Driving Home – Game 6 – Lightning vs Hawks Preview, Pregame Thread, Hostile Takeover

 vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: NBC, CBC, TVA, WGN-AM 720
Black Me Out: Raw Charge

Since opening in 1994, the Stanley Cup has never been in the United Center with a series on the line even in the renaissance era of the Blackhawks. It was 23 years ago when it was last in Chicago, June 1st 1992 when the Penguins complete a sweep of the Hawks at the old barn. The last time the Hawks had the ability to claim the chalice themselves was May 18th, 1971 in Game 7 against the Canadiens. A game that those who remember will never be able to fully forget. The last time the Hawks actually won at home was April 12th 1938, and even then, the Cup wasn’t awarded to them that night after the final horn. No, the last time the Hawks actually hoisted the Holy Grail on home ice was all the way back to April 10th of 1934, 81 years ago. That’s so long ago that the Cup itself doesn’t even look as it does now. But all of these counts can revert back to zero with a win over the Lightning in Game 6 tonight.

For the Lightning, they are rapidly running out of options and bodies as this series progresses. Nikita Kucherov took the morning skate and is listed as probable for the game, though the actual degree of his health remains open for debate. And with Tyler Johnson still clearly carrying some type of arm or hand injury, having four effective arms between the Triplets is sub-optimal at best for Jon Cooper. Kucherov’s departure for injury early in Game 5 forced Cooper into having to jumble in other forwards with Johnson and Ondrej Palat, and it was mostly Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin, who dressed for the second time on Satruday. Even in getting him new linemates to work with and at the center position, Stamkos still sits at a solitary assist for the series. But such a talent absolutely cannot be held down forever, and relenting even the slightest could result in a building offensive explosion. For their part, Stamkos’ two linemates in Alex Killorn and Valtteri Filppula are doing a fine job at driving play and are responsible for the Bolts’ last two goals. They are half of the only four Lightning forwards getting the better of the shot attempt ledger in the series, with the other two being Ryan Callahan and Cedric Pauquette. And in not being able to decide the matchups tonight, at the very least Stamkos will see some combination of the Hawks’ top four defensemen nearly every shift he’s on the ice.

On the blueline Victor Hedman continues to be an all around force no matter what situation he plays in, and in whatever matchups come his way, though it’s mostly been Patrick Kane he’s seen all series and has held him to a lone assist. But the question becomes why Hedman did not even play 24 minutes in Game 5 wherein the Lightning spent the majority of the game playing from behind, and the rest of the defensive corps have offered little to nothing in terms of keeping the puck out of their own end.  Without the benefit of last change, it would stand to reason that Hedman could play half the game or even more given the situation in the series, and that Jon Cooper has been conserving his minutes for just such an occasion. It will be something to monitor throughout the game.

Despite his walkabout in the first, Ben Bishop certainly looked more comfortable and mobile in net in Game 5 than he did in Game 3, and was able to make himself look huge to shooters on every clean look they got. Teuvo in particular had two opportunities where he had a lot more time than he thought he did, and fired the puck wide of Bishop trying to pick a corner on the 6’7″ netminder. But even in spite of his improved performance, it’s doubtful he’s fully recovered from his mystery ailment, and getting him to move laterally while on his skates opens up holes in the equipment to shoot through. His sterling 8-3 record with a .947 save percentage on the road, as well as his two shutouts at MSG, will most certainly be harped on in the broadcast from jump street, so once again the Hawks will need to put a volume of shots on him to get the number of chances necessary.

As for our Men of Four Feathers, the lineup tonight will be the same as finished in Game 4 and remained throughout the course of Game 5. That means the the Doghouse Line (or Killer V’s, whichever works) of Versteeg, Vermette, and Teuvo will get an opportunity to show that Saturday wasn’t a fluke. Versteeg in particular played fantastically, which of course means the dangling sword above everyone’s neck for the inevitable devestating blue line turnover at his hands. But with last change, Quenneville should be able to get them out against the bottom pairings of Tampa, who have not been able to handle much of anything all series. The same goes for the fourth line, where Andrew Shaw showed exactly why he is far better served on the wing on Sunday. He, Kruger, and Desjardin will likely take whomever in the top six isn’t slotted against the Toews line, and do so with their usual overflow of defensive zone draws. And if Victor Hedman isn’t double shifted, there’s a high likelihood that at least one of the two top lines will be heard from tonight, as just like Stamkos, neither Toews or Kane can be bottled forever.

There will be no changes among the defensemen either, despite the fact that Trevor Van Reimsdyk has had a rough go of things for the past two games. Some of that was to be expected on the road, and he and Kimmo Timonen should get the advantage of offensive zone draws for the times that they’re out there to give the top four a breather. Either way, with the game guaranteed to be as tight as the series has been to this point, don’t expect Joel Quenneville to push Duncan Keith’s tank all the way down past E.

In net Corey Crawford has been solid in two straight games stemming late pushes by the Lightning and kept the games from going past 60 minutes. He had his own issues playing the puck on Saturday which led to the Kucherov injury, so he’ll once again need to keep his sightlines on point to be able to stop what he sees. So far he’s been able to do just that, and the Hawks need him just to provide one more game of that caliber of performance while maintaining what has been exemplary defensive zone coverage.

While common wisdom would point to the Lightning coming out and flooring it from puck drop, that could end up backfiring in only amplifying what will already be an absolutely insane UC crowd. The past two games the Bolts have tried to use a modified trap to gum things up a bit to allow their large defensemen to stand up Hawk forwards at the line, and that might be the best tactic they have in the hopes that Ben Bishop remains as solid as he’s been on the road. But Jon Cooper has already shown a propensity to try to outsmart everyone including himself, so it truly is a coinflip as to which extreme he’s likely to employ.

But on the other side of things, tonight is now what the last 54 weeks have been completely about. A fixation on making amends for a blown opportunity last year, especially on home ice, the scene of that crime. No one in that room from last year forgets, and they are not going to let it happen again. Tonight isn’t just about this season and last, but it can become about historical context as well. And the only way the Hawks get to that point is to take it upon themselves to put themselves there. There is no shying away from the brightest of lights if this level is to be reached. This is what they have always wanted. This is the standard they hold themselves to. And this is now what needs to be seized, hoisted, and engraved. There are few even alive the last time the Hawks did what they could do tonight on home ice, and even fewer likely remember it or saw it themselves. And only they can change that. Let’s go Hawks.

If you’re headed to the UC tonight, make sure to pick up a copy of our gameday program sold outside at all four corners of the arena. We are outside Gates 2 and 3, and on Wood and Monroe and Damen and Monroe. If you’re not, you can pick up the digital copy right here. 

  • Sopel the catfish

    Is it 4:30 yet? I need to get outta here, heart rate picking up just thinking about the game starting. Do it for Stosh, Do it for Kimmo, Do it for Clint, Do it for the boys in the room, and Do it for the fans who continually put their livers and sanity on the line. Don’t let the Cup leave the building tonight and claim it as your own.

    • jordyhawk

      I think the boys should do it for themselves.

      • Sopel the catfish

        That’s what I was alluding to with the boys in the room (probably should have specified locker room?)

        • jordyhawk

          No, you were clear enough…I skimmed and missed it. Enjoy the game.

          • Sopel the catfish

            Oh I will, and I hope we all do. It’s going to be a rough morning tomorrow for one reason or another.

          • THAT’s HOCKEY BABY!

          • WookRN

            I’M NOT ON CALL! TIME TO DRINK!

          • Sopel the catfish

            THAT’S A SPECIAL TIME I LIKE TO CALL SOPEL-THIRTY

          • WookRN

            It’s ON!

    • Quit, retire

    • Dangles-a-Plenty

      Fucking beauty, SOPEY!

  • HawkVision

    (Submitted without comment) Let’s go Hawks.

    https://youtu.be/fi6aOeEAKwg

  • SuperHawk27

    Faceoff wins in the last 2 games are 70 – 46 in favor of the Hawks……38-20 in game 4 and 32-26 in game 5. With home ice, hopefully we can get a repeat of game 4.

    • DJ

      This, plus good defensive zone exits. Simple clears and/or moving the puck up ice with speed.

      The Toews line against Hedman. Make him work at his end of the ice whether we have the puck or not. If it’s the latter, we muck up their offense.

      This also would open the door for Kane to have some open ice and to get rolling.

    • We like our people!

    • Jim

      Helps that Tyler Johnson has a bad flipper and can’t take faceoffs, not that I’m complaining.

      • SuperHawk27

        With his bad flipper and Kutcherov’s bad shoulder, they should call their line the “twins line”…..heh

  • Bobby Otter

    Fixed: No, the last time the Hawks actually hoisted the Holy Grail on home ice was all the way back to April 10th of 1934, 81 years ago. That’s so long ago, that it had only been 25 years since the Cubs last won a World Series.

  • jordyhawk

    I can’t get the images of Vermette battling in game 5 out of my head. On the boards, in the dot, behind the net. That’s what I want to see from us tonight.

  • Blood’s in the water, boys, and I know you smell it. Tonight it’s time to empty the tank and make sure this emotional rollercoaster of a season ends tonight in the only outcome that is acceptable to this team, and the immortality that awaits is the only salve for the uncertain future that also looms. Seize this opportunity and leave no doubt about who you are and what you’re about, and do it in front of the city that adores you.

    • DJ

      Don’t empty the tank. Empty their tank.

  • BestPredsForward

    I wonder if the Lightning wish they had taken Seth Jones instead of Drouin.

  • Hags

    Leave no doubt. end this tonight and let’s have one hell of a party.

  • Savardian

    Hate going negative on a potentially glorious night like tonight, but fucking Pussy McClure is such a staggeringly over-sensitive ignoramus, I can’t hold back.

    From Saturday: “Kris Versteeg will be skating with Vermette and Teuvo, which has potential disaster written all over it”

    Today: “… the inevitable devestating blue line turnover at his hands”
    If you have any better ideas, let’s hear it. Otherwise, just STFU and enjoy the ride. Clearly you being ‘right’ is more important than anything else going on tonight.

    • Well, it just wouldn’t have been complete without this, wouldn’t it?

      • sheeyat

        there’s always one,

        • Sopel the catfish

          It almost wouldn’t feel right if it didn’t happen, right?

      • jhb

        I mean, why trudge through that whole bunch of words up there, for context, when you can just take a chopped up bit of one sentence and really know what’s up? Spin-o-rama indeed! Truly Savardian!

        • Pilotefan

          Danny Gallivan spoiled me. Growing up with the best makes me watch a lot of games with the audio virtually off.
          Let ‘er rip, boys.

      • Don’t you know your ridin with the KING!

    • Hags

      “But on the other side of things, tonight is now what the last 54 weeks have been completely about. A fixation on making amends for a blown opportunity last year, especially on home ice, the scene of that crime. No one in that room from last year forgets, and they are not going to let it happen again. Tonight isn’t just about this season and last, but it can become about historical context as well. And the only way the Hawks get to that point is to take it upon themselves to put themselves there. There is no shying away from the brightest of lights if this level is to be reached. This is what they have always wanted. This is the standard they hold themselves to. And this is now what needs to be seized, hoisted, and engraved. There are few even alive the last time the Hawks did what they could do tonight on home ice, and even fewer likely remember it or saw it themselves. And only they can change that. Let’s go Hawks.”

      I think McClure gets what’s important about tonight.

    • SuperHawk27

      Is that you Kris?

  • meme gene okerlund

    Best weird trivia about the 1992 Cup Final–

    11-year-old Christina Aguilera performing the anthem twice at the Igloo

  • ourgeorge

    Happy to see an appreciation for excellent d-zone coverage by the hawks this series. We’ve been able to hold Tampa at arms length up to this point. Let’s hope it continues!

  • SAMCRO Outlaw

    Clean exits, good entries, play between the dots, win the boards – take that big silver on tour and drink this town silly. God I love June hockey!

  • Jim

    Wait? There’s a game tonight? Where are they playing?

  • Harry Longwood

    In the words of The Royal Half: barf cry barf

  • Life sometimes changes with very small decisions.

    Some two-plus decades ago, I had an extra ticket to a Hawks/Pens game at the old barn. Rather than give my seat away that particular evening (no big deal…I went every Sunday night thanks to a job at Ticketmaster in my early college years), I decided to take my younger brother, a fledgling snot (much like myself) with whom I’d shared almost nothing in common up to that point in our young lives. I was a diehard by that point, my fandom being born as a sneaky little brat with a radio under my pillow during the mid-80s playoff battles with the Oilers. But it was his very first taste of Blackhawk hockey, and the poor kid was never the same after that glorious night amidst the pot-filled clouds of the Stadium’s second balcony.

    He sometimes curses me this time of year, the stress of each playoff game often too much for even him to take. Yet he still thanks me every chance he gets for my decision that night…a decision that brought two brothers that much closer together, despite our myriad differences.

    Circumstances have forced us to celebrate the last two cups apart, but tonight we have a chance (along with our better halves) to sit down and share this memory together. I’m not generally the sappy type, but I sincerely hope it’s another one of those nights that neither of us (nor the rest of you) will ever forget…

  • Tony Punko

    Writing from Boulder, CO here. The wife and I transplanted here 20 years ago. Avs season ticket holder since 1995, but we NEVER relinquished the Black Hawks as our #1 team! We were fortunate enough to be at Game-7 back in 2001, but that will PALE in comparison to what Hawks Fans experience at the Stadiu…uh, UC, tonight! WHEN they do it tonight. WHEN they lift that Cup high over their heads for ALL of Chicago, and for ALL of the Black Hawk Faithful around the world, please remember, Black Hawk Fans, be classy. Relish this as the possibly once-in-a-lifetime thrilling experience that it will be! NO turning over cars. NO burning things (well, fine, maybe a joint!…hey, I AM writing from Colorado, y’know!). Show the world how much class and integrity that the BEST fans in Hockey…heck, the BEST FANS IN ALL OF SPORTS, have always had, still have, and will continue to have!!! This is OUR time! Treat it with the respect and importance that the city, the fans, and THE Cup deserve! GO YOU BLAAAAACK HAWWWWWKS!!!! ENJOY IT, CHI-TOWN!!!!!

    • Bob in EP

      I grew up in Broomfield way back when. Lotsa love in my heart for CO. Giant storm headed this way should put the damper on post-game pandemonium, if things turn out that way.

      • Matt

        I could see Blackhawks fans littering the streets as the rain downpours. Would be a pretty cool sight to see.

      • Tony Punko

        Nice! Thanks, Bob! And, I’m sure you meant to say “WHEN things turn out that way.” 😉

        Storms have been a b¡tch here this Spring. Never thought I’d see this much rain in Colorado! Yard’s green, instead of brown, though, so we got that goin’ for us, which is nice!

    • God’s country, have step kids on THE HOUSE on Balsam

  • Brandon Murray

    This needs to end tonight. No reason to go back to Tampa. No reason to let anyone in a Lightning uniform think they have one more chance. This needs to end tonight. Let’s Go Hawks!

    This NEEDS to END TONIGHT. I’m freaking out man……

  • Matt

    Going to work today has turned out to be pretty much pointless.

    • Tony Punko

      TORTURESOME being stuck at work today. Although, it’s probably keeping me from being too inebriated for the celebration later tonight!…probably. 😉

      • Feenux

        I agree. The only good think about working all day is that I haven’t started drinking three hours before puck drop.

      • Sopel the catfish

        That’s the best thing about whiskey and/or shots, very easy to catch up 🙂 (or start fast)

  • Tony Punko

    I’m gonna have my windows down, and “Here Come The Hawks” and “Chelsea Dagger” CRANKED on my drive home tonight!!!

    • It’s raining out Dude!

      • Tony Punko

        Not here in Colorado, it isn’t…yet…merely overcast for now.

  • Tony Punko

    Here’s a nice pic of my kid from the victory parade five years ago…
    …no making fun of the Brewers hat he’s wearin’…SOMEone’s gotta cheer for that pitiful team!

    • Sopel the catfish

      Still better than a (insert color of choice) Sox fan

  • Dangles-a-Plenty

    HOLY FUCK, that shit just pumped me the fuck up McClure. Let’s fucking go boys. Play how we all know you fucking can. Let’s fucking get it! LETS GO HAWKS

  • Tony Punko

    Alright, time to slide down the ol’ dinosaur-tail and get outta this office! Thanks for gettin’ me through this lonnnng afternoon, fellow Hawk Fans! LET’S CLAIM LORD STANLEY’S CHALICE TONIGHT!!!!! GO YOU BLACK HAWKS!!!

  • TitanTransistor

    Nervous.

    I REALLY don’t want the Blackhawks to go back to Tampa for Game 7…

    • WookRN

      So lets not 😉

  • ZigZags82

    I don’t have any fancy speeches. I don’t have any eloquent words to share (Not that I would normally). Let’s just get this done tonight Hawks. Revel in the moment, the energy, and make history. 60 minutes of urgency and the Cup resides again in Chicago.

    Let’s Go Hawks.

  • casbone

    The heart palpitations have already begun and the puck doesn’t drop for another hour(ish). Let’s do this!

  • Sopel the catfish

    Picked up 2 extra handles of Seagram’s and rootbeer, Yuengling is cold, pizza has been ordered, pretzels still have their salt, DVR has been cleared so no interruptions (other than AT&T/NBC broadcast shitting out). First party-goer to arrive in 12 minutes, time to mix up the first Seabrook’s 7 in the jolly green giant mug (if you don’t know what the JGGM is you are missing out)

    • WookRN

      People coming over.
      $200 bucks in beer. Grill on.
      Drink muther fuggers,
      LETS GO HAWKS!!!!

  • TitanTransistor

    Heading to the bar… hope they have loooots of whiskey on hand.

  • Bob in EP

    Beer, tequila and my generator on hand in case the power goes.

  • PuttingOnTheFoil77

    LGH!

  • To Saad be the glory

    It’s time,lets do this!