Eager proves he's more than just a grinder

Ben Eager scored Chicago's second goal just 28 seconds after Marian Hossa notched the first goal of the game. Those would be enough and the Hawks would hold on for a 2-1 win in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead. Dave Sandford/NHLI/Getty Images

Ben Eager? Really? Ben Eager? Yes, that’s right. And don’t be so surprised.

The game-winning goal in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals on Monday may have been scored by a fourth-line player, but this is no ordinary fourth-liner. First of all, he was taking a shift with the top line when he scored, and Eager is a former first-round pick who’s shown better hands and speed than most would believe.

“It was pretty exciting,” Eager said in his first postgame news conference of the playoffs. “You know, [I’ve] been working pretty hard this postseason. It was definitely a nice feeling to see that one go in. It was a big shift before us. Hoss [Marian Hossa] scored a big goal for us and really got the bench going. We got out there next and got a nice bounce.”

Ironically, Joel Quenneville sent Eager out with Jonathan Toews and Dustin Byfuglien for an energy jolt after the Hawks’ first goal. He turned energy into a score.

“Sometimes you can insert them with other guys,” Quenneville said. “Benny gets in on the forecheck, and whether [Chris] Pronger is out there or not, hopefully he creates a little bit of space … But he made a great shot. Benny's got one of those shots that's deceiving, and [it has] more pace on it than you'd think or know. It was a huge goal.”

That it was. Eager’s first of the postseason. Patrick Sharp played with him in Philadelphia and knows all about the deceptive skill he possesses.

“Everyone sees how tough he is and how hard he plays the game,” Sharp stated. “Maybe they want to label him a grinder-type player, but he has some skill and he showed it on that play for sure.”

“It was a great shot. You see him do that in practice all the time. He came down that wing and kind of just stepped into it. He looked like a 50-goal scorer putting it upstairs.”

Patrick Kane usually plays with Toews and Byfuglien. He was asked if Eager possibly jumped over the boards with the wrong line.

“No, that was the line that was going out,” Kane said. “Obviously, it worked out pretty good so maybe they should keep him there.”

No reason for that, but what a nice luxury to have. Again, Hawks' depth proves too much for an opponent, and it brings them halfway to a championship.