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Chicago Wins It

by Pete Weber / Nashville Predators

When we left you last Saturday, both the victorious Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins were limping out of the United Center following Chicago’s 3-1 victory.

The Blackhawks left with a 3-games-2 series lead, but Jonathan Toews had spent the entire third period sitting on the bench after absorbing a second period hit from Johnny Boychuk. Defenseman Brent Seabrook also was temporarily hobbled blocking a shot in the third.

Then there was Bruins’ Center Patrice Bergeron – arguably Boston’s most effective player throughout the playoffs, who was taken out of the building via ambulance during the game for observation.

Both Toews and Bergeron were expected to play going into Monday’s Game Six. They complied, no matter their pain.

Much had been made about the Bruins scoring 9 goals to Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford’s glove side. As it turns out, eight of Chicago’s previous nine goals had been scored with Boston Defenseman Zdeno Chara on the ice.

Awaiting the faceoff, the tension was palpable. “The Blackhawks think they have you tired out,” said NBC’s Pierre McGuire to Chara. “We’ll have to see about that,” said Chara. Would Rene Rancourt be singing the last national anthem of these playoffs?

The Bruins tried to establish their hitting game from the outset. Patrick Sharp appeared to be an early victim, shaken up about five minutes in. Jaromir Jag was hurt shortly thereafter, taking a hit from David Bolland.

With about seven minutes gone in the first, the Paille-Kelly-Seguin line did an outstanding job applying pressure in the Chicago zone, but Crawford kept them off the board. The good move by Boston Coach Claude Julien was to leave that unit, in theory his third line, on the ice after a television timeout…and Kelly scored on an outstanding three-way play, claiming the go-ahead goal at 7:19.

That “third line” was on the ice for Boston again after the next break. They narrowly missed scoring again, and drew a penalty in the process. The Bruins man-advantage unit produced five shots on goal, and after short shift, a departure to the dressing room for Jagr.

As time ran down in the first, Shawn Thornton took a shot, which deflected off Andrew Shaw’s stick and struck Chicago’s Shaw in the face. Shaw immediately went down to the ice, stunned. Seabrook was slow to get up after getting rammed from behind by Boston’s David Krejci. The Bruins received a later powerplay when Michal Rozsival high-sticked Brad Marchand to the side of the Chicago net. The Bruins missed on a perfect chance on a two-on-one, when Marchand beat Nik Hjalmarsson down the left side and Krejci missed the open net at the right post.

It was a desperate and dominant first period by the Bruins, the outshot the Blackhawks, 12-6, and had 12 more shots blocked and another 7 missed the net. Yet, the lead was only a goal. That happened to Chicago in the first period of Game Two. Their 1-nothing lead became a 2-1 loss in overtime.

Both Shaw and Jagr were on the bench to start the second. While Shaw almost lost his face late in the first, he lost his head on his first shift of the period, giving a shot to Chris Kelly in a scrum after the whistle. Ultimately, that set up a shorthanded chance for Jonathan Toews to tie it up. Toews took a chip from Rozsival, stepped around Chara and took the shot while breaking in with Patrick Kane to his left. It was officially an even-strength score, since it entered the net as the penalty time expired.

The Bruins received their fourth powerplay of the game when Seabrook was called for tripping at 5:12. Chicago killed that, but the Bruins kept it in the Chicago zone.

With Jagr shaken, Julien moved Tyler Seguin up with Marchand and Bergeron. Seguin later took the first Boston penalty of the night, a hook at 13:57. Kane just missed cashing a rebound to Rask’s left early in the advantage, thanks to Chara.

It was a much more even second period, as Chicago outshot Boston, 9-6 and heading into the third, tied at 1, with Lord Stanley’s Cup about to enter the building – just in case!

The “Skating Wounded Report” going into the third, Bergeron had played 11:30, had won 3 of 7 faceoffs and had no shots on net. Jagr had played only 4:24 with no shots. For Chicago, Toews had a goal and 12:13 of playing time and had taken 7 of 12 faceoffs.

Kane had a good early chance for the Blackhawks. Jagr took an early shift for the Bruins with Kelly and Paille, and then Seguin returned, replacing Jagr.

With 7:42 gone in the third, Crawford made a brilliant left pad save on a backhander by Paille, cutting across in front. Later in the period, the Bruins had two men in front as the Bruins pressed the attack. Horton couldn’t get his stick on it, Milan Lucic did, and flipped it in at 12:11 to give Boston a 2-1 lead with his seventh of the playoffs.

The Blackhawks earned a powerplay chance at 14:21 when Chris Kelly was called for high sticking Nick Leddy. The Blackhawks had scored just once in 18 previous powerplay chances in the series. It soon became 1-of-18 for Chicago. Toward the end of the advantage, Chara drilled Toews into the goalpost and crossbar.

With Crawford on the bench for an extra attacker, Bryan Bickell tied it at 18:44 and seemingly, we were headed for another overtime…but David Bolland took a rebound off the left post and in just 17 seconds later to put the Blackhawks on the brink of their second Stanley Cup title in four seasons.

So much for Corey Crawford’s glove! Zdeno Chara had been on the ice for 10 of the last 12 Chicago goals, a large part of Chicago’s success story. The Chicago Blackhawks wrapped up their 5 Stanley Cup championship with a scintillating come-from-behind effort.

We have had two 48-game, lockout-shortened NHL seasons. Those have produced the latest date the Stanley Cup has ever been decided: June 24th. In 1995, when the New Jersey Devils concluded a shocking 4-game sweep of the President’s Trophy champion Red Wings. This year, again on June 24th …only on this occasion, the President’s Trophy winners take home the Cup. For just the third time in the last nine seasons, a team has taken both.

Stay tuned – the 2013 NHL Entry Draft is Sunday!

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