After a lackluster Game 3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, the Chicago Blackhawks will be back in action on Saturday night as they try to even up the Western Conference Final and get back on the winning track at the United Center.
The team is playing the game like it’s any other contest during the season, but the reality is that this one is as close to a must-win game as a non-elimination game can get. The Blackhawks’ chances of winning this series would take a near-fatal blow if they are forced to win three games in a row, including two on the road.
With that in mind, there are three things that the Blackhawks have to do in order to win this game and tie the series up at two games apiece.
Toews Must Be Deployed More Effectively
The Blackhawks haven’t gotten a lot of production out of their captain so far in this series, and in Game 3, it was expected that he was going to take advantage of easier matchups on the ice as the Hawks returned home.
Unexpectedly, that didn’t happen. Toews only took one offensive zone face-off at even strength in the game, and not surprisingly he struggled to generate offense as the Hawks mustered one goal as a team in the game.
If the Hawks are going to get things turned around with their top offensive line in this series, they need to make sure that Toews and company are getting advantageous matchups.
The Power Play Has to Take Advantage of Opportunities
It’s tempting to just type the word “duh” in this space and leave it at that, but we’ll elaborate ever so slightly on the point.
The Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the power play in Game 3 and only managed one shot on goal during all of that man-advantage time. That is a preposterously bad number, and an unacceptable one when it’s carefully examined.
The Hawks must do a better job of bringing some creativity to the party on their power play, with controlled zone entries and traffic in the middle of the ice being accentuated by solid passing around the perimeter to get the Anaheim defense moving around the zone. That is the only way to break the suffocating pressure that Chicago has been dealing with, and it will be key to victory tonight.
Bottom Six Forwards Have Got to Contribute
The Blackhawks haven’t really gotten much offensive production from anybody in this series, but their bottom six forwards have to step up their game in order to take some of the pressure off of the top-tier guys as they struggle to find their form against a physical and fast Anaheim defense.
In total, the Blackhawks have scored just three times at even strength in this series, despite the fact that they have played nearly four games worth of time so far. That number has to change, and guys like Patrick Sharp, Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen are all capable of getting things rolling in the right direction.