It could not have been written any better. The Blackhawks take the first 2 home games with authority, and then split the next 2 in L.A. against a team who has not dropped a home game for quite some time. By making this a 3-1 series going back to home ice, yeah, you could say the Hawks got the job done.
With number 2 sitting this one out, we all knew that others would have to bring their A games. We asked that the big guns show up, we asked Leddy to give a little more, and for Hjalmer to keep being perfect. Last night, with a 3-2 lead in the game, with goals from Hossa and Kane, the Hawks played a darn strong 3rd period to hold a desperate home team to only 2 shots. The Hawks gave us what we wanted, they played hard for the most part, and didn't make costly mistakes with a vastly significant game on the line.
It began a little timidly for both sides, as if they were feeling each other out. Who wanted to establish the pace, and who was going to make the first mistake? A huge breakaway chance for Toews that was silenced by Quick allowed for his team to strike first. Adding to the script feel of this game, it would be 2 decisions by Keith's replacement that helped allow both Kings goals. The first was an aggressive pinch in which Brookbank did not make sure he took care of priority #1, which was to not let the puck get behind him with a striking Kings offense. The result a 1-0 lead for the home team.
His second mistake was allowing Dustin Penner an easy position in front of Crawford after giving up a lousy rebound. Yes, Crow should not have allowed Penner any chance at that puck, but Brookbank should have been clearing the garbage after his partner Leddy did a pretty great job of isolating a prime scoring chance by Carter. The Keith suspension proved hurtful, but it didn't kill the Hawks.
It didn't kill them, because we all heard Bickell's offer sheet increase again as he started the Hawks scoring off in the first with one of his nifty wrist shots that found the perfect height to sneak past Quick's glove arm. Quick wants that one back. Besides the goal by Bicks that we might start counting on at this point (are we even going to be able to hold onto this guy now), the PK was hugely significant again. This, and the newly improved Corey Crawford helped to keep the Hawks within striking distance as the Kings took 1 goals leads twice in the game. Crow's save on Williams' breakaway was a game saver.
This leads me to last night's factors:
- Bryan Bickell's consistency this playoffs was helped by the added intensity of his team's leaders. His goal and assist were results of hard work by himself for sure, but also Toews, Kane, and Hossa in big ways. They all brought it up a couple of notches, in some ways more noticeable than others. Still, Bickell is to Quick, what Kryptonite is to Superman.
- Kane was playing very aggressive hockey for himself, and his dirty goal was the result of that change in his game. I still think it was a bad idea to have him out there in the last minute of play though. That wasn't the smartest move IMO.
- A smart move was switching up Kane and Hossa on their respective lines. Can't see why this hasn't been the case more often, but it had a hand in generating the right recipe for the 2nd and game winning goals in this one.
- Oduya's game wasn't perfect, but it was better, and it was a great play by him that started the game winning rush. Oduya made the right move, played it smart and aggressive at the same time, hit Handzus with a great breakout pass who paid it forward to Hossa, who jammed the puck past Jonathan Quick with about as much authority as possible.
- Hjalmarsson's perfect defensive play has been that extra factor which has facilitated in the Hawks run for the Cup. It cannot go without too much praise. Seabrook did seem to amp up his game a little, but he was still responsible for more turnovers than any other defensemen from my count. Not sure why he got more ice-time than Hjalmer, but eh, the Hawks won. The defense was playing hard and safe which paid off in the end.
The 5-on-3 thing:
- Okay, the Hawks were granted that dreaded 5-on-3 for almost a full minute during the heart of this game and they couldn't make it happen. Why? The Hawks were freaking stagnant again. Isn't it obvious that the Kings will condense and try to keep the Hawks on the parameter? The Hawks need to have a game plan to push the Kings as close to Quick as possible, start making quick passes across the outside and let it rip after a few fast passes. Simple. 1 Hawk is already in front, and the other converges while this shot is getting sent on net. Tips and rebounds all day. The other winger stays outside for a pass after the scrum in front, or for a bigger rebound. Win the race for loose pucks. Why is this so hard? This killed the Hawks momentum at that point, and I thought it lost the game for them.
- Thankfully, the inability for the Kings to take control of this game allowed it to stay opened up for the majority of play. An open game is exactly what the Hawks want in this building. It brought about the end for the Kings, and after taking the lead 3-2, the Hawks closed up shop just about as well as they have all year. They just needed to skate hard enough to keep L.A. from getting in front of Crow, and they executed that well.
Chicago needed the big guns to fire last night, and they did just that. Now, the Kings need 3 straight wins that include 2 road games. The series is not over just yet, but it looks very grim for L.A.
Filed under: Game Recap