Three Questions: Wings-Blackhawks
DRW.com analyzes Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals
Darren Helm’s third goal of the postseason may have just been the biggest goal of his life. With the Wings battling in overtime for a birth in the Stanley Cup Final, Helm was in the right place at the right time, and he made it count. The Wings were pouring on the pressure in the Blackhawks’ end, and a shot came in on goaltender Cristobal Huet from Brett Lebda. Tomas Holmstrom was screening out front, and he managed to dislodge the puck from Huet, and it rolled through the crease. Helm, waiting on the far side of the net, jumped on the loose puck, and fired it into the back of the goal. Then he was mobbed by his teammates, they lined up for the handshake, and Henrik Zetterberg accepted the Campbell Bowl for being Western Conference champions once again.
It was a fitting end for Helm, as he played an outstanding game Wednesday night. While he scored the goal of the night, it was his time on the penalty kill that might have been the play of the night. He spent one minute on the penalty kill, and the majority of that time was him with the puck, in the Blackhawks end. Helm ragged the puck for a while, then cut to the net and nearly scored. He reclaimed the puck, dodged a couple more hits, and wasted even more time. In a tied game during the second period, it was huge play by Helm, as he nearly killed a penalty all by himself. On the night, Helm had four shots, and he finished on 12 hits. Not bad for a guy who only played in 16 regular-season games.
How about Chris Osgood?
Osgood skated to his net for the start of Game 5 knowing he wouldn’t have his usual defense in front of him. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom missed his second straight game, and just prior to game-time it was announced that Jonathan Ericsson had acute appendicitis and underwent successful surgery this afternoon. That meant that Osgood would be missing two of his mainstays on the blue line as the Blackhawks fired everything they had at him throughout the contest.
It didn’t matter to Osgood, however. The Wings’ netminder stood on his head for three-plus periods. He stopped 30 shots, keeping the Wings in the game as they looked to find a way to beat Huet. He started early, robbing Colin Fraser of a sure goal on a one-timer from Patrick Kane about nine minutes into the game. He was the key component to an impressive Wings’ penalty-kill unit, helping them keep the Blackhawks scoreless on 4:33 of power-play time. And he weathered a third-period storm, when the Blackhawks sent 11 shots his way.
How did the Wings win this one?
The Wings knew they were going to be a bit shorthanded, with the losses of Lidstrom, Ericsson, and Pavel Datsyuk (still out with a lower-body injury). So they poured it on early. The Wings fired 21 shots in the first period, putting the Blackhawks on their heels early. And they held the Blackhawks to only nine in the process.
The Wings got great performances from the players filling in, as well. Chris Chelios played for 10:26, and he finished plus-one. Chelios recorded two shots, one hit, and two blocked shots during his time on the ice. Ville Leino ate up 7:21 worth of ice-time, and Derek Meech had 4:49.
But it was the Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall pairing that really stepped up. Stuart played 27:51, and recorded three hits and four blocked shots. Kronwall played 28:22, and recorded three hits and one shot. The duo did a great job of stepping up to make up for the losses of Lidstrom and Ericsson.