The Chicago Blackhawks are on the brink of elimination after a 5-4 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Monday night. Jonathan Toews led a furious last-minute rally to force OT but it wasn't enough as a Bryan Bickell gaffe opened the door for Anaheim's game-winning goal in extra time.
When you spot the opposition a three-goal lead with one of your worst single-period performances of the season, it's probably not going to be a recipe for success. We've seen quite a few periods from these Blackhawks where it could have been declared that it was their worst stretch of the year. Nothing quite compared to their opening frame against the Ducks on Monday.
The first period in which the Blackhawks surrendered a 3-0 lead to the Ducks, while mustering up just three shots of their own, could be the death knell in the series, as the Hawks now stand on the brink coming out of back-breaking OT loss in Game 5. Well, that and the power play.
The Ducks went for a trio of goals in the opening stanza, including two that were scored just 32 seconds apart. Cam Fowler put the Ducks on the board, with Ryan Kesler following up with one of his own. Sami Vatanen added the third as the Blackhawks played what will go down as, unquestionably, their worst single-period performance in a season that has had plenty of them.
And yet, there was something that told you that the Blackhawks would battle back. They did just that. Led by Teuvo Teravainen, they worked their way back into this one. Teuvo scored in the first 1:11 of the second period before setting up Brent Seabrook with a beautiful pass from behind the net to bring the Blackhawks within one.
It's important to add, somewhere in here, that as positive as the middle frame was, it was also plagued by a penalty that we've become all too familiar with: too many men. The Hawks were hit with the penalty when they had six out in the ice, with nobody anywhere near the bench. This is an issue that is firmly on coaching, yet it's a constantly occurring issue. Anyone want to address this at any point?
Regardless, the Blackhawks killed off the ensuing penalty, though they were unable to bring things to even at 3-3. Patrick Maroon tipped in the fourth Anaheim tally of the game to take things to 4-2.
And then Toews happened. Toews scored twice in the final two minutes of the game to force yet another overtime. The first came on a feed from Marian Hossa that Toews pounded in, before he found a way to make a shot that came from virtually below the goalline to find its way past Frederik Andersen. You need your best players to come up big at the most important moments, and the Captain answered the call.
Of course, while the Hawks were able to scratch out a couple of wins in the extra time, it wasn't meant to be in this Game 5. Bickell inexplicably and ineffectively threw the puck into the Anaheim zone and it was immediately returned back the Hawks' way, resulting in a 2-on-1. Matt Beleskey was able to cash in on a huge Corey Crawford rebound to give the Ducks the 3-2 edge in the series.
Whatever. If the Hawks can go without spotting the Ducks that 3-0 lead, or perhaps manage to skip the periods in which they allow three goals at all, and they should be in good shape for at least Game 6 at home. Let's talk about some things:
- Bryan Bickell is bad. The possession numbers might be in his favor, and he brings the physical element, but he's not bringing much of anything to this team right now. He generates nothing in the offensive end (zero shots in two of these five games). His play at the end of that overtime should lead to Kris Versteeg (who played a solid game last week) seeing action on Wednesday, meaning that, yes, we may have seen the last of Bickell in a Blackhawks sweater.
- Teuvo Teravainen continues to make everyone on the planet, except perhaps outside of Joel Quenneville, question Joel Quenneville for scratching him. He played a stellar game and helped key the comeback. His 16 minutes on the ice are pretty indicative of that.
- Jonathan Toews is: magnificent, wonderful, marvelous, spectacular, remarkable, phenomenal, prodigious, breathtaking, extraordinary, unbelievable, amazing, stunning, astounding, astonishing, awe-inspiring, staggering, formidable, impressive, supreme, great, awesome, superhuman. I Googled synonyms for 'incredible'. These all fit. The last is my favorite.
- If the Blackhawks do, in fact, go on to lose this series, I will have no reservations about handing the lion's share of the blame to the coaching staff.