When you’re a star player for a team, the pressure to score is always going to be there. That pressure only intensifies as the postseason goes on: those who get the big bucks are expected to get the big goals.
But those stars are the ones opponents target defensively, and sometimes those opponents succeed in keeping the top players quiet. You need depth; you need the guys not drawing that spotlight and defensive matchup to score. And for the Blackhawks, those guys have come through during the Stanley Cup Final.
The Tampa Bay Lighting have done a good job against the Blackhawks’ top players, from Jonathan Toews to Patrick Sharp, who each has just one goal each in this series, to Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, who have none. Several of those goals, instead, have come from the Blackhawks’ bottom-six forwards. Antoine Vermette has scored two game-winning goals in this series. Teuvo Teravainen also has two. Andrew Shaw has another.
Former Detroit/current Toronto head coach Mike Babcock said it several years ago: the top two lines can cancel each other out in the postseason. You need secondary scoring. The Blackhawks, thus far, have gotten it.
“It shows how much good depth we have here,” Hossa said. “You never know who is going to come through but you always have confidence right through the lineup.”
The Blackhawks’ third line, which has featured Vermette and Teravainen for some time now has been the most productive this series. Kris Versteeg joined those two for Game 5 and kept their impact high. Versteeg said the group doesn’t focus on providing offense but knows, in a tight defensive series, every bit helps.
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“We don’t really talk about that, but we talk about trying to be a solid line for the guys,” Versteeg said. “We’ve got so many players here who can play and put points on the board, but we wanted to be a line that could help and contribute, and fortunately tonight was one of those nights.”
Coach Joel Quenneville often says he doesn’t care who scores the goals. But depth is critical at this time of the postseason and, if your top stars are shut down, you need those goals from someone else. The Blackhawks have gotten them.