When Jonathan Toews scored the dramatic, game-winning goal in Phoenix late on Saturday night, two things were assured.
The two teams will meet again, in Chicago, on Monday night.
And Andrew Shaw will return to the lineup for the Blackhawks.
In Saturday night’s victory, the Blackhawks had three rookies in the lineup: Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Kruger and Brandon Saad. Saad and Hayes both skated just over 11 minutes in the game, and Kruger was held to his lowest ice time of the series (13:32).
Kruger has struggled with the physical play from the Coyotes in the series, and his numbers indicate that his ice time could stand to limited even more moving forward. Through five games, Kruger is pointless, minus-four and has been credited with only 10 shots on net.
Hayes made poorly-timed rookie mistake on the Coyotes’ one goal, passing the puck back to the far point where a defenseman would have been if Niklas Hjalmarsson wasn’t pinching deep in the Phoenix zone. In spite of that play, Hayes had a decent first playoff game with one hit and two shots on goal. His size was noticeable when he was on the ice as well, something the Hawks have lacked all year.
And Saad has looked great in his first two playoff games. His assist on Nick Leddy’s game-tying goal in the third period was the first point of his NHL career, and he’s been physical in both games. He was credited with four hits in 13:11 in Game Four and had the assist in 11:31 in Game Five.
The question for coach Joel Quenneville and his staff now becomes who will join the players watching from the suite in Game Six.
As we pointed out before Game Five, the Blackhawks have nothing to lose by playing rookies at this point in the season. We asked for Hayes to be on the ice, and he was. Now, he should stay there.
The comments we made about Andrew Brunette remain the same. The soon-to-be-39-year-old forward continues to have his impact on the game limited because he’s so slow, and the return of Shaw should give Quenneville another forward that could – and should – put Brunette on the healthy scratch list.
In Game Five, Brunette’s ice time was cut back to 10:42 on only 14 shifts. He continues to be one of the ice time leaders for the Hawks on the power play… which, in case you missed it, sucks.
Frankly, there’s nothing Brunette is doing that Hayes, Saad or Shaw cannot do right now (and into next season).
Brendan Morrison hasn’t been overwhelming in his two games, but at least he can get up and down the ice. And Morrison gave the Hawks 96 good seconds of penalty killing duty on Saturday night. While we would prefer Jamal Mayers’ physical presence on the ice over Morrison, either of them is a better option than Brunette at this point.
The Blackhawks best chances of winning two more games in this series are by beating the Coyotes up and down the ice. Having players that will battle for a puck and can then turn and get up the ice is paramount at this point, and having a player with the skating ability of a bowl of oatmeal on the ice is only hurting the team’s chances.
Brunette’s had a great career, and he’s a class act. But his time in Chicago is done. Quenneville needs to insert Shaw into the lineup in place of Brunette for Monday night’s Game Six.