06/06/2010 5:17 PM
- From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)
CHICAGO -- The sheepish smile peering through Patrick Sharp's scraggly playoff beard made you think he wasn't telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But Sharp wasn't the only Blackhawk player saying he has no clue what the Blackhawks lines will look like at the start of Game 5.
"I wish I could tell you if they were changing or not," Sharp said.
"We don't even know right now," added Patrick Kane, "so I'm not keeping any secrets or anything from you."
"We just gotta be ready for whatever," offered Troy Brouwer.
They sound sincere -- they really do -- but we can't help but wonder how much of the truth serum they all really drank Sunday morning. If the Blackhawks are going to make wholesale changes to their lines, we'll all just have to wait until the game to find out (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
That's not necessarily surprising considering tweaks, adjustments or whatever you want to call them are held in locked vaults during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, especially before the most important swing game of the season, such as Game 5 of a Final that is tied at 2-2.
Gamesmanship indeed plays a major role during a playoff series and the Blackhawks' players are either enjoying themselves a good laugh right now at the expense of the media and the Philadelphia Flyers, or they're telling the truth and honestly don't know what's going to happen.
Either way, coach Joel Quenneville is going to make us all play the guessing game.
"We'll look at it going into the game maybe tweaking them a little bit," Quenneville said of the lines. "We've always gone along making adjustments based on how we're playing, what we like and don't like. I think we have a lot of options. We'll look at them."
Quenneville gave away one of his options in the third period of Game 4 when he broke up Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. He moved Kane to a line with Dave Bolland and Kris Versteeg and brought Andrew Ladd up to play with Toews and Dustin Byfuglien.
Since Philly's Chris Pronger was again having an MVP-worthy night, Quenneville was trying to free at least one of his young guns from the towering defenseman's tight grasp as the Hawks tried to mount a comeback from a 3-1 deficit.
Toews and Ladd wound up with assists on Brian Campbell's goal with 4:10 left that tightened the score to 4-3. Pronger was not on the ice for the Flyers.
Since it worked, the thought going into Sunday was that Quenneville would keep those same lines together. But the Hawks instead practiced with the lines that started Game 4 save for Ladd, who was not on the ice because Quenneville said he was "resting."
We again saw Byfuglien with Toews and Kane, and Adam Burish was skating in Ladd's spot alongside Bolland and Versteeg. Sharp, Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky made up a line as did John Madden, Ben Eager and Troy Brouwer.
"We're still practicing with the same lines so we're going in with the intent that we're playing with the same lines," Brouwer said.
You can't always believe when you see. That lesson became obvious prior to Game 4 when Ladd, who did line rushes with the black aces in the morning and didn't even partake in line rushes during the pre-game warm-up, wound up starting the game on the third line with Bolland and Versteeg.
It was the first time he played since injuring his shoulder in Game 4 against San Jose.
"You want to keep your hand hidden before games," Brouwer said. "If there are going to be line changes it's not an uncommon thing. You try to switch it up and throw something at the other team. For us, we don't know yet."
Or do they?