In the strange way the NHL rewards players who win the Stanley Cup, the Boston Bruins’ Carl Soderberg could actually get his name engraved on the celebrated trophy if his team happens to win and if he gets into tonight's fifth game.
With the series tied 2-2 and Boston looking for any possible edge, coach Claude Julien said Saturday morning he was considering Soderberg as a replacement for Kaspars Daugavins in the Bruins’ line-up for tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Watch: Pregame talk prior to Game 5 of Cup final
Soderberg, the Swedish league’s scoring champion with 60 points in 54 games for Linkoping, was an 11th-hour addition to the Bruins’ lineup this spring, signing after Sweden’s playoffs came to an end. He dressed for the final six regular-season games for them, as the Bruins sorted through a series of injuries to key players, but has been a reserve throughout these playoffs.
But Daugavins, who went in for the injured Gregory Campbell, has been less and less of a factor as the series against the Blackhawks moved along. Following Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to Chicago, Julien thought he’d try something different.
Normally, an adjustment on a team’s fourth line makes a marginal difference in the grand scheme of things, but the Bruins are a notable exception, a team that actually received meaningful contributions from that unit when Campbell was anchoring it at centre.
Without Campbell, Shawn Thornton has had a more negligible role, while Daniel Paille was moved up the depth chart and Rich Peverley dropped down.
The hope is that if Soderberg is inserted, he might add a different dimension than Daugavins to a team that will now need to win at least once more at the United Centre, if it hopes to win its second championship in three years.
Luckily for Boston, they have an NHL-best six road wins this postseason and are the only playoff team with an above-.500 record as visitors (6-3). They have outscored their opponents, 29-18, on the road, including a 14-6 margin over their last four games.
High humidity levels descended on Chicago Friday and show no signs of dissipating, which matters only because it challenges the ice makers. There was a similar issue in Boston before Game 3 and it had an impact on the ice quality which has otherwise been remarkably good, considering that they're nearing the end of June and summer officially arrived on Friday.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he thought the ice was fine in the morning, but acknowledged: “It's one of those days with the humidity and it will be a little warmer out there [later] today. But the building and the Playoffs have been fine, the ice has been fine.
“Sometimes late in periods you've got to know that it gets a little bit worn out in both buildings, and you've got to be smart in those areas.”
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are not contemplating any line-up changes. Forward Marian Hossa didn’t skate Friday and is nursing an undisclosed upper body injury which caused him to miss the third game of the series, the 2-0 Boston win, but he is a go, according to Quenneville. Hossa has 16 points thus far in the playoffs.
"I liked his contribution last game,'' said Quenneville. "Defensively, you know Hossa is always going to be in the right spot and not give up anything on that end of it.
"We're very happy to use him, whatever number you want to say percentage that he's ready at. Everybody has different limitations but everybody gives it their all."
Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask allowed six goals on 47 shots during Game 4, but throughout the playoffs, has always bounced back from the five times he’s yielded four or more goals this postseason with a stingy bounceback game (4-0 record, 1.33 goals-against average and .959 save percentage).
Quenneville, who has something to say about it, also figures it’ll be a far lower-scoring match.
“Offensively, I don't think we want to think that we're going to be scoring at that rate,” said Quenneville. “I know scoring has been tough the prior two games, and we haven't generated a ton of scoring chances. Last game, we had some higher quality looks than we've seen throughout the series. But tough to forecast what's going to play on that front.
“Let's know that we can't give up the quality we gave up last game.”
Statistically, teams have split the first four games of the Stanley Cup final 22 times since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939. Since then, the team winning Game 5 has captured the Stanley Cup 15 times (68.2%). However, the team losing Game 5 has rebounded to win the series on four of the past six occasions, since 2001). Those four teams include the 2011 Bruins, who did it against the Vancouver Canucks. In 2010, tied at 2-2, Chicago won Game 5 at home against the Philadelphia Flyers and then won the Cup on the road in Game 6.
One milestone alert for the Bruins, according to ESPN stats and information: Jaromir Jagr can become the fifth player in NHL history to record 200 career playoff points, if he earns a single point in tonight’s game. The other four were all primarily associated with the Edmonton Oilers’ dynasty team: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson.