The Chicago Blackhawks will get their first crack at clinching their second Stanley Cup championship in four years when they battle the Boston Bruins on Monday night.
They will be aided in their attempt to win the title by captain Jonathan Toews, who is all but assured of playing in Game 6. His play has helped spark the offensive game of winger Patrick Kane, who scored two goals and attempted nine shots in the Hawks’ 3-1 victory over the Bruins in Game 5.
That type of performance is indicative of the way that Kane has been stepping up in key games so far in his career. He not only scored the Cup-winning goal for the Hawks against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, but more recently he had two goals in the Hawks’ Game 4 triumph over the Kings, when they were without the services of defenseman Duncan Keith. He also scored a hat trick in Game 5 of that series, including the overtime winner that sent the Hawks to the Cup Final.
Those types of performances have fed his legend with fans of the team, but they may also make him a huge contender for the Conn Smythe trophy if the Hawks can hoist the Cup. With Toews likely limited a bit by his injury, Kane will have to keep up his intensity both on offense, but also on defense, where he has excelled the past few games with an aggressive backchecking style and an ability to pickpocket Bruins players before they can get their rush set up.
Another line that has been doing well in terms of that kind of two-way play has been the second line, and they will have to do the same thing on Monday night. Guys like Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa have looked excellent in the past two games for the Hawks, clogging up the neutral zone and posing matchup issues for a Bruins team who has been having to throw extra pressure at the Hawks’ top line.
With Bruins head coach Claude Julien having the benefit of last line change, the second line is going to have to be especially potent in case Boston is able to thwart Kane and Toews’ efforts in this game.
Finally, in addition to Kane boosting Toews and the second line continuing their solid play, the Hawks are going to need their second and third pairing defensemen to keep up their good work from previous games.
Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who were both on the ice for four goals against in the team’s Game 4 win, really stepped up their games on Saturday in Game 5, with Oduya blocking three shots and picking up an assist in the game. Meanwhile, Hjalmarsson was on the ice for all three of the Hawks’ goals in the game and avoided the kind of lapses in judgment (like his lackadaisical efforts in failing to block a shot in Game 4 that ended up evading Corey Crawford) that he displayed earlier in the series.
By contrast, it’s guys like Michal Rozsival who are actually going to have to revert back to their Game 4 form in order for the Hawks to find success. He was arguably the best Hawks defenseman on the ice, playing both a solid defensive game and an assertive offensive game. He was pinching in the offensive zone to keep pucks in, and he ended up picking up two assists by firing shots from the point to take advantage of netfront traffic.
If he can find that form again, and if the second pairing guys can play the type of responsible defense that they did in Game 5, then the Hawks very well could be hoisting the Cup when the final horn sounds on Monday night.