The Chicago Blackhawks have gone from being in a very compromising situation, down 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals to the LA Kings, to a decent situation by winning games 5 and 6 and coming back to Chicago on Sunday night to play a Game 7, which will decide who faces the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Blackhawks are looking for a repeat trip after winning the Cup last year, and the Kings are looking for their 2nd trip in 3 years. The Kings are also hoping to get some revenge since the Blackhawks eliminated them in five games in the conference finals last season. The Blackhawks, although seemingly in a better situation, still have a tough game ahead. The Blackhawks have capitalized on every chance they’ve had to eliminate their opposing team this postseason. The Kings on the other hand, have played in a Game 7 in every series they’ve been in, and they have won all of them. The difference between those former series’ and this series is that against the Sharks and the Ducks, the Kings had to make a comeback. In this series though, Chicago made the comeback. These are three things that the Hawks need to do to win Game 7 and complete that comeback.
Keep Possession of the Puck
I went back and watched Game 1 of this series. Despite the “bad” disallowed goal, that was a pretty decisive 3-1 victory for the Hawks. The only Kings goal came during a bad change by the Blackhawks. What I noticed, was that the Blackhawks had very good puck possession. They had control of the puck for most of the game, and they capitalized on some of their chances. It is a simple truth in hockey, that puck possession is the best way to win a game. It allows your team to get many chances, and it allows the other team to get less. Simple. That may seem pretty obvious, but that’s because it is! If the Hawks want the best chance to win Game 7, they need to make sure that the puck stays in their offensive zone.
Clear Out the Crease in Front of Corey Crawford
In the games that Chicago has lost, a common theme has been that the Kings have scored their goals with players camping right in front of Corey Crawford. Whether it be a deflection, or just a really good screen, it prevents the Blackhawks goaltender from making the save. When the goals have been scored, the Hawks have been making no attempt to clear out that crease. At times they have not been anywhere close to that area and it almost seemed as if they weren’t worried about it. They did that a lot better in Games 5 and 6, and it needs to continue in Game 7.
Cancel “That 70’s Line”
Talent-wise, the Kings top offensive line is their best line. They have combined for a few timely goals in this series, but the real line that has killed the Blackhawks this series has been a line dubbed “That 70’s Line”. Jeff Carter (#77), Tyler Toffoli (#73), and Tanner Pearson (#70) have combined for a total of 20 points in just this series. They have beaten the Hawks with their speed, and they are a very good mix of players. Carter is the veteran center, and Toffoli and Pearson are the talented young wingers. In Game 6, this line was held totally scoreless for the first time in the series and were a combined -6. If the Hawks are again able to shut this talented line down in Game 7, they will have a much better chance to win.
These are only a few of the things that the Hawks need to accomplish in order to advance. This has definitely been the most difficult series that they have played in, and they are meeting the challenge head-on. They refuse to have their season ended, and I believe that their perseverance and resiliency will win them this series!
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