After two shaky outings in a row, the Blackhawks rebounded in a big way Saturday night, taking Game 5 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against Calgary 5-1. The crucial win gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, and they stand just one win away from their first postseason series win in 13 years.
“I liked the response we had tonight,” said head coach Joel Quenneville. “We needed a good response for the two losses and get some momentum in our team game. We played our best game of the series today, and I like the progress we've made.”
The Hawks dominated every facet of the important playoff game; they managed to jump on Calgary early, scoring three goals in the first period; they defended effectively as well, limiting the Flames to just 20 shots on goal, and allowing none in the first 10 minutes of play; and Nikolai Khabibulin was strong in net, allowing just one goal on a puck that got under his leg in the second period.
“We were focused tonight on playing hard whistle-to-whistle,” said Brent Seabrook
. “I know the team that scored the first goal in the series hadn’t won, but I don’t think that changed the way we wanted to come out. We wanted to make a good start, get on them early and stay with it.”
“We tried to play a 60-minute game, which is tough to do against this team,” said Cam Barker. “I thought we turned the tides a little bit tonight, and the results were good.”
Saturday’s win was also the Hawks’ best all-around team game of the postseason; 10 different skaters recorded a point on the night, and two Hawks blueliners - Seabrook and Barker - added goals in the winning effort.
“If you ever get a chance to get a shot on goal, you need to do that,” Barker said. “When your d-men can step in and help offensively, it takes pressure off the guys in front. But our forwards have done a great job getting back, as well, and that’s been a key [to our success].”
Heading back to Calgary with a 3-2 series lead is important for the young Hawks, few of whom had ever visited the playoffs before this season, much less put a series away. The pressure on Chicago to finish what they’ve started on Monday will be compounded by a hostile Calgary crowd.
"[Closing out the series] is always tougher – every game is tough. We found out how tough it was in Calgary,” Quenneville said. “We know about the challenges and we can learn from our past experience. We know we have to play our best game on Monday.”
“I think it’s going to be a new experience for a lot of guys in here,” said Seabrook. “But I think we’re ready for it. We’re going to come prepared, and we’ll be ready for Game 6.”