Chicago Blackhawks Need 6 Things To Defeat St. Louis
The first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks turned in favor of St. Louis on Sunday afternoon, after the Blues rallied to defeat the Blackhawks despite starting the third period down by one goal. St. The Blues now commands a 2-1 series lead, with one more game to be played in Chicago before both teams head back to St. Louis for Game 5.
The Blackhawks hope to even the series in Game 4, but they will need to improve in a lot of areas if they expect to beat the confident and in-form St. Louis Blues. Here are six things the Chicago Blackhawks need in order to win Game 4 tonight at the United Center.
1. Command The Play
The St. Louis Blues have shut down Chicago’s counter-attack, offensive rush and breakaway opportunities, and in doing so they have severely diminished the quality of the Blackhawks’ scoring chances. Looking at the five goals scored by the Blackhawks so far this postseason, two goals came off shots from the point, two goals came off scrappy plays down low and one goal was put into an empty net off a clearing attempt.
Insistent pressure from the Blues has disrupted the passing and puck-handling that define Chicago’s style of play. The Blackhawks have been unable to establish their playing style, and they have suffered because St. Louis dictated the pace and style of the game in all of the first three games in the series. If the Blackhawks cannot command the puck and drive the Blues onto their heels, they will struggle to move on to the next round of playoff hockey.
2. Beat Brian Elliott
The Chicago Blackhawks need to find ways to put the puck past Elliott. They suffered a shutout in Game 1, and in Game 3 they converted only two of their 46 shots on goal. ‘Hawks skaters rang a few shots off the posts, but bad luck is bad luck, not a good excuse for Chicago’s inability to score goals.
The Blues defense attacked puck carriers and broke up scoring chances in the first three games. After fighting through tough defenders, Chicago’s shooters face a squared-up Elliott, with no openings in sight. If the Blackhawks can establish their passing game, and if they can work a nice cycle in the offensive zone, then they will be able to force Elliott to track the puck, and the net will open up a little more.
Trust in the time-tested strategy: If you get the goaltender moving, you will see more of the net and score more goals. Screens in front of goal seem to be working so far for the ‘Hawks, so that could be another way to try and crack Elliott’s game. Chicago skaters will need to battle hard against the massive Blues defensemen in order to maintain a net-front presence, but it will be worth it when the goals begin to tally. In the end, it doesn’t really matter how the Blackhawks score. They just need to finish more of the chances they are afforded.
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3. Big Plays From Top Players
The Blackhawks’ scoresheet through three games looks pitiful. Andrew Ladd, Marian Hossa and Teuvo Teravainen have failed to contribute even one single point to Chicago’s offensive effort. Team-leading sniper Patrick Kane earned three assists, but he remains barred from the goal scorers’ club. Captain Jonathan Toews set up two goals as well, but just like Kane, he’s lost that scoring feeling.
Five of Chicago’s top forwards are goalless. In the playoffs, every player needs to chip in where he can to help his team win. Perhaps more importantly, every team needs its star players to lead the way by making big plays and scoring big goals. Toews, Kane, Hossa, Ladd, Teravainen — all of these players need to let loose and start playing world-class hockey. Until Chicago’s star players decide to put out for their team, Blackhawks fans should expect to lose.
Next: Keys No. 4-6