2010 Stanley Cup finals: Blackhawks benefit from masterful line adjustments


blackhawkslinechanges.jpgThere was no secret that, after an ugly Game 4 loss, the Chicago Blackhawks needed to make some changes. In fact, we called for such a thing before Game 5; Brandon asked if coach Joel Quenneville should relax his stubborn policy of keeping Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together while I wondered if the top lines’ struggles could be attributed to Chris Pronger’s ability to match up with them at will.

With his back against the wall, Quenneville did just that. While line combinations aren’t constant in hockey, here’s the general layout he went with in Game 5 (thanks to James Mirtle’s story for extra help compiling his lines).

Line “1”: Dave Bolland (1 goal, 1 assist), Dustin Byfuglien (2 goals, 2 assists) and Kris Versteeg (1 goal, 2 assists)

Line “2”: Jonathan Toews (1 assist), Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky

Line “3”: Patrick Kane (1 goal, 1 assist), Andrew Ladd (1 assist) and Patrick Sharp (1 goal, 1 assist)

Line “4”: John Madden, Troy Brouwer (1 assist) and Ben Eager

Obviously, when your team scores 6 goals plus an empty-netter in a victory, it’s difficult to argue that the results were anything short of amazing. I mean, just think about it this way: every single “line” scored at least one point, with two lines having every player with at least a point each. The Bolland-Byfuglien-Versteeg combo scored 2, 4 and 3 points respectively. That’s incredible, folks.

The line combos made it more difficult for Chris Pronger to “key” on any matchup, although I think that his horrible -5 rating came from the Flyers being discombobulated in general. One big thing to remember, though, is that Philadelphia will receive the final change in Game 6 because they’re playing that game at home. Could that be a big reason why this series might threaten to be a “homer” series for at least another game?

There’s one thing we can count on: Quenneville said he’ll at least begin Game 6 with those lines intact. He said so in today’s press conference.

“Status quo would probably be the best way to go, go into the next game,” Quenneville said.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.