CHICAGO – The lineup changes that Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville made before Saturday night’s game at United Center appear to have worked.
Quenneville put three of his top four star forwards on the top line – Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane – while also switching around the other three combinations. He also changed his defense pairings back to the way they were to start the season, after splitting all three up on March 31 in Detroit and keeping then that way.
The result was a 45-shot, 4-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 5 of this Western Conference Semifinal series. The win forced a Game 6, which will be played Monday at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The Red Wings are up 3-2 in the best-of-7 series, but Chicago’s stretch passes and ability to chase down pucks dumped into the Detroit zone behind defenders loosened up the Detroit defense.
“I like the way we played,” Quenneville said. “I think everybody should be excited exiting that game the way we played, knowing that we won’t be satisfied with that level. I think there’s been improvement in our game throughout this series and from the last series. [Saturday’s] game was definitely our best, so let’s get better off that level.”
Detroit’s Mike Babcock will get the last line change on Monday, which means playing the matchup game with forward lines and defense pairs. He’s expected to continue matching Toews’ line with Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg’s unit – which was more difficult to do on Saturday because Quenneville had the last change.
“You see sometimes the line combinations with matchups … [they] can work in your favor at home,” Quenneville said. “Certainly I thought we had more speed [in Game 5], we had better dumps and got pucks behind them … but I think that’s an ongoing challenge because they have good [defensive] gaps and they’re aware of the cutting-off of dumps and they get out of their end pretty quick.”