Dobber's Monday ramblings to be up in the morning. Please enjoy Drance's ramblings below, if you haven't already...

 

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With their three-to-one victory on Saturday night, which came in another rivetting contest, the Chicago Blackhawks are a win away from hoisting the franchises second Stanley Cup in the past five years. This series has delivered in a big way with two capable teams playing fast paced hockey and playing it close. Pretty rare for a finals matchup to live up to expectations but this one certainly has.

 

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Saturday night's fifth game didn't have the goals, but it certainly had the pace. I was pretty confident going into this series that the Blackhawks would prevail, but game five was the first game that looked the way I expected this series too. The result was in doubt late, of course, but the Blackhawks controlled play throughout and looked like a buzzsaw. They even continued to carry play even with a lead late in the game.

 

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Coach Q began to sit on the lead with about seven minutes to go (this is something all coaches are criticized for, but all of them do) and the Jagr/Marchand line had a glorious chance with roughly one-hundred and fifty seconds to go in the third period. Still, that was as dominant a one goal victory (with the empty netter) as you're likely to see.

 

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I have a particular dislike for statistics or game facts like, "Zdeno Chara has been on the ice for seven of the last nine goals against the Boston Bruins" or whatever the actual stat is. If Chara were a second pairing guy who was getting bumped down the lineup (with his club still bleeding goals against when he moved from 20 to 15 minutes per night) this might tell us something. Of course, Chara isn't a second pairing guy, he's the league's foremost tough circumstances minutes muncher. For example Chara has played nearly fifty minutes more than Duncan Keith has this postseason, despite playing nine fewer minutes on the power-play. So Chara isn't just on the ice for the bulk of Chicago's goals the past two games, he's just pretty much always on the ice...

 

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How cooked are the Bruins if Patrice Bergeron is done for the series? I mean, he's clearly their best puck possession player and does far and away the most defensive heavy-lifting among all Bruins forwards. But the Bruins still have Krejci, they still have oodles of offensive talent on the wings, they still have Chara and they still have Rask. I think the Blackhawks will close this out on Monday, personally, but I wouldn't be shocked in the slightest if the B's manage to grind out a victory in game six and send this series back to Chicago.

 

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I'm a huge Nick Leddy fan, but he's played poorly and been benched regularly in this series (in favour of Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival). Leddy played fewer than five even-strength minutes in game five, and the Blackhawks were outshot five to zero (and outscored by one) in those roughly four and a half minutes. I can't quite figure out what's going on with Leddy, but his performance in the finals and the atrophying of Quenneville's trust in him can't possibly help his leverage this offseason (Leddy is an RFA).

 

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I've recently come to the conclusion that Patrick Kane's game is all in the hands. But what hands! The opening goal in game five was a marvel of opportunism, but I was slightly more impressed by his backhand finish on the game-winner. Kane pounced on a loose puck that caromed out front following a Bickell attempted wrap around, and he just absolutely buried a back-hander upstairs (where Norman keeps grandma). Kane didn't just manage to get that back-hand shot up and over Tuuka Rask, he launched it upward at a 65 degree angle.

 

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I just want to elaborate on this "all in the hands" thing. When you think of Patrick Kane, you think of those highlight reel shootout goals where he just skates slowly at the goaltender while pulling off roughly two kajillion different dekes. He essentially hypnotizes goaltenders to just get out of the way, and for the most part they do just that.

 

The Blackhawks also pull off these sort of set entries where Kane receives the puck a stride or two before his own blue-line and skates up the middle of the ice. Kane does the same damn thing to freeze defenders when he's skating through the neutral zone, he skates at about 60% pace and just repeatedly does cool looking stuff with the puck. Somehow this works for him.

 

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I feel pretty conflicted about that Johnny Boychuk hit on Jonathan Toews. On the one hand, you have to cream a guy skating through the slot like that in a Stanley Cup Final game if you're Boychuk. On the other hand, Boychuk clearly made primary contact with Toews' head. It was ultimately a dangerous hit, and to make matters a bit more complicated it was a dangerous hit in a marquee game, on a star player with a concussion history. If the NHL is serious about protecting their players from head injuries, Boychuk should get a game.

 

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With Toews out of the lineup, centreman Michal Handzus picked up a lot of the defensive slack for the Blackhawks. In game five Handzus primarily battled the Marchand/Jagr line and led all Blackhawks forwards in defensive zone starts. His performance wasn't impressive by the underlying data, but with Toews out someone was going to get thrown to the wolves and Handzus did admirably for a guy who I thought was done coming out of the lockout... The 04-05 lockout.

 

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A week from now I'll be writing my ramblings post from the NHL draft, which should be a pretty fascinating event. For a variety of reasons - a deep draft class and a weak free-agent crop chief among them - I'm expecting a frantic day of hockey news. Should be good fun!

 

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Regardless of how games six and seven turnout, and I fully expect the Blackhawks to close this out in Boston like they did in Philadelphia in 2010, you have to give Bowman the Younger a lot of credit. That 2010 Blackhawks team lost what, a top-pairing (Brian Campbell and Dustin Byfuglien) and a first-line worth of quality forwards (Ladd, Versteeg, Brouwer) over the following season and a bit?

 

But here the Blackhawks are three years later, deep as anything again, loaded and a game away from winning the Stanley Cup. Bowman's done some quality work to fill in the gaps - the Cam Barker/Nick Leddy trade and the 2011 draft (where Bowman added Saad and Shaw) being the most impressive notches on his belt - and deserves some serious kudos for restocking the cupboard so quickly. Now he'll have to do it all over again when the Blackhawks lose Bolland, Oduya, Bickell and Stalberg this summer...


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Comments (9)add comment

BK said:

BK_DobberNation
... "If the NHL is serious about protecting their players from head injuries, Boychuk should get a game."

welp
June 24, 2013
Votes: +1

pts9889 said:

Daydream Nation
... @Rollie

The Hawks core is locked up for another season. In this salary cap era, winning teams are always going to have to swap out the non-core players. When these players reach the open-market (Bickell, Stalberg, ect) they need to be replaced by the team's minor league system rather than being payed market value. The Hawks have drafted and developed players well over the last couple years. Guys like Pirri, LeBlanc, Morin, Smith, Hayes need to fill these spots.

Yes, they are in fine shape. Who are you talking about losing? Bickell and Stalberg- 3rd-line wingers. Rosizal- a veteran #5/#6 dman. Emery- a backup veteran goalie.

I'm not going worry about 2014 yet. Bottom line is that the Hawks are a game away from the Cup and will come back with much the same team next year.
June 23, 2013
Votes: +0

Fast Tony DeNiro said:

Fast Tony DeNiro
Hawks With the emergence of Marcus Kruger, I think Bolland is gone. I'll hate to see him go, but if the Hawks need to open up some space I think he'll be the one to go. He's showed over the last few years he's a good 3rd line center and nothing more, he's never been able to handle the 2C spot even when giving lots of opportunity.... It's a problem when Michael Handzus is being forced to play in that spot. Kruger can anchor a 3rd line just as well although he doesn't bring the "pesty" stuff that Bolland does, and with Kruger he's still young enough who knows maybe he can fill in on that 2nd line.... He got a chance in 2011-12 for a bit and did ok for a 20 year old.

The fact the Hawks are one win away from their second cup in 3 years without having a 2nd line center for either one kinda puts the whole "winning down the middle" theory to the test, I think.
June 23, 2013
Votes: +0

Rollie1967 said:

Rollie1967
... fine shape? thats a stretch. Handzus,Roszival,Bickell all gone. Frolik,Emery likely gone. I think they try and keep Leddy and Oduya,but at some point Crawford has to be resigned (on his last year) and he will want a raise from his $2.6m deal.

Morin,Pirri,Danault,McNeil upfront and Clendening,Olsen on D have promise- but Chicago has been reluctant to give them much of a shot. Theyre going to need 2 or more of them to become regulars to fill the holes as they need to shed the more costly/experienced players
June 23, 2013
Votes: +0

pts9889 said:

Daydream Nation
... The Hawks are not going to lose Bolland, Oduya, Bickell and Stalberg this summer. Oduya and Bolland are signed for next year. There's a good chance Bolland and/or Frolik are traded in order to resign Bickell. Rosizal is most likely gone. Overall, the Hawks are in fine shape for next year.

And I wouldn't call Buff a 1st pairing D. He was a wing for the Hawk. I know it is more symmetric to call him that. You could have mentioned the Hawks losing Niemi after 2010.
June 23, 2013
Votes: +0

Sovereign said:

Sovereign
Bernier is a Leaf... TSN
http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=426131
June 23, 2013
Votes: +0

woodrow said:

woodrow
... Right now Chicago has about $2 million in cap space available and 2 guys to sign, including a backup goalie. Maybe what happens is they buy out Hossa and his $5.275 million cap hit. His contract is good until 2021 and he is 34 this year.
June 23, 2013
Votes: +0

Thomas Drance said:

Thomas Drance
... @SteveK they are signed, but looking at CHI's situation viz the salary cap and RFAs and I think it's likely at least one of them is moved this summer.
June 23, 2013
Votes: +0

Steve K said:

Steve K
... I believe that Bolland and Oduya are both signed for next season.
June 23, 2013
Votes: +0
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