Chicago Blackhawks And The Brilliance Of Marcus Kruger & Michael Frolik
Would the Blackhawks be where they are without their fourth line duo?
If the Chicago Blackhawks are able to pull this off and win one of these final two games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, giving them their second title in four years, there will be a pair of bottom six players handed a huge chunk of credit for it.
There are plenty of storylines and plenty of narratives, some of them incredibly awful, that have come with these Cup Finals. But if there's one thing that they have done, it's bring the brilliance of Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik onto a national stage.
While neither, especially Frolik, has brought the offensive punch that many would have liked/was expected of them when they initially joined the Hawks, each has found their niche as a defensive role player for the club. They've been an outstanding penalty kill duo for this team, going back to the beginning of the regular season. During these playoffs, they've become instrumental in helping the Blackhawks get to this point.
Throughout the regular season, the Hawks consistently killed penalties with the best of 'em. They ranked third in the league in percentage of opposing teams' power play opportunities killed, finishing the regular season with a percentage a touch over 87 percent.
Aside from that hiccup in Game 4, when they allowed a couple of power play goals, it's a unit that he continued to be absolute dynamite for much of the postseason. No forward on the roster even comes close to seeing the type of time while shorthanded that the likes of Kruger and Frolik do.
Since the postseason got underway, Kruger has averaged over three minutes of ice time while a man down, with Frolik not too far behind at 2:55 per game. The next closest forward is Marian Hossa, who's all the way down at 1:40. That's a trend that carried over from the regular season.
Kruger and Frolik represent a pair of guys who know their roles. They won't be mistaken as any sort of offensive threat, though they're capable of finding the back of the net from time to time. They're a duo that plays a primarily defensive role, and a pair that Joel Quenneville trusts in any situation.
Look no further than Game 5 for an example of that. In the waning seconds of the game, with the Hawks up 2-1, it was Frolik and Kruger out there as they tried to ice the game, with Frolik eventually getting away with the trip to allow Dave Bolland to pot the empty netter. But the strong forecheck and puck possession that they demonstrated prevented Tuukka Rask from getting to the bench for much of that last minute of the game.
If/when the Hawks eventually pull this off, there will be plenty of praise sent in the direction of Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik. A couple of players that work their asses off every. single. shift. and are more than deserving of any praise that they do receive.
They've been just as vital to the success of the Hawks as some of the bigger names. These Stanley Cup Finals have helped them to demonstrate that on the largest of stages.