Why the Bruins Won: As has been the case most of the series, Boston put New York on its heels. And the fact this was the most physical game of the series played right into Boston’s hands. Milan Lucic was at the forefront of the Bruins attack, getting a few good scoring opportunities and relentlessly throwing his weight around. Tuukka Rask bounced back from a subpar Game 4 – but you had to expect that would happen.
Why New York Lost: Facing elimination for the second time, the Rangers were still not pushing the play on offense as much as they needed to. If it’s a system thing, the system was a bad matchup against the Bruins and needed to adapt better.
Play of the Game: With a little more than 11 minutes left in the third period, Ryan Callahan took advantage of a Boston gaffe and raced in on a breakaway with a chance to tie the game. Tuukka Rask’s denial of Callahan helped seal New York’s fate.
1. Tuukka Rask: The mark of a great goalie, Rask completely recovered from his Game 4 loss and was right back at the top of his game, making 28 saves.
2. Milan Lucic: Though he didn’t get a point, Lucic physically dominated with six hits. He had some offensive opportunities too, recording three shots in 20:03 of ice.
3. Henrik Lundqvist: It’s a shame he didn’t get the offensive support he needed during this series. Lundqvist did everything he could to keep the Rangers one lucky bounce away from a go-ahead or tying goal, but that second one never came.
What’s Next: Oh, baby. The Bruins head to the Eastern Conference final, where they’ll meet the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jarome Iginla, who snubbed Boston at the trade deadline. The Penguins are a more skilled and offensively potent team than any Boston has faced this playoff, so it will surely be a more challenging test for Rask. For the Rangers, many questions hang in the air. Brad Richards was a healthy scratch for the second game in a row and seems to be on his way to a buyout. And what about John Tortorella? Is the defense-first system the right one for a team already with a strong blueline and one of the best goalies in the world? – Rory Boylen
Why Chicago won: Being one of the best regular season teams of all-time brought with it a certain swagger and Chicago rediscovered it tonight, looking nothing like a scared team facing elimination. The Hawks hit early and often and were relentless on their forecheck, battering Detroit’s defensemen in the corners. They solved Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who was piping hot entering Game 5, by driving fearlessly to the net and creating traffic. The Hawks’ ‘D,’ led by a vintage effort from reunited pair Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, did a fantastic job joining the rush, adding to the constant sea of red sweaters around the Detroit goal.
Why Detroit lost: The Wings had no answer for Chicago’s physicality. They didn’t match the Hawks’ blistering forecheck with an aggressive attack of their own. Instead, they just ate it. They had no pushback. One play that summed up the tone of this game was Bryan Bickell’s punishing third-period hit on Niklas Kronwall, which knocked the thoroughbred out of the game. It was a prime example of what Chicago did and Detroit failed to do in Game 5: make the opponent pay.
Play of the game: Chicago’s third goal put the game out of reach and got a giant monkey off Jonathan Toews’ back. On a Hawk power play, Keith did a superb job anticipating the Wings’ clearing attempt and kept the puck in. He passed to Marian Hossa, fed Toews down low. ‘Captain Serious’ finally notched his first goal of the playoffs with a superbly placed wrist shot from a tight angle.
1. Duncan Keith: Looked like the 2010 Norris Trophy winner in Game 5. Outstanding positioning and he gave Detroit fits with his swift puck movement and smart pinches. Two assists.
2. Andrew Shaw: The power forward scored the game winner and Chicago’s fourth goal. The first was a particularly impressive redirection of a Keith shot.
3. Brent Seabrook: Was almost as good as Keith tonight. Had an assist and his seven shots tied Patrick Kane for the game high.
What’s next: Game 5 felt a lot more like most pundits thought this series would from the start: a mismatch. Chicago was the best team in the NHL entering the playoffs and looked like it in the 4-1 win. Its aggressive, physical gameplan was a nightmare for a Detroit team that doesn’t do well in bruising affairs. Will the Hawks keep their foot on the gas or will the Wings get their confidence back at home in Game 6? – Matt Larkin