a one-goal game with 3:40 gone in the third when David Krejci set up Zdeno Chara for a top-shelf laser beam that beat Corey Crawford on his glove side. But Boston was bottled up in the neutral zone repeatedly the rest of the way, and quality chances were few and far between. Dave Bolland sealed the deal for Chicago with an empty-netter 14 seconds shy of the final horn.

Series: Chicago leads 3-2

Playoff Records: Boston 14-7; Chicago 15-7

Key Play of the Game: While the first goal was a fluke play, the Blackhawks' second tally featured a string of errors by the B's, stemming from one player in particular. Seidenberg should've been tighter on Bickell with Tyler Seguin backchecking, but the German d-man allowed the 'Hawks winger to grab his own rebound and swoop around the net. As he chased Bickell, Seidenberg got caught up with Rask, preventing him from springing from right to left. Kane had an open side of the net to shoot at when he received the pass from Bickell and took care of business.

Connolly's Commendations: I'm admittedly biased after lobbying for him to play, but Carl Soderberg played pretty darn well after being proverbially stuffed in a bag full of moth balls for just shy of two months. The Swedish rookie had a couple nice takeaways, put pucks on net, dished out three hits, made some nifty passes on a night when the Bruins were out of sync and was impressive enough to warrant a promotion to the second line when Patrice Bergeron left the game (more on this later) with an undisclosed injury. Guess he wasn't rattled by the fact that "Stanley Cup Final" was painted on the ice -- as many of his doubters implied might happen -- after all. 

Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk really stepped up with Boston's top pairing of Chara and Seidenberg struggling. The two blueliners had five hits apiece and combined to block four shots. Ference led the team with 25:48 of ice time, while Boychuk was second at 24:51.

One can't lose sight of the Bruins' No. 1 star in this one: Rask. No. 40 made a number of crucial saves that gave his suddenly-offensively-impotent teammates hope that they could come back.

Connolly's Critiques: It's hard to wrap my head around Seidenberg having two bad playoff games in a row. No. 44 has been making so many uncharacteristic mistakes in the last six-plus periods and has been burned on just about all of them. Prior to the empty-netter, he'd been on the ice for six of Chicago's last eight goals. 

Sadly, from a statistical standpoint, it gets worse. Chara, including the empty-netter, has been on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks' last nine tallies. Yowza!

The box score -- and the all-important eye test -- reveal countless no-shows up front for the Black and Gold. Brad Marchand was a turnover machine and looks to be really off his game. Milan Lucic made a number of ill-advised giveaways. Seguin, Marchand, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley combined for two shots on goal. That's not how you win hockey games at any point in the regular season, the playoffs or the Stanley Cup Final.

Notes: The big blow of the night was Bergeron, who reacted funny on what seemed like a "nothing" play, went to the bench, had one brief shift then was gone for the rest of the night following the second period. No. 37 left the arena in an ambulance and many reports on Twitter say the B's center may have a spleen injury. ... In the last 11 Stanley Cup Finals, four teams have entered Game 5 tied 2-2, lost and then still gone on to win the championship, including Boston in 2011. 

Final Thoughts: The Bruins didn't look so hot before Bergeron exited Game 5. After he did, they looked even more miserable in just about every facet of the game, from generating chances to faceoffs to you-name-it. This loss stings for a number of reasons. The Bruins were in this spot two years ago, with a chance to win on the road in Game 5 and set themselves up for a chance to win the Cup on home ice in Game 6. But just as they did in Vancouver (1-0 loss), they got beaten handedly in what was, on paper, a close game. 

Next: The Bruins will look to keep their season alive on Monday night when they host the Blackhawks in Game 6 at TD Garden.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com