2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 5: Blackhawks are in unfamiliar territory

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Toews2.jpgChicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Series tied 1-1

8:00 p.m.
EDT, Sunday, June 6, 2010

Live on NBC

The
Chicago Blackhawks suddenly have their backs against the wall. It’s a
position these Hawks aren’t exactly familiar with.

They faced some early adversity against the Nashville Predators
just as the playoffs were starting, yet since then they have practically
rolled on their way to the Stanley Cup finals. They were able to knock
the Vancouver Canucks in idiotville, and then dispatched the San Jose
Sharks in a four-game sweep; there was no reason not believe they’d
easily take care of the Philadelphia Flyers for the Stanley Cup.

Judging
by the series predictions, that’s exactly what most media pundits
expected.

They Blackhawks have yet to play a complete game against
the Flyers in this series, escaping with two close wins to open the
series before being stunned twice in Philadelphia. If you break down
both teams top to bottom, it’s apparent that the Hawks are more talented
and experienced than the Flyers yet have been outplayed for most of the
past two and a half games.

The Hawks haven’t been dominated, the
Flyers are won two very close games themselves, yet now all the pressure
is squarely on the shoulders of the Chicago Blackhawks. Before Game 4,
the players and the coaches all contended that they were still loose and
confident, yet certainly waited until late in the game to actually back
up their words. By that point, they were down 4-1 midway through the
third period before the light finally came on.

Simon Gagne and
Danny Briere of the Flyers both agree that there really isn’t such thing
as momentum in a series, that each game starts fresh and that it’s
tough to actually carry over momentum from one game to the next.

Yet
after the Hawks lost their first back-to-back games for the first time
since November, this is a team that suddenly has a number of questions
to answer. Will their defense stop the terrible giveaways that have
plagued them the past two days, and get back to resembling the defense
that was so incredibly effective during the regular season?

More
importantly, will the Blackhawks finally get production from the most
important player on the team? Jonathan Toews appeared to be pressing at
times, and has had all sorts of issues getting chances against the top
defensive pairing of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle. Now there’s a
possibility that Toews and Patrick Kane will be split up, adding another
layer of uncertainty to tonight’s game.

Now we’re back in
Chicago, with the Blackhawks in front of the crowd that has been their
spark all postseason long. A loss tonight, and you better believe that
they’ll be headed back into a maelstrom of pressure in Philadelphia on
Wednesday night.

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.

Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

***

In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.