The Chicago Blackhawks picked up a series lead over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday afternoon when they racked up their seventh straight home playoff win, but their task is far from finished.
That’s because the Kings are a team that doesn’t fear any deficit in a series. In the first two rounds, the Kings have overcome a 3-0 deficit against the San Jose Sharks and a 3-2 deficit over the Anaheim Ducks, and they also aren’t afraid of playing on the road. They’ve already won five road playoff games this postseason, including three during their last series against Anaheim.
With that in mind, how can the Blackhawks improve upon their 18-2 record on home ice over the past two postseasons? Here are our Three Keys to victory for Chicago.
Turn the Tide in the Shots Attempted Battle
The final shots on goal totals for Sunday’s game favored the Kings by a 26-20 margin, but despite that close proximity in that particular stat, the Kings’ offense ended up performing a lot better overall in the game.
In total, the Kings attempted 58 shots in the game. 26 of them found their way on net, but 25 of them were blocked by Blackhawks defenders. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook each picked up four blocks in the game, while Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival had three apiece. The King also missed on seven of their shots.
Considering that the Blackhawks only attempted 43 shots in the game (eight of them were blocked, with 15 missing the mark), the Kings clearly won the battle in terms of trying to control the tempo of the game. Some of that was a product of desperation as they tried to get back in the game, but in the end, they dictated the way the game played out more often, and the Blackhawks have to do a better job of keeping the puck and creating their own offensive chances.
Do a Better Job of Slowing Down Carter Line
The Blackhawks did an excellent job on Sunday of limiting the production of the Kings’ top line, with Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Marian Gaborik combining for just six shots on goal. A lion’s share of the credit has to go to the Jonathan Toews line, which was on the ice for a good chunk of the Kopitar line’s ice time.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, it was another Kings line that burned them, as the second line picked up the Kings’ only tally and proved to be a thorn in Chicago’s side all afternoon long. Centered by Jeff Carter and featuring Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, the Kings’ second line combined for 10 shots on the afternoon, and none of the Hawks’ other lines had much success in stopping that group.
Whether it’s switching up the defensive matchups and having the Oduya/Hjalmarsson pairing go after them or trying to mix and match a bit more with the Toews line and Michal Handzus’ line, the Blackhawks can’t let the Kings’ secondary scorers get the kind of opportunities that they did on Sunday.
No Second Period Letdown
Earlier in the playoffs, we discussed how the Blackhawks had been struggling in a big way in the second period of games, getting outshot 47-14 in that frame over a three game stretch.
Unfortunately for Chicago, that inability to keep up a consistent offensive push in the middle 20 minutes of a game was present again on Sunday afternoon, as they were outshot by a 17-6 margin in the second period against the Kings. Both teams managed a goal in the period, but the visitors clearly had all the momentum in the stanza, and the Blackhawks were left reeling for quite a while.
In Game 2, the Blackhawks can’t afford to let that happen again. Odds are strong that they won’t be able to duplicate the huge jump that they had in the first period in that game, and if things are even after the first, a second period letdown would be a series issue for the team.