Chicago Blackhawks: Game #3 Heads To United Center

By Brian Kinkade

Nov 11, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) goes for the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks should feel good about the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals.  It can be considered a mission accomplished when the road team splits the first two games of a series, just as the Hawks did with the Tama Bay Lightning.  

With the series tied at 1-1, it now shifts to Chicago for Games Three and Four.  The Hawks need to take advantage of the home ice and crowd and sweep the Lightning in these next two games.  Will it kill them if they don’t?  No, but winning the next two games would put Tampa on the brink of elimination.  A very do-able task.

Tonight’s Game Three will be played at the United Center.  Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM Central Time.  You can catch tonight’s game on NBCSN and you can hear it on WGN AM 720.

Game Two lived up to the series’ expectations.  High-octane, end-to-end and feverish pace.  After all of that, the Hawks at Lightning had an even split in shot attempts and possession.  This bodes well for the Hawks, as they dominated attempts and possession in Game One and when considering both games have been played on the road without the luxury of last change, things look good for the Hawks going into these next two games.

The big problem for the Hawks is and has been penalties and killing them.  Tampa has a scary-good Power Play and the Hawks have what’s been a mostly inconsistent Penalty Kill.  This is why taking penalties against the Lightning is a bad strategy.  Although, the Hawks killed 2 out of 3 penalties, giving the Lightning three Power Play opportunities at home is not a recipe for success, and that’s what happened in Game Two.

At the same time, the Hawks infamously underwhelming Power Play has been effective in the first two games, which is nice.

The Lightning got production from their “triplets line” with goals from Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson.  Those goals were enough to make the difference in Game Two.  This line which also features Ondrej Palat struggled mightily in Game One.  So, so far in this series, where the triplets go, so do the Lightning.

Steven Stamkos was kept off the score sheet once again in Game Two.  Don’t expect that to continue, but so far, so good for the Hawks in this category.  Game Two was also edged by Tampa’s blueline.  Victor Hedman recorded two assists while Jason Garrison put up an assist of his own as well as the game-winning goal.

The big story for the Lightning is in net.  Ben Bishop mysteriously left Game Two and returned and then left again with some sort of injury.  Twenty-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy replaced Bishop in net.  We’ll have to wait and see who gets the nod tonight, but it will be interesting.

The Hawks’ lines have been shuffled back to what they were before the Western Conference Finals for the most part and rightfully so.  Jonathan Toews is manning the top line with Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa.

Patrick Kane returns to the second line, which will be centered by Brad Richards and flanked by Bryan Bickell, who appears to be making his return to the lineup following an injury.

Antoine Vermette will center the third line with the Hawks’ most productive player in Games One and Two, Teuvo Teravainenand a very due for a breakout Patrick Sharp.

The fourth line remains the same with Marcus Kruger centering Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins.  It appears that Trevor van Riemsdyk will make his return to the blueline tonight, as he will likely be taking David Rundblad’s spot.

Corey Crawford will be in net for the Hawks.  Crawford was outstanding in Game One when he stopped 22 of 23 shots(.957 Save Percentage) and not so great in Game Two when he stopped only 20 of 24 shots(.833 Save Percentage),

Even though they lost in Game Two, things are looking very sunny for the Hawks.  Combine that with the fact they accomplished their goal of splitting Games One and Two and things are looking golden for the Hawks.  The opportunity is right there.

Get it done!

Go Hawks!