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Sit Kris Versteeg or Joakim Nordstrom. These guys should not be considered for benching for the same reason. Let’s start with the 23-year-old Swede. Nordstrom hasn’t been bad in two games, but he also hasn’t been noticeable. Sure, he’s on the “fourth line” and is relied upon for defensive reasons, but someone else can fill his role at this point. Versteeg…sigh. The guy has the ability to score and help create a scoring play, something Nordstrom isn’t so adept at. But Versteeg was running around like an absolute fool in Game 2, doing his best Daniel Carcillo impersonation. If Versteeg is going to continue to do that, Quenneville should offer one of his patented lessons that more-talented players (Brandon Saad) have received — a benching. To get Vermette in, one of these two would need to take a seat.
Insert David Rundblad/Kyle Cumiskey, bench Michal Rozsival… This isn’t a terribly comfortable thought, but it’s where we are with the defense. Rundblad looked pretty bad in his most-recent outing, the 2-1 loss to Minnesota earlier this month. Cumiskey has played seven NHL games this season. But Rozsival…yikes. His legs appear completely shot, his decision-making is slow and he gets caught staring more than the typical high school boy. Kimmo Timonen certainly isn’t perfect, but he’s adjusting to the speed of the playoffs better than Rozsival. Are Rundblad’s or Cumiskey’s minutes going to be sheltered, as Rozsival’s were in the first two games? Sure. But would it help to have a younger, more mobile option in Rozsival’s place, maybe enabling Quenneville to get Duncan Keith paired with Brent Seabrook again? Most likely.
Of course, the ’Hawks will be at home their next two games, so…
Or keep the defense as is, but spread the minutes. This also isn’t a comforting thought. Where art thou, Nick Leddy? With the benefit of last change, Quenneville can get the matchups he seeks between his defensemen and the Nashville forwards. In theory, this means Timonen and Rozsival (or Rundblad or Cumiskey) could be deployed a little more often in Games 3 and 4. Timonen didn’t crack 11 minutes in Game 2, while Rozsival stayed under 15. Both of them were below 20 minutes in the double-overtime affair as well. Meanwhile, Keith, Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya are playing huge minutes, as they should be. But any weight off them can help.
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Protect the net better. Whether Crawford or Darling is in the blue paint, the ’Hawks defenders — defensemen and forwards alike — need to support their goalkeeper. Both goaltenders have faced a bevy of high-quality chances through just two games. Darling playing above-average bailed the ’Hawks out in the first game, but that doesn’t mean they should continue to get caught out of position and hardly moving. It’s imperative the ’Hawks challenge Nashville’s offensive attackers so they aren’t getting so many chances below and between the circles. The ’Hawks will receive some help toward this goal with Shea Weber’s absence from the next two games. Not having to worry about his heat-seeking missile from the point for about half the game will allow the ’Hawks to place their defensive focus on other opponents.
What do you think the ’Hawks need to do to secure a win in Game 3? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.