Dethroning the Kings: Why the Blackhawks have a 2-0 Series Lead
Five Reasons the Chicago Blackhawks have a 2-0 series lead over the defending cup champs.
Combined, Toews and Kane have three goals this postseason. Three. With the explosion of offense last night in the 4-2 ousting of the defending champions, the scoring has to be coming from somewhere else. Teams like the Kings can provide defensive answers to Toews and Kane, but how do you stop a team that can roll three lines that are all potentially dangerous players? The true key for Chicago has been their third line, Saad/Shaw/Stalberg. This is one of the hardest-working third lines in the league, and they showed it last night by getting the Hawks up 1-0.
2. Penalty Kill
Penalty killing is truly an art in this game, especially at the playoff level, where one bad game can set the tone for the remainder of a series. For the Blackhawks, their shorthanded units have been perfect for two series at home. Until last night (though the game was all but over for the Kings at that point), Chicago had remained perfect at the Madhouse. The Hawks’ penalty kill on the road is no less impressive and will remain an enigma for the Kings to solve.
Though LA had all the statistical advantages heading into this series with Jonathan Quick, it seemed not to make a difference last night when the Hawks chased the Kings’ goaltender. Crawford has been good in his own end, bailing out his team when he has to. While boasting a .938 save percentage along with a stingy 1.67 goals per game average, it’s hard to believe Quick’s numbers could have been better after his sup-par performance last night. Crawford will have to remain consistent and strong to advance farther.
4. Capitalizing on Opportunities
After the Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead in the first period, they sat back, and the Kings took control. While this exemplifies a strong reaction by LA, it was quickly snuffed out when Brent Seabrook came down the right side and fired a shot past Quick to make it 2-0. The difference in that first period was the Hawks finished their chances—the Kings didn’t. If one of the Kings’ shots in the second half makes its way past Crawford (the Hawks were outshot 13-9 in the first period), we could have been watching a 1-1 game going into the second.
You hear players talk about it; coaches mention it in post-game interviews. You can see it in diving attempts to block shots, last ditch efforts to keep pucks in the offensive zone, and bone crunching hits on the boards. The last two games, Chicago and the Madhouse on Madison have been tough against the Kings, and it’s something that helps build momentum. For a team that won the President’s Trophy, the pressure seems to be nonexistent. The defending champs cannot say the same. Chicago will need to keep the intensity up in Los Angeles, where the Kings are undefeated in this postseason.