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Blackhawks Thu May 29 2014
Michal Handzus: 6 foot, 4 inches; 219 pounds; 37 years old; one overtime game-winning goal; third star of Game 5.
In the 1995 film The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey said a very memorable quote:
"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
That's what the Hawks did to the Kings Wednesday night at the United Center, and that devil was Michal Handzus. If you predicted Handzus to score the eventual game winner, go ahead and pass Go and collect your $200 with a smile.
The old man, who defies time and space itself, channeled his inner Patrick Kane with a backhander to beat Jonathan Quick, which sent the entire area within the 312/773 into a frenzy while clasping their collective heads in awe in a 5-4 win in double overtime. But in all reality, the Hawks got away with convincing the world they shouldn't have existed for an upcoming Game 6 in La-La Land.
After what started out so promising for the Hawks ended up with a familiar storyline, not just in this series versus Darryl Sutter's crew, but throughout the entire playoffs. More times than not, the Hawks have relied on overall talent overcoming stretches of poor play at the dot, power play and on the weak side defensively. The same applied Wednesday evening for Game 5.
The Hawks led 3-2 just halfway through the second period when Dustin Brown took a bad turnover away from Kris Versteeg and his $2.2 million (thanks, Stan Bowman?) and threw it in net, which actually was blocked by Seabrook. Brown then snuck down on Corey Crawford's weak side, completely working behind Seabrook, and collected a rebound to score the tying goal that could have been tapped in by Jim Belushi himself, shooting the puck during the second intermission.
Of course, as it turned out, this all went for naught as the Hawks took this one to two overtimes before Handzus ignited the Flux Capacitor to 1999 and won it to force Game 6. But prior to, it was a familiar scenario versus a Kings team that found a way to counter-attack anything the Hawks put forth.
If anything, the Blackhawks at least were able to skate with reckless abandon -- as they should have -- especially in the first and second overtime periods. Whatever haze surrounded coach Joel Quenneville's squad throughout games three and four cleared away just in time to match the energy and relentlessness of the Kings.
Both the Corsi-for and Fenwick-for for each team were about spot-on, during even-strength situations -- both teams hovering around 50 percent for each, plus or minus a few percentage points. So there wasn't a lack of shot attempts between one team looking to advance and the other looking to extend its season. The shot chart below, via Extra Skater, tells the story:
Of course you already knew that, simply by watching the game, especially during that breathtaking period in the first overtime where both teams skated for nearly eight minutes without a stoppage. It was an all-out grind that makes watching post-season hockey one of the purest joys in all of sports and reminds us why we torture ourselves with every single second that ticks off the clock with every single move on the ice.
With all that said, the Hawks will need to step it up defensively in order to force a Game 7. All the aggressiveness at the onset of Game 5 was a breath of fresh air, but you just knew the Kings were going to grind it out either to eventually tie it up or make it desperately close. Game 2 alone should have provided a preview of what was to come in Game 5.
On the plus side, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad played out of their minds and absolutely deserved the number-one and number-two stars of the game, respectively. Kane's four assists and Saad's two, plus one goal, led the way in a must-have game at home. Both played nearly 30 minutes of ice time and both were aggressive in attacking the boards for loose pucks.
Momentum may or may not exist, but if it does, the Hawks at least are able to say they stole one at home to stave off death and show the world they still have a chance in Game 6 on Friday. Whether or not the pendulum continues to swing their way remains to be seen, but at least, for now, the usual play that has gotten this team this far has been enough to fool even the devil himself.