VANCOUVER -- There isn’t a die-hard Chicago Blackhawks fan who hasn’t been waiting for one or the other. Getting great efforts from both Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa in the Hawks' 5-0 Game 5 rout of the Vancouver Canucks must feel like winning the lottery.
Both players had been maligned, Hossa for a quiet series and Keith for a quiet season, but both had a huge hand in the Hawks' victory.
“You play a long season last year,” Keith said afterward. “I played 115 odd games and a lot of ice time in those games. And you come back two months later, and it’s not the same feeling. I’m excited to play in these type of games and this type of atmosphere. You know it’s do or die.”
No one will argue against the reigning Norris trophy winner being exhausted, but that didn’t make it any less difficult to watch his shot get blocked or his passes stolen this season. None of that happened in Game 5.
“I had some time to get my head up and I felt comfortable shooting,” Keith said. “We had good traffic in front.”
It wasn’t that long ago Keith was complaining about the lack of traffic, but against Vancouver, the Hawks had more than enough. Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger, Jonathan Toews, Troy Brouwer and even Patrick Kane were just some providing Keith with screens and tip-ins. The result? Two goals and two assists.
“Duncan is stepping up,” Toews said. “He’s been a force verbally, in the locker room, on the bench and on the ice. He’s killing penalties and scoring big goals. He’s doing everything. He’s getting in their face. There is nothing that is going to take him off his game right now.”
Joel Quenneville agreed with many observers.
“Duncan may have had his best game all year,” he said.
And Hossa might not be too far behind. With just one mop-up-time assist through four games, he also was feeling heat. That changed in Game 5 when he scored twice, added a helper and was the force he built his reputation on.
“I felt my legs were there and I was getting a lot of passes,” he said. “Instead of chasing the puck, I had the puck on my stick and I tried to make plays. That was the difference.”
He made a power move in the middle of the ice on his first goal and then put a perfectly placed, wicked shot by Roberto Luongo on a breakaway for his second score.
“I think I surprised him on the first one,” Hossa said. “On the second one, I tried to take my time and just fire it up.”
They were the final pieces to an improving team. Keith and Hossa were leaders, not followers, in Game 5. They led the Hawks to a Game 6 on Sunday.