CHICAGO – Ben Eager made sure the Chicago Blackhawks had a memento to remember their finest effort of the Stanley Cup final.
The gritty winger was quick to scoop up the game puck in the aftermath of Sunday’s 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers—making sure not to let anyone in an orange jersey grab it first. Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger came away with the souvenir after Chicago’s wins in Games 1 and 2, getting an earful from Eager the second time.
Eager was in no mood to discuss the post-game puck battle on Sunday night.
“No, sorry,” he said when asked for an interview.
It was a night where most things went right for the home team.
The Blackhawks finally managed to play up to their potential in Game 5, coming at the Flyers in waves thanks in large part to some successful line juggling by coach Joel Quenneville. Six different players scored goals and hefty winger Dustin Byfuglien finally made his presence felt with four points and some bone-rattling body checks.
As the clock ticked down, a raucous United Center crowd chanted “We want the Cup!” for a team that is now just one win away from claiming the trophy.
“We were due,” said forward Dave Bolland. “We knew that this was going to come out sooner or later. We didn’t see it in the first or second game or the third or fourth. I think tonight we sort of brought it together and played well.”
It speaks to the quality of this Blackhawks team that they lead a series 3-2 after only playing one game they’re proud of.
The elevated energy level was evident right from the opening faceoff on Sunday. Quenneville moved wingers Tomas Kopecky and Marian Hossa to the top line with Jonathan Toews, dropping Patrick Kane to the second unit and Byfuglien to the third unit.
Suddenly, the Hawks were dynamic no matter who was on the ice.
“We had to come back with some fire and just get on them and show them that we weren’t going to quit,” said Byfuglien.
The big winger had his best performance of the series by far. He struggled mightily during the opening four games but looked more like the guy who played a starring role during the second and third rounds.
“I think he got rid of us and started performing,” joked Kane. “That’s all he needed. He was a force.”
Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger was less complimentary. He made reference to Byfuglien’s poor start to the series when asked about his strong showing in Game 5.
“I guess he was well rested,” quipped Pronger.
He finished with a minus-5 rating and tried to downplay the impact of Quenneville’s line changes. The veteran had done a fine job of limiting the impact of the Kane-Toews-Byfuglien unit earlier in the series.
“I just don’t think we played very well, to be honest with you,” said Pronger. “I don’t think it really would have mattered who we were matched up against. They got an awful lot of bounces to go their way.
“But they earned them.”
The teams will now endure two off days before playing Game 6 at Wachovia Center on Wednesday night. Cup keeper Mike Bolt will have the trophy in the building and the Chicago players will likely get to hoist it if they can repeat this performance.
“I know personally I’m trying not to think about,” said Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp. “It’s tough to go into a game with those distractions. We’ve got to focus on what we can control.”