Chicago Blackhawks: Taking Advantage Of Home Ice

By Gail Kauchak

May 3, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (center) is congratulated for scoring a goal by left wing Teuvo Teravainen (left) and center Antoine Vermette (right) during the third period in game two of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Minnesota Wild at the United Center. Chicago won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks are on a roll!  With Friday’s 4-3 win, and last night’s 4-1 victory, the Hawks now lead the series 2-0.  They held serve on home ice, and now go into Minnesota looking to break the Wild.  The Hawks have now scored 8 goals to Minnesota’s 4.  They have looked like the better team for 5 of the 6 periods played so far.  Game 3 on Tuesday will be here before you know it, so let’s look at some quick observations from these first 2 games.

Every line scored in Game 1.  Brandon Saad (first line) started the puck rolling by making a power forward move around Minny’s Ryan SuterPatrick Kane (second line) was the next to join the fun, followed by Marcus Kruger (fourth line), and then Teuvo Teravainen (third line).

In Game 2, Jonathan Toews tallied for the first line (with a short-handed goal no less), Kaner added 2 goals for the second line, and Patrick Sharp took one for the third line.  Ok, Toews goal came from the penalty kill unit, but you get the point.

All four lines appear to be rolling in the playoffs.  This is good.

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An interesting thing happened that led to Patrick Kane’s goal in Game 1.  Antoine Vermette was put in to win the face off, which he did.  Brad Richards then took over possession and fed the puck up the ice to Kaner, who did the rest.  But Bryan Bickell was on the ice for the goal celebration, so he and Vermette must have immediately switched as soon as the face off was won.

This is Coach Q using last change to get favorable match ups.  Vermette was 79% in the faceoff circle in Game 1, and 69% in Game 2.  Richards, on the other hand, went 20% and 39% on the dot for Games 1 and 2, respectively.  But Richards has the chemistry with Kane, and was able to get him the puck.  This set play is a perfect example of using everyone’s best assets to create a positive outcome on the ice.

By the way, Bryan Bickell recorded 11 hits in Game 1 and 12 hits in Game 2!  At first I thought it was a misprint.  Do you think Bicks got the message to bring a physical element for this series?  He may not be on the score sheet yet, but he’s creating some havoc out there.

Teuvo Teravainen is making it really hard for Kris Versteeg to get back into this lineup.  Baby TT has tallied a goal and 2 assists for far in this year’s playoffs.  Coach Q talked about him coming up with loose pucks a lot, and controlling the puck well in traffic.  He and Patrick Sharp appear to be developing some excellent chemistry with each other on the ice.

Hey, with all these goals being scored, we have yet to see a goal from a defenseman.  So the Hawks have that in their back pocket.

Devan Dubnyk is not invincible.  He’s allowed 7 goals in these last 2 games.   The Hawks have also managed to break a bit of a streak of his; he hadn’t lost 2 games in a row since he came to Minnesota in mid-January.  Well as of last night he’s now officially lost 2 games in a row.  Let’s make it 3!

Speaking of netminders, Corey Crawford is looking solid once again.  On Friday night, he stopped 30 of 33 shots, for a .909 save percentage, and on Sunday he stopped 30 of 31 shots for a .968 save percentage.  He made some great saves in the second period and towards the end of the game, earning him the “Corey” chant from the crowd.  I know firsthand because I was there (more on this in a minute)!  Corey is gaining confidence and momentum at the right time.

Being at a playoff game at the United Center is all that it is cracked up to be.   The pre-game light show is phenomenal, the anthem is deafening, and the players never fail to entertain.   Everywhere I’ve ever sat (or stood), the fans are serious and knowledgeable and paying close attention to what’s happening on the ice.

There are bathrooms and food and beverages around every corner.  Vendors and fellow fans are all courteous and helpful.  It’s just a really fun place to be.  It certainly helps when the Hawks win!

These next 2 games in Minnesota are going to be the real true test.  Patrick Kane put it best when he said they can’t let their foot off the gas now.  The Wild is going to be hungry to win, and they will be looking to feed off their home crowd.  During last year’s playoffs, the Hawks also won Games 1 and 2 at home, but then lost Games 3 and 4 in Minnesota.  On Tuesday they will be looking to change that.

Let’s take another look at the first goal of this series, just for fun.  Hopefully this can tide you over for another day.  Be safe and healthy until Tuesday everyone!

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