Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks: 6 Things Needed To Beat Blues

By Nick Heupel
Apr 17, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago Blackhawks bench reacts to a goal scored by center Artem Anisimov (not pictured) during the second period in game three of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 17, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; The Chicago Blackhawks bench reacts to a goal scored by center Artem Anisimov (not pictured) during the second period in game three of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Apr 15, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Andrew Ladd (16) is checked by St. Louis Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (4) during the first period in game two of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports /

4. Discipline

The St. Louis Blues converted twice on the powerplay in Game 3, finishing the match with a 66 percent success rate. The Blackhawks need to stay out of the penalty box against the Blues’ deadly special teams group.

This has been a very physical series, making it a frustrating series for the Blackhawks. They’ve been pounded by Blues skaters, and they haven’t seen much compensation for their suffering — the goals just aren’t happening. Even though Chicago’s skaters may be worn down and disheartened, especially late in games, they need to maintain discipline and not commit penalties.

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Kane caught a double-minor for high-sticking Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo late in the third period of Game 3. The Blues’ goal on the resulting powerplay sent them on to victory over the Blackhawks. A mistake like that from a player of Kane’s caliber is unacceptable.

The other culprit, rookie defenseman Viktor Svedberg, leads the team with six minutes spent in the penalty box. He picked up two penalties in Game 3, one of which led to St. Louis’ first powerplay goal. That first powerplay goal tied the game, effectively erasing the Blackhawks’ momentum and stirring hope on the Blues’ bench.

The St. Louis powerplay devastated the Blackhawks in Game 3, and it will continue to do so as long as Chicago skaters continue to make plays that land them in the penalty box. High-pressure minutes on the penalty kill will exhaust the Blackhawks’ top defensemen, further taxing an already over-worked and thinly-populated defensive group — one more reason to steer clear of the lonely bench.

5. Play Six Defensemen

With Svedberg averaging around eight minutes per game, it looks like the Blackhawks are playing with five defensemen. But

really, only four defensemen are playing serious minutes — Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk all average more than 23 minutes of ice-time per game. This is not sustainable, especially considering Blues skaters are targeting Blackhawks defensemen and nailing them with lots of hits.

Chicago needs to find two reliable defensemen to take some of the burden off the top four. But who will step up? Rozsival hardly deserves his meager 16 minutes per game. The veteran defender looks too old to compete; he crumbles under pressure, turning the puck over too frequently and in dangerous areas.

Svedberg’s size might be seen as helpful, but he lacks the maturity to stay out of the penalty box. His misdemeanors on the ice have already cost the Blackhawks one goal, and honestly, they are dumb penalties to take — holding the stick, roughing and high-sticking. John Scott also stood tall at 6 feet, 8 inches, but he never really helped the Blackhawks win games.

Only the little locker room gremlins know why ex-villain Christian Ehrhoff hasn’t seen a minute of ice time. He earned 73 games of playoff experience with the San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks, so maybe he should dress to play. Could he really be much worse than Rozsival right now?

The only viable option seems to be untested rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson. He plays smart in the defensive zone, and he always keeps one eye open for offensive opportunities. In any case, the Blackhawks need to play six defensemen against this hard-hitting, energetic St. Louis team. Spreading the minutes around may stave off the fatigue that leads to late-game collapses.

6. Maintain Energy

The St. Louis Blues are the come-from-behind team this year, and the Blackhawks should take notice. This Blues team is never out of a fight, so even when the Blackhawks build a lead on the scoreboard, the game is not over. Chicago needs to keep its energy high in order to fend off the St. Louis third-period blitz. The Blackhawks cannot afford to be complacent or idle when leading in a game.

The Blackhawks need to threaten the Blues with explosive counter-attacks and poise during extended periods of possession in the offensive zone. Play to shatter the confidence of the St. Louis Blues. Keep killing, even if the score is 9-1. What a boost it would be if the Blackhawks explode with six or seven goals in Game 4!

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