Blackhawks find success against Boston’s Chara
BOSTON – The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t just taken control of the Stanley Cup finals, they’ve done it while Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara was on the ice.
The Blackhawks have scored eight of their nine goals in winning the last two games against Boston while the 2009 Norris Trophy winner was defending.
“I don’t think there was one thing said where we really wanted to attack him or go at him or try to hit him or anything like that,” said Chicago forward Patrick Kane, who scored two goals in Game 5 with Chara on the ice. “I think we’re just playing the way we have.
“Sometimes you worry about one player who you’re matched up against on the ice, and I’ve said this before, it goes to your disadvantage because you worry too much and don’t play the game you should be playing. I think we just got back to playing the way we have and the way we know how to.”
In Game 4, when the Blackhawks beat Boston, 6-5 in overtime, Chara was battling in front of the net with Jonathan Toews when Brent Seabrook’s shot from the right point beat Tuukka Rask for the game-winner.
Chicago Coach Joel Quenneville felt his team needed to get more chances at the net after being shut out in Game 3, even when Chara was playing.
“We’ve felt not so much being physical with him, but in the offensive zone we needed to have better possession time and more time in their end,” he said. “Whether it was absorbing hits or finishing checks or going to hard areas and not necessarily worrying about him, I think it was getting to the net was our focus.”
Bruins Coach Claude Julien knows the Blackhawks are challenging Chara, but expects his star defenseman to bounce back for Game 6 tonight.
“It’s pretty obvious that they’re throwing the pucks in his corner and they want to get him to turn and tire him out,” he said. “He’s a well-trained athlete that can handle that, and you’ll see that in the next game and hopefully the one after that.”
Rask also relies on Chara to make things tougher for Chicago’s top offensive players.
“He’s playing against the best players,” he said. “It’s not so easy to shut them down all the time. He usually does a great job with that and I have no doubts in him.”
Looking forward to his chance
Bruins forward Nathan Horton wasn’t on the ice when the Bruins rallied from a 3-2 deficit to win the last two games of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals against Vancouver. Now, he is likely needed to be a big part of any Bruins chance to repeat the feat.
“I’m excited,” Horton said yesterday, while sporting a few stitches over his left eye from an errant puck to the bench in the Game 5 loss. “A lot of the Boston media bring that up a lot of times. I’m excited just to be a part of it this time and just to be on the ice. Anything can happen, and we just have to play our best.”
Two years ago, Horton sustained a concussion in Game 3 and was lost for the reminder of the finals. Before being injured, the winger scored two Game 7 game-winners. The first came in overtime in the opening round against Montreal. The other was in a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals.
Now he is hoping to be part of another brief winning streak.
“It’s two games,” he said. “Throughout the years I’m sure there’s been a million teams that have won two games straight. They’re coming in, they need to win one and we need to win two and that’s it.”
Horton is part of Boston’s top line – along with David Krejci and Milan Lucic – that’s dominated, at times, during the playoffs.
The trio has combined for 22 goals and 40 assists in the postseason, with Horton collecting seven goals and 12 assists.
Two titles in one hockey season
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask has a chance for some unusual history if the Bruins come back and win the Cup.
Rask played with Czech Extra League team NC Plzen during the NHL lockout. His former team went on to win the title.
The netminder said the league hands out medals – similar to the Olympics – not trophies.
“I’m waiting for mine,” he said. “It would be nice to get two. Not too many guys can say that.”
History has a few different ways it can go
Fifteen of the 22 teams that won Game 5 of a tied series went on to win the Cup. But, four of the last six that lost in that situation have gone on to win the title, including the 2011 Bruins, who won Game 6 at home and beat Vancouver on the road in Game 7.
“I mean it’s a different team, different situation, but we’ve been here before,” Bruins winger Brad Marchand said. “I think we have a bit of confidence but, at the same time, they’re a very resilient team. They’ve played great so far. They played good last time they were in our building, so we’ve got to make sure we realize that and we don’t take it for granted.”
The Blackhawks have history on their side, too. They led the 2010 finals, 3-2, and won the Cup on Kane’s overtime goal at Philadelphia.
“You know, it’s a similar feeling, especially having the series tied 2-2, taking Game 5 at home and coming on the road for Game 6,” forward Patrick Sharp said. “You’ve got to be careful, you’ve seen a couple years ago Boston was down 3-2, they won at home and then won Game 7 in Vancouver. We know this team is capable of coming back. For us, I know it’s a big game, but you want to play it like it’s any other game, play the way we have all season, and try to pull one out here on the road.”
Mr. Clutch revisited
The last time the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, Kane scored the overtime winner in Game 6 at Philadelphia. Is he thinking about something like that again?
“You know, we were just kind of talking about that,” he said. “I don’t know, I think the stars would have to be aligned right for it to happen like that again. I think the biggest thing is trying to help contribute any way I can, help this team get a win, especially the situation we’re in. You want to take advantage of it in the next game. We have a great opportunity. I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win, and it would be a great feeling.”
Kane already has provided some postseason magic for Chicago, producing a hat trick – including the winner in the second overtime – when the Blackhawks eliminated the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
“That’s the type of player he is,” Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “When it comes down to the wire and tight games, big games, that’s when he wants the puck. That’s when he wants to score the goals, the big goals.”