Heading into last night’s Game 5 against the Phoenix Coyotes, the Blackhawks knew what they were up against. Either win, or go home. The Hawks were facing elimination for the first time in this series, and they knew that Game 5 was a must-win.
I’ll be honest with you right now. I had a good feeling heading into last night’s game that the Hawks would prevail and send the series to a sixth game. You know why? After yesterday’s morning skate, Jonathan Toews kept all of the players on the ice for a players-only meeting. This was the first time all year that this had happened. As we all know, Toews is one of the best captains in the game, and so when he decides to take matters into his own hands, good things usually happen. Well, guess what? The players responded to Toews’ message, and the Blackhawks turned in maybe their best game of the series last night.
The first period went pretty much the same way that every other first period has gone in this series. The Hawks out-played the Coyotes by a wide margin. They out-shot Phoenix 12-4, but weren’t able to get one past Mike Smith for a goal.
Much like every second period these 2 teams have played, the Coyotes out-played the Hawks. The shot totals were even at 10 apiece in the second, but Phoenix was able to score to take the lead. Gilbert Brule found himself with the puck on a 3 on 1 rush, and decided to take a slap shot rather than pass, which ended up being the right decision as he beat Crawford for the goal. This made it 1-0, and it stayed that way heading into the third period.
Just under 10 minutes into the third, Nick Leddy scored on a slap shot from a few feet inside the blue line to tie the game at 1. This was Leddy’s first goal of the series, and a big turning point in this game.
As the period progressed, both teams found themselves with decent scoring chances, but neither team was able to score the go-ahead goal. This meant that for the fifth straight game in this series, overtime would be necessary.
Both Phoenix and Chicago were just getting themselves situated in overtime when Jonathan Toews grabbed a loose puck near the left boards, skated in on Smith, and fired a nasty wrist shot over Smith’s right shoulder to win the game only 2:44 into overtime. This was Toews’ second goal of the series, and maybe the biggest goal by either team in this series.
With the win, the Blackhawks have forced a Game 6, which will be played in Chicago on Monday night at 8 PM CST.
The Blackhawks had to turn in their best game of the series last night in order to win the game, and they did just that. Their defense as a whole was very good, they got good goaltending from Corey Crawford, and they doubled the Coyotes in shots, 39-18. Even though this was a great game for the Hawks, there are still some issues that they need to work on.
Chicago is just 1/17 on the powerplay in this series, which simply needs to be better. I know that their powerplay in the regular season was ranked 26th in the NHL and they still ended the year with 101 points, but in the playoffs you need to step it up and score powerplay goals. Luckily for the Hawks, Phoenix is a meager 2/15 on their powerplay chances so far in the series. With that said, if the Hawks can start to get some more goals with the man advantage, that will really put the pressure on Phoenix to not only score on the powerplay as well, but to score more 5 on 5 goals. Each game in this series has been a winnable one for both the Blackhawks and the Coyotes, and so if one team can start clicking on their powerplay in Game 6 or 7 (if necessary), odds are that they will win that game.
I’ve mentioned it a couple of times now throughout this series, but the Blackhawks MUST start to play better in the second period. They cannot continue to let the Coyotes dominate the play. The Hawks have been fortunate so far in these first 5 games that Phoenix hasn’t really capitalized on most of their scoring chances that they have been given during the second period. If I’m the Blackhawks, I can’t rely on only allowing 1 goal while being completely outplayed during the second period. They need to step it up and play a full, tough 60 minutes of hockey.
Lastly, the big stars of the Blackhawks have to get going. Yes, Toews scored the game-winner last night, but him, along with Sharp, Kane, and Stalberg need to become more productive and put more goals on the board. In this series, Toews has 2 goals, Sharp has 1, and Kane and Stalberg both have 0. Kane especially needs to start thinking shoot more than pass. Too many times throughout this series has Kane skated with the puck into the offensive zone and tried to make a “pretty” pass, rather than take the open shots he has been given. When he does try and make the “pretty” pass, he ends up turning the puck over, which has lead to a few scoring chances for the Coyotes.
With the series now shifting back to Chicago, the Hawks need to take advantage of playing on their home ice and win Game 6 to stay alive. Game 5 has put a lot of momentum back on the Hawks’ side, but now they really need to use it. They were unable to ride the momentum that they gained after Game 2 heading home for 2 games, so let’s see if they capitalize on it this time. I think they will.