BOSTON -- Five things to watch in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals Monday night.
1. Superstar stutter? The status of injured stars Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins continues to dominate the pregame storyline. Bergeron, who played only 6:06 in Game 5 before leaving with an injury that required hospital observation in Chicago, did not skate Monday morning with his teammates. Head coach Claude Julien said Monday morning that Bergeron will take the pregame skate and that he is confident Bergeron will play. Bergeron's presence would be a huge boon to the Bruins as he has produced timely goals, taken key faceoffs and provided stellar defensive play. In short, he does it all. It also seems likely Toews will play -- he took part in the morning skate and told reporters afterward he feels "fine" -- so the continued success of the Patrick Kane-Toews-Bryan Bickell line will be a key game-within-the-game situation to watch as the Blackhawks look to close out the Bruins. The Bruins had their most successful offensive shifts in Game 5 with Toews on the bench during the third period. No surprise there, given that Toews is the recent Frank J. Selke Trophy winner and, like Bergeron, simply does it all. Now, it's one thing to play, but if those players are in the lineup but still feeling the effects of what was ailing them, how effective will they be and how much ice time will they see? The answers to those questions will have a significant impact on the outcome.
2. Taking it to Big Z: Speaking of the Blackhawks’ top line, it has run roughshod over the Bruins' defense and specifically captain Zdeno Chara in the past couple of games. Chara has been on the ice for eight of the past nine Blackhawks goals. Chara did play much better in the latter stages of Game 5 and scored the Bruins' lone goal in the 3-1 loss. But he also lost Kane on the Blackhawks’ second goal, and the Toews unit has scored four times and added six assists in the past two games. Look for Julien to keep Chara paired with Dennis Seidenberg with the hope that the defensive pair can stem the tide when the Bruins need it most.
3. Score first, plan the parade? During the first four games of the series, the team that scored first won only twice. But the Blackhawks have won two in a row after scoring first and, given the do-or-die nature of this game, it would seem incumbent upon the Bruins to score first to keep the rabid TD Garden fans in the game and to settle whatever nerves might exist on their bench. In general, the Bruins have not started well in this series, and especially the past two games, the Blackhawks have dictated the pace early on, gobbling up pucks in the Bruins’ zone and the neutral zone, and turning those into scoring chances. If the Blackhawks can replicate those starts and take the crowd out of the proceedings early, it will work strongly to their benefit.
4. Let's make it official: It will be fascinating to see how Game 6 will be called. The Blackhawks had two power plays in Game 5 while the Bruins had zero. If Game 6 is called in a similar fashion, with few penalties, it would seem to benefit the Blackhawks, who are 1-for-17 in the series with the man advantage. The Bruins’ power play has been much more effective, going 4-for-14 and was 3-for-9 in Games 3 and 4. Had they had even one power play in Game 5 -- how about after Torey Krug was obviously tripped in the final minute of play near the Chicago blue line, setting up the final empty-net goal for Chicago? -- perhaps the outcome would have been different. Both teams relish five-on-five play, and the Blackhawks' fourth line continues to log important minutes. The Bruins, meanwhile, have never fully adjusted to the loss of Gregory Campbell and have more or less used three lines the past few games.
5. Who wants to be a hero? Both teams will be looking for someone, anyone, to step forward and seize the moment. There are lots of candidates. Duncan Keith has had an up-and-down finals with one assist. Marian Hossa has missed a game with injury and has yet to score. On the Bruins’ side, Brad Marchand is without a point in the finals after being a dominant force for the Bruins in their seven-game victory over the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 finals. Rich Peverley has played well the past couple of games and could be asked to do more pending Bergeron’s status. He has the tools to produce a big goal or make a big play. And, of course, there’s Jaromir Jagr, who is still looking for his first goal of the postseason.