It’s no secret that the Chicago Blackhawks stumbled a little in games Two and Three of this second round series against the Detroit Red Wings, but there is no need to panic. The Blackhawks have yet to lose three consecutive contests this season, and some, including the Hawks’ very own players, believe that Monday’s Game Three outing was their best of the post season. Here’s what the Hawks have to do in Game Four to turn the tide in this series.
Despite the final tally, there were a few positives that the Blackhawks and their fans could take from the game. The Blackhawks’ shot totals finished in the forties, and for the majority of the game, they controlled the flow thanks to their stellar penalty kill, and frequent minor penalties by the Red Wings. With Game Two behind them, the Blackhawks certainly took a step in the right direction on Monday, but a few bad bounces kept the win away from them. However, there are a few areas that need to be addressed in order to turn the tide in the series.
The Hawks and Wings are not very physical teams when you look at the remaining playoff contenders, but both squads certainly have brought a fire to this series. Much of this was turned into frustration in the later minutes of Game Three, where the Blackhawks tried to find a new way to get at the Wings, since they couldn’t do it on the scoreboard. There is a right way to play physical, and the Blackhawks need to find it. Plays such as Bryan Bickell
‘s cross-check in the crease will no longer do, and Andrew Shaw
needs to stay out of the penalty box. No matter how amazing the Hawks penalty kill is lately, (killing their last 33 straight penalties) they are ten times as dangerous with five men on the ice.
One thing that has not been a problem in the series, is getting the rubber to the goal. The Blackhawks have put over 40 shots on net in two of the three games in this series, making Jimmy Howard
face that much offense for only the second and third time this year. However, the Blackhawks need to follow up the puck with the body. As it stands, Detroit’s man-back defense has proved tough to solve, and there are little opportunities to drive the net. The Blackhawks big bodies, such as Viktor Stalberg
and Bryan Bickell, need to get in the way of Howard, and draw the Detroit defenders back on their own goalie. Because the Blackhawks were hemmed to the outside, the defensive zone coverage in Detroit’s end was very aggressive, and this resulted in a multitude of shots squandered by good positioning, and active sticks. The Hawks forwards need to take a leaf out of Captain Jonathan Toews
‘ book, as he did a wonderful job of exhausting the Detroit blue-line with every heated 15-20 second battle for net positioning. If everyone adopts this style of play, the aging Wings will have a tough time keeping up in the later stages of each game, and eventually the series.
- Get Back To The Great D-Zone Coverage Of The Regular Season
Even though the Red Wings are an older, slower team, they have mastered short passes, and have players such as Pavel Datsyuk
that can single-handedly generate an offensive chance. The Blackhawks simply cannot allow this to happen, and they need to shore up the defensive coverage, as it has lacked compared to that of the regular season. The Hawks need to focus on keeping the Wings to the wall, and letting Corey Crawford
(or Ray Emery
) handle the easy shots from the outside. Gustav Nyquist
‘s ice-breaker in Game Three was a perfect example of what can happen when this is not executed; the pair of Nick Leddy
and Brent Seabrook
let him skate across the middle just over the blue-line, and as he cut back in to the middle, poor positioning by the defense left him all alone, where he skated laterally and got Crawford out of position, then roofed a wrist shot. The Wings are not as dangerous once they are set up as they are on the rush, and the Blackhawks need to squeeze them out on the wall, play the body as hard as possible while keeping good position, and then take away the puck and get a good pass out of the zone to generate some offense of their own. These defensive fundamentals, along with personal sacrifice while blocking shots, and being first on rebounds, is going to go a long way if executed correctly. Detroit is generating just enough offense to get by, and with these in place, the Hawks’ snipers should have an easier time getting the lead, and keeping it, throughout the game.
The Blackhawks were in this exact-same position in 2010, where they were down a game to the Nashville Predators in round one, thanks to stellar goaltending. They figured it out in Game Four, and went on to win the next three games, en-route to a Stanley Cup. All it takes is one game. The Hawks are far from done. A Game Four win will give the Blackhawks all the momentum they need, to head back to the Madhouse and take back this series. It can be done. It should be done. And it will be done.
We will see you Thursday.
For more Blackhawks conversation, follow us on Twitter: @Blackhawk_Up, and like us on Facebook: Blackhawk Up.