Chicago Blackhawks: 3 Adjustments For Game 2

By Colin Likas

We almost witnessed a reverse Nashville when the Chicago Blackhawks opened their second-round series against the Minnesota Wild on Friday.

Thankfully for the ’Hawks and their fans, Teuvo Teravainen had the last laugh to give Chicago its second 4-3 Game 1 win in these playoffs — and with significantly less overtime nailbiting.

The ’Hawks played a fine game Friday, showing moments of brilliance (the efforts on their first three goals, much of the third period) and moments worth being frustrated over (much of the second period). So it’s fair to say the ’Hawks can make adjustments before Game 2 today.

Here are a few suggestions:

Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Better passes and changes. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that, during the period of the long change, the ’Hawks got pretty sloppy in both of these areas. No single poor line change contributed directly to a Wild goal, but it did offer Minnesota a few extra offensive zone opportunities. However, an errant ’Hawks pass played a role in two of Minnesota’s three tallies.

On the first strike, Brent Seabrook appeared to have position on Charlie Coyle with the puck behind Corey Crawford’s net. Seabrook made a quick backhand tap pass to avoid a board battle with Coyle, sending the puck directly to Thomas Vanek. In turn, Vanek fed a nifty pass to a way-too-open Jason Zucker in front, leaving Crow no chance.

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  • On the Wild’s final goal, Duncan Keith tried to feed a short pass to Jonathan Toews next to the ’Hawks’ net while contested by two or three Wild. Keith’s attempt to force the puck through opposing sticks was countered by Zach Parise, who moved the puck to Mikael Granlund for an eventual goal.

    Beyond both of those examples, the ’Hawks were “credited” with 12 giveaways on the night. While the Wild also recorded 12 giveaways, that is a number the ’Hawks should look to cut down on. The Wild aren’t exactly worried about frequent puck possession (though they were a lot closer to the ’Hawks Corsi-wise in Game 1 than they ever were against St. Louis), so giving them extra opportunities should be avoided at all costs, especially when they do well to take advantage of prime chances already.

    Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    Attack Matt Dumba and Jordan Leopold. The Wild’s third pairing was on the ice for Zucker’s and Teravainen’s goals. The Wild should be pretty happy with that result, while the ’Hawks should seek to put much more pressure on the pairing. Just looking at ice times for Game 1, Dumba received some opportunities away from Leopold as the game wore on — Dumba skated close to six more minutes than Leopold, with only about two of those minutes coming from powerplay shifts. But for all intents and purposes, those two make up the Wild’s third defensive pairing.

    Dumba is a young (though promising) player with very little playoff experience, while Leopold is well past his prime and not fleet of foot. Both have a playoff Corsi-for percentage worse than 46 (Leopold’s is worse than 42), so they have not been a strong possession pair. With all of this in mind, Joel Quenneville is no doubt looking to get Brandon Saad-Toews-Marian Hossa and Bryan BickellBrad RichardsPatrick Kane out against the duo as frequently as possible. Looking at Teravainen’s goal, Dumba and Leopold came together with Antoine Vermette along the boards, and Vermette did a nice job preventing them from carrying the puck out of the zone. Instead, it was fed behind Devan Dubnyk to Coyle, who failed to clear it up the boards. The ensuing battle saw Teravainen snag the puck and wing it past Dubnyk.

    Now imagine the trouble the ’Hawks’ top two pairings should be able to create against Dumba and Leopold. Of course, Wild coach Mike Yeo will do his best to minimize the amount of time this can occur, but it’s not so easy on the road. When you consider the success the ’Hawks had against the Wild’s top defensive pairing of Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin in Game 1 (they were on the ice for two of the first three goals against), there is a lot of promise in the idea of heavily attacking the third duo.

    Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    Put the best defensive pairings together. There are things to like and dislike about this idea, but based on what went down in Game 1, it is something the ’Hawks should at least consider. This would mean pairing Keith with Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson with Johnny Oduya (as was done in Game 1), and Michal Rozsival with Kimmo Timonen. Of course, that last pairing existing in a playoff game could make anyone vomit. But here’s the idea behind it. The ’Hawks have last change and can dictate who Rozsival and Timonen — as well as the other two pairings — are on the ice with. So, the older guys can have sheltered minutes throughout while the other two pairings are pushed a little harder in both zones.

    Oduya has been much better since returning from his injury late in the regular season, and it has carried into the playoffs. He led not only all ’Hawks defensemen, but also every skater on both sides, in Game 1 Corsi differential with a plus-10 (tied with Kane). Keith and Rozsival were both plus-7, with Rozsival’s number essentially a product of his defensive partner and the forwards he gets to play with as a result. Hjalmarsson finished at plus-4, Seabrook at minus-1 and Timonen at minus-5 (tied for worst on the team). So, if Quenneville puts the two top pairings together for heavy minutes in Game 2, the ’Hawks stand a better chance of improving their puck possession numbers and creating more offensive chances from the blue line. With a chance to go up 2-0 before a pair of road games, the ’Hawks should think about this move to slam shut the window of opportunity for the Wild to gain an early split at the United Center.

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