Going Going, Back Back to Cali Cali: Blackhawks 5, Kings 4 (2OT) – Kings Lead Series 3-2
Couldn’t say it any better than Notorious BIG.
Game 5 was, without a doubt, the most nerve-wracking hockey I’ve watched since overtime of Game 7 against Detroit last year. And that’s probably only fitting given that the Blackhawks need to overcome the exact same deficit they faced in that series.
From up two goals (twice), to farting away the lead, to an absolutely intense first OT to the winner by Michal Handzus, it brought out every emotion humans are capable of showing. I can’t imagine that Game 6 will be any different.
Rather than writing about the Blackhawks’ playoff demise, we’re able to get to some analysis ahead of the return to the Staples Center on Friday. Here’s what I’ve got…
* Remember in Game 2 when the ‘Hawks were leading 2-0 and it appeared Brent Seabrook was about to put them up three before Jonathan Quick slid across the crease and snuffed it out? And remember when the Kings pulled within one goal shortly after, then ended up rattling off six straight goals to run the ‘Hawks out of their own building?
Jonathan Toews had a prime opportunity to put the ‘Hawks up by three, but Quick made another spectacular save and Marian Gaborik scored seconds later to cut the lead in half. Then they went on to grab the lead. Was I the only one thinking I was watching He’s Quick, and We’re Dead II?
* Thankfully, we didn’t have to go through that and watch the season end on home ice. And Brandon Saad was the main reason for that. Playing mostly with Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane, Saad had his best game as a Blackhawk, in my opinion. He scored after setting up Shaw for the initial shot that left a rebound for him to clean up, added an assist on Ben Smith’s goal on a beautiful feed and set up Handzus’ winner when he found the old man wide open streaking to the net. He won battles along the boards, tipped or intercepted passes in the neutral zone and was a royal pain in the Kings’ asses all night long.
* I don’t even know if there are enough shitty adjectives to describe how terrible Kris Versteeg played tonight, and I’m starting to think Q may be out of words as well. After Versteeg’s absent mindedness led to Dustin Brown’s goal midway through the second period, Versteeg didn’t see the ice again. Q decided to double shift Kane and play with a short bench through the final 50-plus minutes rather than risk Versteeg fucking something up again. He played nine shifts and 6:48 of ice time – in a playoff game that went to double OT. There can’t be any possible way he dresses in Game 6. There just can’t. Right? Please tell me there can’t be a reason he’s dressed. Please.
* The ‘Hawks scored on their first power-play chance and went 3 for 3 on the kill. Progress.
* Kane’s four assists are a welcome sign, and it’s likely no coincidence his big night came playing with two guys that could keep up with him. His 28:34 TOI was the third-highest of his career, just seconds behind what he played against the Kings in Game 5 last year, when he sent the ‘Hawks to Stanley Cup Final with an OT winner. Kane still has only one goal since Game 2 against Minnesota, but tonight shows that playing with Saad/Shaw might just help get him back into the scoring column in Game 6 after being held down throughout the series. Let’s just hope Q stick with that trio.
* Corey Crawford has to be better, especially on the Kings’ fourth goal. Sure, he may have been screened off by Niklas Hjalmarsson but there’s just no excuse for that puck going into the top far corner. His save percentage in the series is .882, and that’s just not going to cut it.
So, the ‘Hawks live to fight another day. It’s live or die in L.A. on Friday. Let’s get it back to Chicago, boys.
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