Stanley Cup Final: Five keys for Bruins-Blackhawks Game 6
The Blackhawks have the first shot at clinching the Cup on Monday night in Game 6, and nothing will is bigger right now than the health of two stars.
Sir Stanley will be in the building on Monday night in Boston.
Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final will be the first chance that either team has to clinch the Cup, and that would be the Blackhawks. It's a familiar spot for the holdovers from Chicago's most recent title team in 2010, being up 3-2 with a shot to clinch on the road. They did it last time, Patrick Kane scoring in overtime at Philadelphia to end the city's long Cup drought. They'd love for history to repeat itself.
As would the Bruins -- their own history, not Chicago's. For it was two years ago that the Bruins were in a 3-2 hole in the Cup Final against the Canucks with the series shifting back to Boston. The B's won Game 6 and then won the Cup at Vancouver in Game 7.
The point is both tasks are tall hills to climb at this point (Chicago winning Game 6 on the road, the Bruins winning the Cup), but both teams have done it before. One of them could do it again (or it could be the third option; Chicago in seven).
So either the Stanley Cup will be presented on Monday night, or we will be guaranteed a Game 7. On to the keys for Game 6.
No. 5: Discipline
In Game 5, the Blackhawks did visit the penalty box, but not once did they actually have to kill a penalty. Considering how well the Bruins' power play has been going in this series -- on a relative basis or not, the unit has been producing -- that was a big factor in the game in that the penalties against Chicago didn't appear.
In the two previous games at Boston in the series, three of the Bruins' seven goals came on the man advantage. The group has been clicking more at home, where perhaps they have had the luck of the Irish and all. Although that power play is not the same without a certain star centerman who will appear later on this list of keys, the Bruins would still welcome the shot at at least one or two power plays like they had in Game 4 instead of the zilch that they drew in Game 5.
This has been a very underrated part of the Blackhawks' top-line reunion, but it has been substantial. There has been a lot made about Chara being on the ice for eight of the nine most recent Blackhawks goals in the past two games, and you could give some of that credit to Bickell. While the speed and straight skill of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have been difficult for the Bruins to handle, it's only helped to have Bickell getting physical with Chara. At 6-foot-4, 233 pounds, he's still not Chara's size, but he's big enough that he has been able to lay a few shots on Chara and just all around be a pest and distraction for the big man.
Bickell, of course, was making a name for himself and a lot of money for his new contract this summer earlier in the playoffs with eight goals through the first three rounds. He doesn't have one in the Final, but rather quietly he has been making his impact felt and really has been an important part of the Blackhawks' top-line success. Toews and especially Kane need him to remain a thorn in Chara's side.
No. 3: The neutral zone
Watching the middle of the three zones is often the least compelling of all, but don't misinterpret that for lack of importance. The Blackhawks have been stout in the middle and have been making it tough on the Bruins trying to get clean entries. At least that was the case in Game 5, when the Blackhawks got back to what is really their style of game.
So many talked about Game 4 being their kind of game, up-and-down, but remember that the Blackhawks have a very stout defense as well. When they are on their game, they are very tough between the blue lines as well as in their defensive zone. Trying to break down Chicago in the middle would go a ways toward getting set up in the offensive zone and getting better looks at the Chicago net.
No. 2: Goaltenders
They are always a story in a postseason series, this is no exception. Each goaltender had a bounceback game from Game 4, but that was going to be tough to do, frankly. Corey Crawford still wasn't as sharp as he could be in Game 5, but the Bruins weren't able to really test him too much or that much-ballyhooed glove hand of his.
On the other side, it's kind of tough to put it on Tuukka Rask for the Bruins, but they could use one of those games right about now. He was not bad in Game 5 at all, and the Bruins didn't make it too much easier on him in terms of the chances that Rask faced, but they might be at the point at which they need him to be better than good. The Hawks have been getting the majority of shots/chances in the last two games, so "Rask" and "standing on his head" need to become synonymous.
No. 1: Jonathan Toews & Patrice Bergeron
It appears Toews will probably play in Game 6 from whatever injury was ailing him in the third period of Game 5, and that's fantastic news for Chicago. He is the captain, so those intangibles are important on the ice. But his presence really means that line with Toews and Bickell can remain intact. The moment they were put together was the turning point in this series.
As important as Toews is for Chicago, Bergeron is just as much for the Bruins. He has been their biggest offensive threat in this series with four goals -- three on the power play. And he has been huge on the defensive end, as he always is. The Bruins have been able to put Bergeron's line on the ice to shut down an opposing line. And with how that top line for Hawks has been going, it could be time to see Bergeron's line paired with Chara's duo to help try to neutralize what was by far the best line going in the past two games. The Bruins need Bergeron back.
If Bergeron cannot go, then you are probably looking at a situation in which Carl Soderberg continues to fill Bergeron's spot on the second line as he did in Game 5. No disrespect to Soderberg, but he's not Bergeron, even if he didn't look bad in his first postseason game on Saturday.
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