Kane Comes Through in a Pinch: Hat Trick Sends Blackhawks to Stanley Cup Finals
There's an amazing aspect of the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins meeting in this year's Stanley Cup chase.
This will be the first time in the storied history of these two Original Six clubs that they've ever met in the finals.
Chicago secured this historical pairing by emerging from a classic double-overtime clincher with a 4-3 victory that dethroned the defending Cup holders. Patrick Kane's third goal of the evening that capped a telepathic 2-on-1 combination with Jonathan Toews sealed the Los Angeles Kings' fate.
During regulation, it seemed the night's theme would be comebacks:
- Duncan Keith, returning from a one-game suspension, opened the scoring;
- The Kings, never ahead, battled back from a deficit of 2-0 to forge a tie that almost held; and
- Mike Richards, on the shelf since Game 1, put the game into overtime with a clutch deflection of Anze Kopitar's sudden shot off a face-off win with 14 seconds remaining.
Perhaps Los Angeles coach Daryl Sutter was done with the thought of comebacks -- mainly because they don't exist in overtime -- but he sent his charges out for the extra ice with orders to raise the pace, and they didn't disappoint. The Kings, who were so defensive during regulation that their first shot on goal wasn't registered until ten minutes into the game, seemed to come at Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford in waves, putting abject faith in their own netminder, the redoubtable Jonathan Quick, to not only duplicate his MVP playoff perfomance from the 2012 Cup championship run, but to conjure miracles whenever necessary.
However, even saints are mortal.
Given the stakes, a remarkably wide open first overtime set the stage for more of the same in the second. The Kings blueliners were pinching opportunistically, but it finally caught up with them. The dangerous Slava Voynov, who was having a strong playoff performance this spring, raced for a puck just beyond the midboards but couldn't claim it. This was the opening Chicago sought.
On a team loaded with chips-down firepower, the Blackhawks had three of their best on the ice. Bryan Bickell collected the loose puck behind Voynov and snapped it to a jetting Jonathan Toews with Patrick Kane quickly accelerating to join him, and the odd-man rush Chicago was craving took flight.
Old School says this situation calls for a defenseman to remove one option, usually taking away the pass so the goalie can concentrate on the puckhandler. These days, it seems like the defender tries to play the middle, daring the puckhandler to make a choice. The problem is, the goalie has to prepare to react to two options, and in this case, two very lethal options.
Toews and Kane had done this before. The former's no-look pass across didn't even have to be a saucer, as Rob Scuderi was stranded in no-man's land and in no position to aid Quick. Kane ripped the one-timer instinctively, beating the Kings' goaltender high, and the 2013 Stanley Cup final was set to the refrain of Chelsea Dagger looping endlessly, somehow providing a backbeat to the deafening joy that was shaking United Center to its very foundation.
The cacophany continues on Wed 12 Jun.