Chicago Blackhawks: Jesse Rogers
“It was pretty cool,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said after the Cubs 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “You respect what those guys did. They accomplished a lot.”
Quenneville talked with Cubs manager Dale Sveum in his office before the game, then took the Cup out to the pitcher’s mound while he threw out the first pitch. Then, he placed it on home plate for a few minutes.
“It was pretty special,” Sveum said. “Just to touch the Cup is pretty special. To actually be next to it and take pictures with it is pretty special. The guys can understand, it’s such a special trophy. It’s one of a kind, and the tradition behind that Cup is off the charts.”
At least one Cub wouldn't touch the Cup, fearing a superstition which states no one that hasn't won it should touch it.
"Nope, I didnt touch it," pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. "I respect hockey players and their traditions."
"In 2010, you guys waited 49 years to do this," forward Patrick Sharp said at a rally on Friday to celebrate this year's title. "This year, we waited three years -- what do you say we get back here and do it again next year?"
No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. That Wings team also won it all in 2002. That's what the Hawks have their sights set on.
"We have some young players here with pretty impressive résumés at a young age," Joel Quenneville said recently. "And they're competitive and they want to do well and want to win. That's a good thing."
Bryan Bickell's goal tied the game at 2-2 with 1:16 remaining, and, while many fans were still celebrating that goal, Dave Bolland beat Tuukka Rask for a shocking 3-2 lead with 59 seconds remaining.
From management to coaches to players to fans alike, everyone had a different perspective on the moments that secured the Hawks their second Stanley Cup championship in four years:
Jonathan Toews: I remember saying to [Patrick] Kane and [Bryan Bickell] on the bench with like two minutes left, I just had a feeling we were going score. Sure enough, Bicks puts one home. I don't know how to explain it. Seventeen seconds later and Bolly [Dave Bolland] puts one home. You look up at the clock and there's 58 seconds left and you're like, "OK, well, we have to kill that off somehow." As crazy as those 17 seconds were, you never know, they could come right back and get a lucky one on you, too. I remember just tripping down the ice trying to get the puck in their empty net. I ended up just shoveling it down; I saw the time on the clock at the end and saw there was only three seconds left. That's when I couldn't believe, just the turn of events, and it was over and the Cup was ours.
Joel Quenneville: Amazing. Didn't see that one coming. We watched it on the plane. It was such an amazing two minutes. A lot of things went right. You heard Kane talk about the quality of the ice. We had to think we had to get ugly goals to be effective.
Bickell: Just a good battle in the corner, and I took a big loop then I found open ice and Tazer [Toews] slid it through [Zdeno] Chara's feet. And I hammered it. I didn't really pick a spot. I knew if I hit it hard enough hopefully it would go through the goal, and I was happy it went in. Seventeen seconds later to do what we did was crazy.
Bolland: I still can't believe it. It's always a kid's dream to score that goal. I did it. It's big. I think I'll ride with it right now.
Daniel Carcillo (healthy scratch): We were in the room. We tied it up, so we were all celebrating. We had no idea what happened. We look back at the television, and we're up one and we're all scrambling to get ready to get back on the ice. It happened pretty quickly, but a pretty cool experience.
Hawks media relations manager Brandon Faber: I didn't watch the last 10 minutes of the game because I was too nervous. I was alone in a room. I could hear healthy scratch guys. I heard them cheer, and that's when I ran in there. Then I went back to the other room. Nobody in there, and we scored again.
Patrick Sharp: When we scored, my first thought was "Yeah, maybe we have a chance to win this again in overtime." And I was joking with Kane telling him how jealous of him I was in 2010. When Bicks scored to tie it up, I thought this was my chance to get him back and score one in overtime and steal it from him. But Bolly beat me to it. Couldn't be happier to see Bolly score there. I thought it was funny that he dropped the gloves, just pure excitement. He didn't know what to do -- none of us knew what to do.
Bolland: I couldn't get my glove out [from Johnny Boychuk], so I ripped my glove off and celebrated.
Bickell: We were still celebrating on the bench [my goal]. "OK, we're tied up we're going to OT." I looked up at the JumboTron. I saw it hit the post and then Bolly. Kind of surreal, that just really happened. We started celebrating again.
One of those changes could see Bolland and his $3.375 million contract on the move. Bolland scored a rebound goal with 59 seconds remaining of Monday's Game 6, giving the Hawks a 3-2 advantage and an eventual second championship in four years.
"(I) would love to be back here next year but whatever happens, happens," Bolland said in response to the rumors. "This is the NHL and trades happen, but I would love to be back here. I love Chicago."
Game 6 Report Card: Chicago Blackhawks 3, Boston Bruins 2
This grade went from a C to an A in a matter of 17 seconds as the Hawks never let up although they trailed twice on the night. They couldn't score on the power play in the game -- or the series -- but when Corey Crawford was pulled for an extra attacker they got the job done 6-on-5. Bryan Bickell finished his scoring chance as did Dave Bolland moments later. The Hawks offense got better as the game went along but things didn't materialize until very late, with the goals coming just in the nick of time.
Boston came hard to start the game as the Hawks couldn't get out of their own end but things began to even out in the second half of the contest. Boston only had 13 shots on net in the final 40 minutes. Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson miscommunicated behind the Hawks net on what looked to be the winning goal but the visitors buckled down after that. After the first period they didn't deserve a passing grade but that changed in the second and third periods.
Crawford's play in the first period alone kept the Hawks in the game as he was magnificent while the Bruins were taking control. The Bruins' first goal was a result of their play, not Crawford's. He did have a hand in the Bruins' second goal as the puck he mishandled behind his net eventually ended up in it, but Crawford kept the Hawks afloat while the rest of the team caught up. He was great.
The Hawks penalty killers re-found their mojo after some early-game struggles in the series. Boston had four straight power-play chances before the Hawks even had one -- and they were turned away each time. Yes, the Hawks' power play looked bad again and almost cost them as a late chance netted nothing, but if you include the extra-attacker goal late in the game then at least it can be called a man-advantage score. The penalty killers, though, were a key to the entire playoff run.
-Didn't extend elbow or launch.
-Didn't target head or make it principal point of contact.
Replays show Boychuk leaving his feet but only after initial contact with Toews was made. That’s not illegal. The first point of contact is Toews’ back and/or shoulder but not the head. Eventually the hit rides up Toews towards his neck and head and then Boychuk falls on him. Additionally, Boychuk has control of his stick – to his side – eliminating any thought of a crosscheck.
Toews finished the second period but did not play in the third due to an “upper-body” injury. He was on the bench during the period and teammates said afterwards he was asking his coach to play. Joel Quenneville said afterwards he was “hopeful” Toews would participate in Game 6 on Monday. The Hawks lead the series 3-2.
Game 5 Report Card: Chicago Blackhawks 3, Boston Bruins 1
Scoring two goals was enough for the Hawks on Saturday, but when they scored them was what made the difference. Taking a 1-0 lead late in the first period and then extending that lead to 2-0 in the second was huge. If the Bruins get their first goal before the Hawks get their second the outcome might be different. The line of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell alone made the grade for the Hawks as they combined for 11 shots on net -- and Toews didn't even play in the third period. An empty-netter by Dave Bolland halted a frantic finish for Boston and sealed the win.
Yes, the Bruins came hard in the third period and scored a goal to cut the lead to one but the Hawks held strong most of the night, especially with Toews and Brent Seabrook hurting late in the game. The Bruins had just 25 shots, 11 below their playoff leading average. Adding to the defense was 17 blocked shots as none of the dangerous offensive stars for the Bruins had a good night. It was a solid defensive effort from start to finish -- minus a few expected minutes during a strong Bruins' push in the third period.
Corey Crawford came close to a shutout, taking a 2-0 lead into the third period before Zdeno Chara blasted one past him. Yes, it went glove side but that's of little concern considering Crawford stopped the other 24 shots that came his way. He wasn't needed to be spectacular, only solid, and performed up to the task after a five-goal game in Game 4.
The grade is as much for the fact that Boston had zero power-play attempts in the game, though the Hawks did struggle with their own man-advantage tries. But with the Hawks suddenly vulnerable killing penalties, staying out of the box served as a kill of its own. The Hawks took two minors and one was a questionable dive by Michal Handzus. But that was offset by Nathan Horton's hooking call on the play while Patrick Sharp was sent to the box at the same time as Johnny Boychuck of the Bruins. That was all the infractions the Hawks would incur. Special teams played no part in the game -- a victory for the home team considering their recent past in that department.
We might be more than a win away from using dynasty to describe the Chicago Blackhawks organization.
But it certainly would be a tempting proposition now that the Hawks are within one victory of earning their second Stanley Cup championship in four years, following a 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of their best-of-seven series on Saturday.
The Hawks lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 in Boston on Monday.
“I’m not even thinking about that right now,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said after a frantic finish to Game 5. “It’s going to be really tough.”
The Hawks found offensive success by attacking the net more no matter who was on the ice for the Bruins. Jonathan Toews expressed as much in the days after Game 4. Sustaining that at home should be easier to accomplish with the right work ethic considering any match-up concerns now favor the Hawks.
Did they really figure something out against Zdeno Chara or was that a fluke?
“It's not going to be like last game,” Dave Bolland predicted Saturday morning. “He's going to be looking to play a different game, change things around. We're going to have to be aware of him.”
Another key was the Hawks blue-line activating the offense and more importantly being a part of it. Michal Rozsival may have been one of the most important players on the ice as his shots led to two goals, establishing the Hawks lead for most of the night. Skating with the puck and pinching at the right time while helping on offense is a Hawks strength from the back-end. Expect it to continue.
Everyone’s eye will be on Corey Crawford’s glove on his left hand. Were his issues a one game aberration or something that might crop up again? If the worst case scenario happens, and Crawford gives up some early goals, there’s nothing to say Quenneville can’t go to Ray Emery. It’s not as likely of an option for Boston if the same struggles occur to Tuukka Rask because they don’t have a back-up who went 17-1. It’s doubtful Emery gets in there but it’s not a stretch to believe Crawford’s leash became a little shorter after Game 4.
Winning in the circle
Face-offs became an issue after the Hawks lost 71 percent of them in Game 3, but they reversed that trend in Game 4 coming out on top of about half of them. It had a big impact.
“I think it played a part early on in the game,” Quenneville said Saturday morning. “I thought we were much more effective than in the prior game. They got better as the game went on. I just think starting with the puck is key. I think having it against this team is important.”
The proof is in the results. The Hawks played a life-less Game 3 on offense when wining just 29 percent of the draws – and got shutout. Winning 38 of 77 face-offs made a big difference and it’s not a coincidence the Hawks scored more in Game 4, partly because of that improvement.
An X-factor line for Hawks
For a 6-5 final score in Game 3, the Hawks third line of Andrew Shaw, Viktor Stalberg and Brandon Saad had a quiet night. They combined for an even, plus/minus game, with their lone point coming on Saad’s short-handed assist to open the scoring. Collectively, they say they were happy with their defense in an open game but would like to be more noticeable on the offensive end. They combined for three shots on net.
“I like to get those chances,” Stalberg said of a bull rush around a slower defenseman. “The way they play, they play pretty structured. They come back five guys hard. The way to beat them is to keep longer cycles in their end, they have bigger guys that get tired, maybe. Longer puck possessions are key.”
Added Shaw: “Defensively we’ve been pretty good but we do need to create a few more offensive chances going into Game 5 here.”
Most observers felt the playing surface in Game 4 in Boston was better than in Game 3. Coincidentally, or not, the Hawks went from being shutout to scoring six goals. There’s little doubt a smoother surface benefits the speedy Hawks against most opponents – including the Bruins.
“I thought the ice was fine today,” Quenneville said. “It's kind of one of those days with the humidity and it will be a little warmer out there today. But the building and the playoffs have been fine, the ice has been fine. We talked about that going into that game against Detroit with the Stones (Rolling Stones), and I think everybody had no problem with the ice. I think sometimes late in periods you've got to know that it gets a little bit worn out in both buildings, and you've got to be smart in those areas.”
Still, things could be different at game time and a fast surface can only help the Hawks – not hurt them.
Marian Hossa will play and can only be feeling better after two days off the ice. He didn’t take the morning practice on Saturday so he hasn’t been on skates since the end of Game 4 late on Wednesday. Quenneville says he’ll be better in Game 5 as any boost from Hossa is a huge boost for the Hawks.
Former Chicago Blackhawks goaltender and current NHL network analyst Darren Pang says Corey Crawford needs to make an adjustment with his glove as the Hawks and Boston Bruins prepare for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday.
"There are times shots are beating you in the same place and you're just off your angle," Pang said Friday at the United Center. "You need to make that little adjustment."
Crawford gave up five goals in a winning effort in Game 4 as the Hawks tied the series, but several scores went right past his glove and into the net. In fact, all five got by him on his glove side.
"Obviously they shot there a lot more than blocker side," Crawford said. "For me I can't start thinking about that. As a goalie you never want to be thinking out there, you just want to read and react."
Pang has been there before, as a goalie in the NHL from 1984-1989. He says he relied on his glove more than most but players today use it differently.
"When I watch a goaltender give up that many goals on his glove I relay it back to me," Pang explained. "What would I be feeling? Well, I'd really be disappointed in myself. How on earth can that puck keep going by there and what am I doing wrong? Where's my glove position?
"The strange thing for me is it's going middle of the net. It's not going high under the bar and it's not going along the ice. Just middle."
In other words these aren't incredibly placed shots getting by Crawford; they're good shots -- but stoppable.
"I wasn't really as sharp as I was the other games," Crawford said. "If there are some things on video to change, we'll change it."
Pang says Crawford might be starting with his glove too high and then making an "extra move" before bringing it to a position to make the save. If he starts with the glove lower it might make the upper half of the net look more inviting but forcing a shooter to go top shelf rather than middle of the net is probably the better way to go. That's a harder shot to place.
"I'm not sure if it was an aberration or not," Pang said. "We'll find out in Game 5."
Crawford's teammates have rightly come to his defense, claiming they wouldn't be in the position to win a Cup without Crawford. But they know what went on last game.
"I tried today and he stopped me glove side, so hopefully he's got it all figured out," Patrick Sharp said after Hawks practice Friday morning. "I don't know if that was the gameplan or if that's something they did on purpose and they were successful at it, but I like Corey in there. I've seen goals go in all different ways and I've seen him make saves all different ways. I like his chances against them."
As for Crawford, he's been answering as many questions after a win than he would have after a defeat. So far, he's taking it all in stride.
"Last year they were talking about my blocker," he joked sarcastically. "Both sides are bad I guess."
"Let's set it straight here," Toews said Thursday after returning from Boston where he scored a goal in the Hawks' 6-5 victory in Game 4. "It was not a joke, but he'd be sitting in the lounge or whatever at the hotel, and he just looked at me and I answered it wrong one time because he just asked me, 'What are you thinking about,' and I was like, ‘Nothing, what are you thinking about?' And he looked at me again and I realized what he wanted me to say, and I snapped back and said, 'scoring goals.' There you go. That was all it was."
As it turned out, both Toews and Seabrook scored goals on Wednesday to even the Stanley Cup finals at 2-2 with Game 5 here on Saturday. Maybe, just maybe, Toews has found his scoring touch. The goal was just his second of the playoffs and came off a simple tip-in of a Michal Rozsival shot, but it meant a lot.
"'Finally,'" Toews recalled feeling. "Just wanted a lucky one, and that was it. I think it doesn't make much sense when you say that, a puck going off your stick from the point, and you see it going in, can liberate you as a player and help you play the rest of the game with less pressure. And just go out there and make plays and let things happen instead of trying to force every single little thing, but it does."
Even the reporter knew the answer before the question was asked of Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, but it was asked anyway.
Was he thinking of changing goalies for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals after starter Corey Crawford gave up five goals in a 6-5, Game 4 victory?
"No, not at all," Quenneville responded on Thursday afternoon. "We're very comfortable with Corey. Corey has been rock solid all year for us. He's been outstanding, he's the biggest reason we're here today."
Quenneville didn't dismiss the notion that Crawford had a bad night but emphasized it was just one. Crawford's given up 12 goals in four games which is a big number, but considering the Hawks and Boston Bruins have played over an extra full game due to overtime hockey, that total doesn't sound as bad. However, there's little doubt the glove side goals he gave up on Wednesday night -- all five of them -- will be addressed.
"Last night's game was one of those games where pucks were going in," Quenneville said. "We'll visit with that. All year long Corey has just moved on, he moves from save to save, it doesn't faze him."
That might be the main difference between the old Crawford and this year's version. In the past bad goals or games have stuck with him. The Hawks better hope there are no lingering affects after a rough night.
"A couple tough breaks last night, especially when we had the lead at 3-1 or 4-2, Boston is going to open up a little bit," Patrick Kane explained. "I think for us that we can play better defensively, maybe get in some shooting lanes and block some of those shots.
"But I don't think we're worried about Crow at all. Just talked to him afterward and he seemed to be in a good state. He just seemed to be happy we won the game, so I don't worry about his confidence at all."
"Game 3, we were disappointed with our offense," Quenneville said of the 2-0 shutout Monday. "So we went to the well. I'm sure they're excited about returning together. Maybe it looks like I didn't know what I was doing."
That last self-deprecating sentence was said with a laugh. But make no mistake, Quenneville knows exactly what he's doing. That's not to say every decision is right, but there are moves to be made in a best-of-seven series that don't always seem obvious.
When he says they "went to the well," he means reuniting Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell on the Hawks' top line. That trio combined for five points in the win, making the coach's decision in delaying its return a curious one.
"From a coaching standpoint, you're always looking for different matchups," Kane said Wednesday night. "You can understand where they're coming from when they split us up after the last series."
Game 4 Report Card: Chicago Blackhawks 6, Boston Bruins 5 (OT)
The chances and the scoring were spread out, led by the Hawks' top line which accounted for two goals in the second period. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane finished chances like they're supposed to while Patrick Sharp, playing on the second line, kept peppering Tuukka Rask to the tune of eight shots on net and a power-play goal. And don't forget Brandon Saad's play to set up Michal Handzus with the game's first tally back in the first period. Saad's turnover led to Boston's first score as well, but it was one of the few big mistakes the forward made -- though the Hawks took a couple of bad penalties, including both Toews and Kane. The defense helped the offense, getting shots through from the point and leading the rush. Winning 49 percent of the faceoffs helped as the Hawks reversed most trends on offense from Game 3.
The blueliners get points for contributing on offense, but power-play goals given up and lost battles in their own zone downgrade them. Johnny Oduya, in particular, had his struggles, including one glaring one in which he couldn't win the puck from Jaromir Jagr during an extended battle along the boards. Patrice Bergeron scored seconds later. Several shots on Corey Crawford came with more time and space than anyone would have liked. It was a tough night on defense but Michal Rozsival and Brent Seabrook helped save the day, contributing on offense.
It's rare to give a winning goaltender a near-failing grade, but Corey Crawford contributed to the Hawks giving up three leads. Though the Bruins had some good looks, Crawford simply could not track the puck with his glove. He kept missing. The only real excuse he had was on one of Bergeron's goals as the puck came off the glass behind Crawford and bounced back into the crease, where it was tough for the goalie to find. Otherwise, Crawford's glove was hit or miss all night.
It was a failing grade on Monday but the Hawks saved themselves with a short-handed tally and a big power-play goal, their first of the finals, in the third period. But two power-play goals by the Bruins offset any success the Hawks had on special teams. All of a sudden the Hawks aren't making the plays killing penalties they did all season and the Bruins are capitalizing. Besides the one power-play tally, the rest of the night with the man advantage was business as usual: bad.