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2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 5: How to get Toews and Kane productive

Kane2.jpgChicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Series tied 1-1

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

Live on NBC

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have one heck of a frustrating

This was supposed to be the moment they shined, this what they have
so worked so hard to achieve. They are still very, very young but there
is no guarantee that they’ll ever have this chance again. That they are
here now and playing the worst they’ve played in a very long time is
extremely surprising.

It’s not just a matter of Toews and Kane under-performing. You have
to give credit to the Philadelphia Flyers for doing their part to stop
the high powered offense of the Hawks’ top line; what was supposed to be
a legendary matchup has fizzled into a one-way domination.

You have to put some of the blame squarely on Joel Quenneville’s
shoulders as well, as he’s stubbornly stuck with the top line all
through their struggles of three and a half games. He only resorted to
changing up things up when the Hawks were backed up against the wall,
facing a 4-1 deficit late in the third period of Game 4.

I can understand Joel Quenneville’s stubbornness.

After all, they’ve been so successful all season and for the entire
run of the playoffs and there’s no way that Patrick Kane and Jonathan
Toews would continue to struggle together. Yet for the first three
games, the top line of Kane, Toews and Byfuglien weren’t just
ineffective — they were downright bad.

Of course, Quenneville wasn’t very revealing about his thought
process behind the changes in the third period.

“Sometimes you try to mix it up a little bit, whether it’s a matchup
or get some energy going in the lines,” Quenneville said. “We didn’t
like some things. Sometimes you try some things. I thought the energy

Quenneville started off by taking Dustin Byfuglien of the top line
with Toews and Kane and placing him on a bigger line with Andrew Ladd.
Once the Hawks started to roll in the third period, and once they were
able to put together three effective lines, then the Flyers started to
have all sorts of issues with the Hawks’ attack.

Until the third period, the Blackhawks had become a very stale
offensive team. Sure, there were goals being scored but this was far
from the Chicago team we thought we knew. A lot of the credit has to go
to the Flyers, who have done a tremendous job of shutting down the top
line of the Blackhawks all series long.

“[Carle and Pronger] have done a tremendous job, not just tonight
and not just this series but throughout the playoffs,” Danny Briere
said after Game 4 when asked about the Flyers defensemen. “Every team
we’ve played they’ve seemed to shut down their top guys. But we can’t
forget that Chicago also has a lot of firepower.”

Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp were easily the best forwards on the
ice for the Blackhawks tonight, and Quenneville was able to start
getting them space as well when he changed the lines up and spread out
the attack a bit. With Pronger and Matt Carle doing such a good job of
shutting down Toews, the Flyers were also able to take adavantage of
their shortcomings on defense.

It’s incredibly odd to keep writing this, but the player that was so
good for the Hawks in the first three rounds and the player many
considered the favorite for the Conn Smythe has struggled mightily
against the Flyers. Kane and Toews were a combined minus-6 last night,
and it wasn’t until Quenneville finally broke them up that we started to
see some effectiveness from the two.

So the question is, will we see these changes continue? After the
game Danny Briere and Simon Gagne both acknowledged that the Flyers had
trouble adjusting to the changes the Blackhawks had made in the third
period. Obviously, Quenneville isn’t going to do the exact same thing
that worked at the end but you have to think that Toews and Kane need
to continue to be split up going forward.

With Chicago headed back home, and knowing the history of this team,
then I would venture we’ll see the two right back together to start
Game 5. However, there’s a good chance that if they start to struggle
again and the Hawks have issue rolling out a consistent three-line
attack, that Quenneville won’t hesitate to move them around again. Of
course, it’s much easier to work on those changes in practice than it
is to change on the fly in the middle of a game.

Of course, after today’s skate Quenneville hinted that they might be
switching things up. Toews and Kane were skating together with Byfuglien
like normal, but some felt that it was just a ploy to not giveaway
their plans. Quenneville wouldn’t rule out any adjustments that might be
made during the game.

“I think the last couple of games we’ve always gone along here maybe
making some adjustments based on how we’re playing or what we like and
what we don’t like.”

“But I think we have a lot of options as far
as moving guys in and out and around in our lineup. I think tonight
we’ll look at doing what we think is best.”

If Quenneville is smart, if he truly is the coach to lead the
Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup, then he won’t shy away from the changes
that need to be made and proved effective in Game 4.

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


    Toews2.jpgChicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

    Series tied 1-1

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

    Live on NBC

    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.

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

    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.

    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?

    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.

    Will Guy Boucher be the next coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets?

    There are multiple reports circulating that the Columbus Blue Jackets
    have extended an offer to Guy Boucher to be their next head coach.
    Boucher is the hot young name among up-and-coming coaches, and led the
    Hamilton Buldogs of the AHL to an impressive 52-17-11 record with
    Montreal Canadiens affiliate.

    That the Blue Jackets have decided
    to look to Boucher to be their next coach is no surprise, as he would
    instantly bring fresh look to the franchise. At 38, he would be the
    youngest coach in the NHL and there is nothing but good things to say
    about his future in coaching. Yet there is the question of whether he is
    actually ready to take the job and whether the Montreal Canadiens are
    willing to let him leave their system.

    From TSN’s Bob

    Can the Canadiens really afford to let a
    homegrown Francophone product
    with some star qualities go elsewhere to ply his trade?
    Montreal head coach Jacques Martin isn’t going anywhere, not right now
    anyway, just one year into his tenure with the Canadiens.

    suggests that perhaps Boucher and current Canadiens assistant coach
    Kirk Muller would switch places, providing a promotion for Boucher and
    an avenue for Muller to get head coaching experience before eventually
    moving back to the NHL.

    Columbus Dispatch suggests
    that it’s not just a matter of whether
    the Canadiens are willing to let Boucher get away, but whether he would
    actually fit with the personnel they currently have in place.

    He has three college degrees and has been called a master motivator, a
    team builder and a hockey
    genius. He developed a 1-3-1 forecheck that relies on mobile defensemen
    who can carry the puck.

    This is where the anxiety creeps in. Of the Jackets’ defensemen, only
    Kris Russell seems suited
    for that, although former first-round draft pick John Moore would, too.
    But would it work with Mike
    Commodore? It’s hard to picture.

    Then again, Howson hoped to rebuild the blue line this summer, so if
    Boucher accepts – uh, a
    young coach is being offered an NHL job and we have to wonder if he’ll
    accept? Boucher’s reluctance
    might be the most worrisome part.

    Boucher has just one year of head coaching experience, and this could
    be a time when a team is hoping to strike gold early. Boucher is on the
    fast track to being the next great coach, and the Blue Jackets would
    love nothing more than to finally be able to take the next step.

    2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 5: Andrew Ladd still in the lineup

    Talking with those around me during Game 4, we were all in agreement
    that perhaps Andrew Ladd had returned a bit too early from his injury.
    After getting a bit too aggressive in his opening shift and getting a
    cross-checking penalty in the opening minute of the game, Ladd looked
    tentative and hesitant to get involved physically in the play.

    Things opened up a bit for Ladd later in the third when Quenneville
    changed the lines up, but overall Ladd just didn’t appear ready to have
    returned. That he took the place of Burish, who had been effective in
    limited minutes, was a bit frustrating as the Blackhawks were dominated
    for most of the game.

    Some thought that perhaps he’d be out again after his struggles.
    After missing today’s morning skate, coach Joel Quenneville says that
    he’ll be playing tonight. Of course, Ladd won’t admit that things
    weren’t exactly on par for him in his first game back.

    “I felt good,” Ladd said yesterday. “I felt more comfortable with
    the pace as the game went on. Towards the end I think it’s more

    2010 Calder Cup Finals: Texas Stars stun Hershey Bears for 2-0 series lead

    In the midst of what has become one hell of an entertaining NHL
    Stanley Cup finals, there is a big surprise brewing in the AHL’s Calder
    Cup finals. The Texas Stars, in their first season in the league, have
    absolutely stunned the Hershey Bears in the first two games of the

    The Bears, the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals,
    were the best team in the AHL this past season and were absolutely
    dominant at home. The Bears had won 37 of 38 games at home this season,
    and no one believed the Stars had a chance to steal any of the games in
    Ohio, let alone win the series.

    Yet after last night’s 4-3 win, in
    which Travis Morin broke a 3-3 tie with 45 seconds remaining in
    regulation, the Stars own a 2-0 series lead as the teams head back to
    Austin for Games 3, 4 and (possibly) 5.

    The Bears have had nearly
    11,000 fans at each of the first two games of the series and each time
    the fans have left stunned and reeling after the two losses. The Stars
    have turned into perhaps one of the more surprising stories and possible
    Cup-winning teams, as many felt they were just a team with role players
    and a suspect defense.

    After they were able to come back and win a
    surprising Game 7 against the Hamilton Bulldogs, many felt the Stars were
    just banking on Jamie Benn to get as far as they had. Yet against
    Hershey, the Stars have proven to be much, much more than that.

    Bears head to Austin having to answer all the questions about why
    they’ve allowed a team like Texas to stun them, as it’s possibly another
    instance of a talented and successful team overlooking their opponent.
    Everyone expect the Bears to roll the Stars, and now they face a
    considerable hole in the series.

    Game 3 is tomorrow night in Cedar
    Park, Texas.