After going pointless over the final 10 games of the regular-season, the 23-year-old blueliner has been making an impact -- at both ends of the ice -- to help stake the Blackhawks to a 3-2 series lead over the Calgary Flames in their best-of-7 Western Conference Quarterfinal.
The Blackhawks scored an impressive 5-1 victory on Saturday and can close out the series on Monday in Game 6 at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary.
Barker has registered at least one point in four of the Blackhawks' five playoff games this postseason, posting 3 goals and 6 points. Additionally, he's played a vital role along the back end, exhibiting the type of physical play required against the usually intimidating Flames.
"We wanted to play physical, play the body and play for a full 60 minutes, and we did that," Barker said. "Personally, the more confident you are in making plays, the more you're able to do. I know I can play physical but it's just a matter of doing it at the right time and if I'm able to do that, I know I'll be able to help out on defense."
Barker, the game's second star, was tied with teammate Brent Seabrook
with a game-high 5 hits while also chipping in with 2 blocked shots. He played with plenty of vigor and relentless passion.
He has also earned the trust of coach Joel Quenneville on specialty teams, receiving valuable minutes with the power-play unit, which has connected for 5 power-play goals in 26 chances in this series.
"Barks has been a pretty effective guy for us," Quenneville said. "He's been assuming the first power-play unit since the start of the year and he's progressed as a steady defenseman."
Barker's goal with 5:04 left in the second concluded the scoring in a dominant performance by the Blackhawks. Barker admits he's more about wins than about being personally satisfied with his offensive numbers.
"There are a lot of ups and downs throughout the season and, obviously, we wanted to play our last 10 regular-season games with playoff-like intensity and as long as the team was winning, that's all that really mattered to me," Barker said. "And that's the same approach I've taken in the playoffs; as long as we're playing well in these games, the points don't really matter."
Added Quenneville: "He's a great first passer, he's physical and strong and, defensively, he's improved his game and his awareness in both the defensive end and offensive side of things. We feel he'll be a really solid defenseman in this League because there's a lot of upside."Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer