Jan 29, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa (3) and goaltender Roberto Luongo (1) defend against Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw (65) during the third period at Rogers Arena. The Chicago Blackhawks won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Shaw has the capability of really getting under other players skin and drawing penalties. However, sometimes he is not disciplined and makes bad penalties himself. This will be crucial to both the Blackhawks gaining a man advantage and also staying off the penalty kill. If he can be the extra physical presence with Bryan Bickell and Brandon Bollig in the series vs. the Blues, then the Blackhawks could take the first round. Expect to see the hard-nosed player we witnessed last year, who took a puck to the face and came back into the game within minutes to finish off the victory. Joel Quenneville definitely showed some trust in Shaw during Jonathan Toews absence by putting him on the top line. He now has paired him on the third line with a returning Patrick Kane and also Bryan Bickell. I have a feeling this is going to be the unit that lights the lamp to win the game or when a goal is in big need.
With goals in 4 of his last 6 games and a total of 14 goals this season expect Ben Smith to try to stay hot. He will be getting the puck from Kruger while Quenneville has them paired with Bollig. He will also be relied on defensively while positioned on the 4th line. He has been called on before during the playoffs and seems to have a decent track record. If you remember back to 2011, he put up 2 goals in Game 2 and more importantly, the Game 6 overtime winner vs. the Vancouver Canucks. His same heroics were just seen recently during his April 4 goal vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets with a short 3.7 seconds left. If he keeps that up he might be the secret game changer in this series.
With these 5 secondary players that could decide the Blackhawks first round, I would like to hear your feedback on if you agree or if maybe there is someone else that you feel should make the list. I really wanted to put Jeremy Morin on the list but since he is not in the lineup for game 1 and may not even see a game this series I felt it was better to represent the current lineup. I do feel that if there is sloppy play or just bad chemistry Joel Quenneville will not hesitate to call him up and put him out there on the ice. That is what the coach is best at in those coaching situations, which is why he is one of the all time winning coaches in the NHL. This is what we have been waiting for, the time is here! LET’S GO HAWKS! TAKE GAME 1!