2010 Stanley Cup finals: Blackhawks benefit from masterful line adjustments

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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.

NCAA standout Foo leaving school, will sign NHL deal this summer

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Spencer Foo, who racked up a whopping 62 points in 38 games this year for Union College, is forgoing his senior season to achieve his “life long dream of playing in the NHL.”

Where that dream takes place remains to be seen.

Foo, 22, won’t be back at Union in the fall, but will complete his spring term at Union and not sign with a pro organization until summer, per the Daily Gazette. The decision comes after a banner three seasons in school, capped off with a junior campaign in which he was nominated for ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and shortlisted for the Hobey Baker.

Foo has reportedly drawn interest from the Flyers. There have also been rumblings of the Oilers being in the mix — Foo is an Edmonton native — but it appears nearly every team has some level of interest. Consider this, from LA Kings Insider:

The Kings are among the teams involved in [Foo’s] courtship, and asked where the stiffest competition was coming from, I was told, “about 29 other teams.”

Foo is an undrafted free agent, so there’s no real rush for him to make a decision. Sounds like NHL teams are more than willing to wait it out.

Announcing the Hobey Hat Trick: Aston-Reese, Butcher, Vecchione

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Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, Denver’s Will Butcher, and Union’s Mike Vecchione are the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Aston-Reese, a 22-year-old forward, had 31 goals and 32 assists in 38 games this season. Undrafted, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month.

Butcher, a 22-year-old defenseman, had seven goals and 29 assists in 41 games for the Frozen Four-headed Pioneers. A fifth-round pick of the Avalanche in 2013, Butcher is still unsigned and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15. It remains to be seen if the Avs will offer him a contract, though it’s been reported they will.

Vecchione, a 24-year-old forward, had 29 goals and 34 assists in 38 games. Undrafted, he’s expected to sign with an NHL team shortly — possibly the Flyers or Wild.

Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel, and Johnny Gaudreau were the Hobey Baker winners in each of the last three years.

After 12-game absence, Boychuk back for Isles

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The New York Islanders, four points back of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and having lost their last two games, will get a huge boost tonight on the blueline.

Johnny Boychuk, who’s missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup on Thursday when the Isles take on the Flyers in Philadelphia. It’ll mark the first time the veteran defenseman has played since getting hurt back on Mar. 3.

(Boychuk draws in at the expense of Thomas Hickey, who’ll sit tonight.)

Needless to say, this is a massive addition for the Isles. Boychuk was averaging close to 21 minutes per night and had 21 points through 59 games before his injury, and led all New York defensemen in shots on goal.

The Isles are going to be an interesting team to watch down the stretch. It’s tough sledding, with five of their final seven contests being played on the road, though that’s mitigated by the fact they’re playing a bunch of teams outside of the playoff picture (Philly, New Jersey x2, Buffalo and Carolina).

McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

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Charlie McAvoy could be in the Providence Bruins’ lineup as soon as Friday against Albany.

Providence also plays Saturday and Sunday, so even if it’s not Friday, the 19-year-old defenseman is expected to get his first taste of pro hockey sometime this weekend.

Of course, the real question is when his Boston Bruins debut may occur.

“He has the attributes to be able to play NHL games right now, absolutely,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, per the Providence Journal. 

McAvoy has yet to ink an NHL contract. He’s in Providence on an amateur tryout after making the decision to leave Boston University. If he plays an NHL game this season, the first year of the three-year entry-level contract he’ll sign would be burned.

Hence, Sweeney’s desire to see McAvoy in the AHL before making any decisions.

“This gives an opportunity for him, first and foremost, to get a chance to play professional games, which is another level for him. [We’ll] evaluate from there,” said Sweeney.

It’s certainly possible, given McAvoy’s talent, that he could help the NHL Bruins right now. The bar is essentially Kevan Miller, Boston’s third-pairing defenseman on the right side. (If McAvoy were a left shot, the bar would be slightly lower, with all due respect to John-Michael Liles.)

The NHL Bruins, who’ve yet to book a playoff spot, have six games left in their regular season. They host Dallas tonight, Florida Saturday, and then they’re in Chicago Sunday.

Assuming McAvoy stays with Providence all weekend, his first real chance to get into an NHL game would be Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Stay tuned.

Read more: Bruins will leave door ajar for McAvoy