CHICAGO - The Blackhawks' roster is punctuated with young stars who have emerged both in the NHL and through their international play. But their 6-5 victory over the Flyers was paced Saturday by players who have seen a lot of bench as well as ice this postseason.
Specifically, the Hawks were led by a 24-year-old forward from North Delta, British Columbia, who has gone through the playoffs with a heavy heart.
Powering home two goals and one assist was Troy Brouwer, who missed the last four games of the regular season as his father has been battling a blood clot on his brain. But on Saturday night, instead of Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, it was Brouwer who led the Chicago offense.
After the Flyers got the initial goal of the series, Brouwer quickly evened the game when Marian Hossa, who finished with two assists, found him wide open in the slot after 7 minutes, 46 seconds had elapsed in the first period.
It was his third goal of the playoffs, and the tone was set for a Chicago offense whose goal-scoring anthem of "Chelsea Dagger" by the Fratellis will be heard by the crowd of 22,312 through the rest of the summer if the Hawks go on and win the Cup.
After the Flyers grabbed a 3-2 lead late in the first period, with just over a minute elapsed in the second 20 minutes, Brouwer found an open Patrick Sharp, who skated down the ice without anyone near him. Sharp then beat Flyers goalie Michael Leighton to the upper-right corner.
Later on in the second, with the score 4-4, Hossa skated behind the net, reversed course, and found Brouwer, who put the puck in under the crossbar, thereby putting an early end to Leighton's evening.
It was quite a remarkable turn of events for Brouwer. After returning to the club for the playoffs, his lack of production led to him being benched for three games in the Vancouver series. The hiatus appeared to do him some good as he scored two goals and one assist in the five games he played since returning to action - and that was before Saturday's explosion.
Brouwer was just one of many Blackhawks who tend to fly under the radar who made their presence known Saturday.
There was forward Tomas Kopecky, who had not played since May 9 and was in the lineup only due to the injury of Andrew Ladd. He scored twice in his return to action.
Kopecky swung around Mike Richards and beat Brian Boucher to put Chicago up, 6-5, with 11:35 left in the third period. That proved to be the game-winner.
Kopecky had already made his presence known with the game even at 4-4 midway through the second period. He circled behind the net and found his line mate, Kris Versteeg, who banged home his rebound.
"He sees a play, can see the ice, and he can check as well," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of Kopecky before the game.
It was a night filled with irony. As Chicago's first six goals were being scored, the troika of Toews, Kane and Dustin Byfuglien were nowhere to be found on the score sheet.
Chicago got its fourth shorthanded goal of the playoffs with 8:10 remaining in the first period when Dave Bolland scored on a breakaway.