Michal Rozsival’s minutes in Game 4 were reflective of what the Chicago Blackhawks needed from their defensemen in Duncan Keith’s absence: everyone had to take on a little more.
Rozsival took on more minutes; many more minutes, in fact, than he had in his last handful of games. But that was fine with him.
“It feels better when you play more regular shifts,” Rozsival said following Game 4, when he played 25 minutes, 28 seconds. “You go out there often; you don’t sit for three shifts. You’re more into the game. You just have to prepare for it mentally.”
Obviously Rozsival didn’t have a problem adjusting there either. With the Blackhawks needing their defensemen to take on a little more, Rozsival took on a lot more and looked just fine doing it. His minutes, which included power-play and penalty killing time, were his second highest this postseason. He played 27:11 when paired with Johnny Oduya in Game 1 against the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
For Rozsival it was an opportunity. But the Blackhawks have benefited from his veteran leadership and steadiness throughout the regular- and postseason.
“He’s been great,” said Niklas Hjalmarsson. “I noticed in the first practice with him this year, just the small passes he makes made it so much easier for everyone. He’s just a really smart player that I personally can try to learn things from. Just the way he makes situations out there look really easy. He’s been great this year and he had a good game yesterday.”
Rozsival is a plus-5 this postseason. He was a plus-18 with 12 assists the regular season, when he split time with Sheldon Brookbank. But as the playoffs approached, Rozsival was consistently penciled in as part of that third pair.
“He’s been tremendous the whole year,” said Oduya, who was paired with Rozsival in Game 4. “We have good depth, a lot of guys who can play those minutes. And he’s a skill guy who’s smart with the puck and makes plays. He’s obviously a veteran; he’s been around for some time and just showed yesterday, when you give him that opportunity, he steps up and he played a great game.”
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Thursday night, Rozsival didn’t have to be Keith. Not one guy along the blue line was expected to be. It was about sharing the load and Rozsival definitely carried his part of it.
“All year, he probably didn’t get the chance to play those kind of minutes but he can handle it,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He can play in all situations, against top guys and has real good patience. He’s a pretty heavy defender as well. Last night he had more opportunity and did a good job. He was an old pro out there; he did what he had to do.”