Every game left in the series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings is a Game 7 for the Hawks. They need to win the next three to advance to Round 3 of the 2013 playoffs. While the odds are stacked against the Hawks to come back from a 3-1 deficit, if any team can, it may be this team. Game 5 is tonight at the United Center. Here are the keys in no particular order to a Blackhawks victory and trip to Detroit for Game 6.
1. Stars need to be stars: It's great to get contributions from your third and fourth line role players, but you need your stars to show up. The Blackhawks need Jonathan Toews, Patrick, Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa to step up the effort on the score sheet. These guys need to score so the rest of team feeds off them.
2. Get a early lead: The Blackhawks can't afford to play from behind in this game. They are on their home ice and it's essential for them to come out strong and get a early lead.
3. Get pucks deep: The Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is clogging up the neutral zone with his defensive scheme. The Blackhawks, who are a speed and puck possession team, are having trouble getting the puck through the neutral zone. The Hawks need to change things up a bit and become a dump and chase team. What that means is that need to dump the puck in deep and work hard in the corners. They need to counter Detroit's effort to prevent their offense.
4. Bodies in front of the net: Jimmy Howard can't stop what he can't see. The Blackhawks players need to start getting bodies in front of the net and setting screens on Howard. Guys like Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, Michal Handzus, and even Andrew Shaw need to pay the price and park themselves in front of the net. Without traffic in front of the net, Howard will continue to dominate in the paint.
5. Low, hard shots: The Blackhawks shot selection has been questionable since Game 1. They are taking shots far from the net and at tough angles. The Hawks need to get back to basics and start shooting hard and low. This will create rebounds that should potentially lead to higher percentage shots. Low, hard shots combined with net presence should allow the Hawks to score.
6. Re-shuffle the D pairings: Coach Joel Quenneville is known for his tinkering with the lines after a loss or during a game, if he doesn't like what he sees. While he has no problem shuffling the forwards around, he rarely moves his D-pairings around. I think it's time to put Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook back together as the top pair. Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson would pair together followed by Michal Roszival and Johnny Oduya.
7. Faceoffs: The team as a whole has struggled at the dot. Jonathan Toews, the Hawks best face guy, is even below his usual standard. The Hawks need to start winning faceoffs, especially defensive draws in their own zone. Puck possession is key to their success and they can't have the puck if their losing at the dot.
8. Play under control: The Red Wings know they are in the Blackhawks head. It's obvious by Jonathan Toews taking 6 minutes in penalties in the 2nd period of Game 4. The Hawks can't afford to be in the box and shorthanded with their season on the line. They can't take bad penalties or get caught retaliating. Staying calm and cool will be key to a win.
9. Score on the Power Play: The Blackhawks power play still continues to be problem. The Hawks are having a hard time setting up the man advantage, as well as scoring on it. This is the playoffs. When the other team gives you a man advantage for 2 minutes you have to make them pay. The Hawks need to start capitalizing on Red Wings mistakes if they hope to win.
10. Remember who you are: Above all the Hawks have to remember who they are. They were the best team in the Western Conference, they won the President's Trophy, and are a team of talented individuals. They know how to win and they have the talent to do so.
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