May 17, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Desjardins (11) moves the puck against the defense of Anaheim Ducks right wing Emerson Etem (16) during the third period in game one of the Western Conference Final of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
So why shouldn’t Q send those same four lines out again tonight? They all had moments where they were very close to striking, and the Ducks aren’t going to come out playing the sit-back-and-wait game we saw in Game 1’s third period. Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa were unleashed in the early stages of the game, attacking Andersen at every opportunity. Hossa and Saad were each on the ice for 21 ’Hawks shot attempts, highest among Chicago forwards. Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins were constantly trying to jam a puck home and pushing for a dirty goal, and the three of them were the best possession forwards in the game at plus-10 Corsi-for or better. Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen had a very active first period (though they tailed off afterward, part of the reason being Sharp was moved off the line after a while). As for the remaining line, Brad Richards scored following a nice defensive play and was the only Blackhawk with a positive faceoff percentage, Kane had multiple near misses and Bryan Bickell tried to separate the Ducks from the puck with seven recorded body checks. So there were good things from all lines over extended periods of Game 1.
But the ’Hawks didn’t win. And so we get to Q overthinking. If Chicago scores within the first 5-7 minutes of Game 2, this discussion can probably be put to bed. But if the ’Hawks again have early issues beating Andersen, he could go to the blender.
It would be ill advised. All four of these lines seem to have chemistry (some more so than others), and they were generating scoring chances all over the place Sunday. The guys are comfortable with one another, and that generally leads to pucks behind the opposing goalie. Again, it didn’t on Sunday because Andersen was very good, not because the ’Hawks were very bad.
As long as Chicago’s forwards continue playing the style they displayed in Game 1, the goals will come. And they’re more likely to come with steady lines than jumbled messes. Kane or Toews taking an extra shift on a different line to generate offense is one thing. Putting Shaw back as Kane’s center or having Bickell play alongside Teuvo and Vermette just to see what happens is entirely another.
Now, if the ’Hawks come out entirely flat and there are breakdowns all over the ice, the situation changes. This is when a shake-up would do the team good. But we shouldn’t expect that from this crew, at this point in time. Many were worried the ’Hawks would come out rusty and slow in Game 1 after the 4-year (estimated) layoff between playoff series. And they put that theory to rest quickly by peppering Andersen with 15 shots in the first 20 minutes, including multiple grade-A chances.
The ’Hawks need to bring that to the rink again tonight. And they also need their coach to take a bit of a hands-off approach to this game.
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