It appears Chicago Blackhawks
defenseman Cam Barker
is determined to make up for lost time in his first tour of duty in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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 email@example.com.